Lamb &; Flag
By Mark Burrow
LAMB &;amp; FLAG
She kept sucking and licking. Her head and body under the duvet. Terry
Fox did not want to accept the reality of what was happening. 'Stop
it,' he said. Some time went by. He could feel his abdomen tingle.
'No,' he said, stretching his arms behind his head, pushing against the
His girlfriend, Christine, was due back from visiting her family in
Bolton later in the day.
What have I done? he said to himself, after coming in the girl's mouth.
He lay there. She remained hidden under the duvet. Eventually, he
peeled off the cover and saw the girl raise her head, smiling. Her
breasts hung down to her waist.
He pressed his fingers into his eyelids. She started sucking his
Pete, his friend from Uni days, had seen the girl and her friend
sitting at a table by the window of the Lamb &;amp; Flag on Conduit
Street. Pete had gone over and asked if it would be alright to sit at
the two spare chairs for the table. In a sense, Pete was responsible
for what followed. A loose sense. Terry recalled how the girl's tits
had become increasingly desirable with each pint of lager. He had to
see what they were like. When the girls went to the toilet he had told
Pete: "I've never shagged a girl with big tits before." Pete had warned
him off. "She's a nutter," he had said, adding he wanted to move on to
another pub. Terry realised he was the one who had made them stay. When
Pete had said to him, "You've got a girlfriend," Terry had replied, "Do
you see a ring on that finger?"
The girl was now poking her tongue into his arsehole.
Tis Was, the cat, sat on the window ledge, looking at him as if it knew
precisely what was going on. Terry had kissed girls when drunk before
but he dismissed that as harmless fun, to be expected if going out with
the same person for a long time. Not that he would have the same
attitude if Christine behaved likewise. He knew he'd go mental, be done
in, devastated. So it couldn't be right for one and wrong for the
other. The double standards were too obvious, sticking out by a mile.
You couldn't, said Terry to himself, have it both ways.
He tried to remember the name of the girl whose tongue was probing
deeper into his arse. The other girl in the pub was called Denise, but
who this was, he had no idea. Catherine? Kate? Kim?
'PLEASE STOP THAT,' he said, sitting up in bed, drying her saliva on
his balls and backside with the covers.
'You don't like me?' she said.
'I do, yes, but you have to go.'
'You don't have to go to work.'
'You sign on the dole.'
'No, I don't,' said Terry. She looked at him. His head was banging with
a hangover. 'I,' he said with an appalling lack of self conviction,
'work at the dole office. I have an important meeting.'
'Liar, liar, pants on fire,' she said.
'No, I do work there. You have to go.'
She licked a finger and started rubbing a nipple, creeping up the bed
towards him. Hurriedly, he swung out of bed. 'You have to get out of
here,' he said, noticing dried semen in her tangled, curly brown
On an impulse, he grabbed her hand, wanting her to stop. He could see
why Pete had called her unhinged. Pete had kept on about it. The pair
of girls were, Pete had said, "not all there". When drunk, that hadn't
made any difference to Terry. His obsession was to see the girl's tits.
Now he had seen them alright. They weren't anything special. Just tits.
Large ones, admittedly, but he wasn't a teenager any more. He was in
his thirties. There was supposed to be more magic and meaning to this
stage of his life than tits and fucking. He wondered if she honestly
knew what she was doing. If she wasn't all there and he had taken
advantage of her, especially when drunk...All of a sudden, he felt
criminal, seedy, a
I've got a girlfriend, he said to himself, allowing the girl to sidle
next to him for a cuddle.
They lay there for twenty minutes. He felt himself panicking, thinking
about the girl, whose name he still couldn't remember, and Christine,
and the fact he hadn't used a Johnny.
'You have to go,' he said. 'The shower is in the hallway on the
'I'll get dressed now,' she said.
'No, you should shower.'
She looked on the floor for her clothes.
'You have to shower,' he said.
'Your hair,' he said.
She whistled, touching her hair, finding the strands stuck together by
semen, rolling the hairs between her fingertips until the dryness broke
apart and fell to the duvet like dandruff.
Terry lay flat on the bed and called for God.
She lay on top of him, pushing her lips to his for a kiss.
He shifted his hips, stood up, fighting a rush of sickness, and then
went into the lounge.
Her clothes were on the floor. There was a shit stain in her knickers.
Her bra looked like it was chewed by a dog.
'I'm fucking evil,' he said, returning to the bedroom.
When dressed, she asked him to go with her on the tube to Baker Street.
