Tinder – Part 2 – Terry
By Mark Burrow
For the past couple of weeks I had been on at Deirdre to let me have a go. ‘That’s one way traffic,’ she’d say, cackling like a hyena. A gentle starfish fingering was okay, but anything else and the traffic cones were out and then some.
That didn’t put me off. The trick with birds is…when it comes to making them do something they blatantly don’t want to do…is to not go on and on about it. Let whatever it is you’re asking die a death and that lulls them into thinking you respect their wishes. After a week or so, ask them again, politely, and nine times out of ten they’ll give in. Especially if they like a drink and you get them wasted. It’s no exaggeration to say that Deirdre Jessop liked more than the occasional tipple (and a right good nobbing).
Gin was her favourite and I’d bought her a nice bottle of the supermarket’s own brand. We got stuck into that and some cava too and this was after a few at the Blue Lion. She was trashed and we were on the sofa in the living room, Stax tracks on the Hi-Fi, and she was up for it. ‘Terry,’ she goes. ‘I nearly slid off of the chair in the pub I was so wet. No one makes me as whorny as you do,’ she whispered. Her clothes were off already, thrown about the room. ‘I want you inside of me.