He could feel the weight of his body as she made the request. 'Okay,'
he said, pulling on his boxer shorts, stained badly, he noticed, with
In the newsagents, he bought a Daily Mirror and yogurt drinks for the
girl and himself. The loathing he felt for what had gone on was
steadily replaced by anger. He resented her weirdness for making him
feel like he did. She kept whistling, and muttering to herself, talking
under her breath.
'Can you stop doing that?' he said.
'Can you stop doing that,' was her reply.
'When was you let out?' he said.
'When was you let out?' she said.
'What is your problem?' he asked her.
She started singing.
They came to the tube station in Kensal Rise. He bought her a ticket
and they went down the stairs to the platform. It was an outdoor tube
station. He looked at the footie results on the back page. She fiddled
with her hair, twisting strands round a finger. Softly, she sang, 'Ba
ba ba, ba bar, ba ba ba, ba ber, de da de dar de,' and she began to
glide about the platform, one slow step at a time. He turned the page
and acted as if she was not with him, and then he realised she was too
near the edge of the platform. Her death, he thought, would be the end
of him. 'Come here,' he said. Both of her hands were now scratching
repetitively at her scalp. He walked up and grabbed an arm and pulled
her to him. 'You asked me to get the train with you, can you at least
hold it together while I'm here, please,' he said.
'You've got a girlfriend,' she said.
'Shut your mouth,' he said, aware other people on the platform could
hear what she was saying.
'Where do you live?' he said. 'I'll get you a taxi.'
'Ba, ba bar, pa pa pah pants on fire.'
Down the tracks, he saw the train leaving the depot, heading for the
station. He sat on the seat of the tube train nearest the doors. Three
others sat in the same section of the carriage. She stood in front of
him, swaying her wide hips from side to side. Please sit down, he said
to himself, panicking. With other people on the carriage, the oddness
of her behaviour hit him with full force. The people, without speaking,
just measuring by glances, reinforced how far she strayed from the rush
hour norm. She had removed the plastic cap of the yogurt and was
tonguing the hole, licking the yogurt slowly, gently, looking at him. A
guy at the far end of the carriage was watching her. Briefly, Terry was
convinced she was going to strip on the train, revealing her dirty
underwear, her skin marked with his own semen. He would be exposed as
an animal. Evil. Fucked. The doors beeped and closed with a pneumatic
The train moved off.
She sat next to him.
He looked at the front page.
She leaned over him to read the paper, drinking the yogurt, and then
said, 'You don't work at the dole office.'
He studied the print but couldn't finish a sentence.
'Blankety Blank, Blankety Blank,' she said.
He looked at the map opposite by an advert for Berocca.
Baker Street was five stops away.
The train kept moving.
Using a thumb, she picked her nose, wiping snot onto the vacant seat
Terry knew she was doing it.
Gradually, stations came and went. He turned a page and tried to read
about Justin Timberlake. Not that he had any interest in the pop star.
The man could be alive or dead or dying, it made no difference to him.
Unable, again, to finish the first sentence, he looked at a photograph
of Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake - holding hands.
More people stepped onto the train. The next stop was Baker Street. She
was twisting her hair with those fingers. Round and round. The train
halted in the tunnel. The girl whispered into his ear. He couldn't
decipher what she was saying.
He turned a page and tried not to think about his girlfriend, about
going to the GP to have tests.
What if I'm diseased? he thought.
He had spoken to Christine on the phone before going to the pub with
Pete yesterday. He had received a letter telling him the Carphone
Warehouse had rejected him as a salesman.
Christine told him to be patient. She was paying the rent at the
It'll work out, he remembered her say.
The girl stayed on the train as the doors opened at Baker Street. She
made no attempt to get off. Terry stood up. He pecked her on the left
cheek. She looked at him and rocked her head from side to side. The
doors beeped before closing. In three quick strides he was off the
train. It pulled from the station and rolled into the tunnel. He
watched it go. Hearing the rattle of the wheels fade. Smelling dust and
hot greased metal.
She was a memory. Thank fuck that's over, he said to himself?
Terry had to sign on at ten. He could walk to the Lisson Grove dole
office off the Marylebone High Road from Baker Street. The heat from
the sun was already close and strong. He left the station, bought a
bottle of carbonated water, a pack of cigarettes. Lit one outside the
newsagents. Arabs were sitting outside cafes, smoking the sweet
smelling hookah pipes. People were going in and out of internet cafes.
Traffic was heavy on the roads.
The morning was pumped and charged with the purpose and routine of a
week day in the capital.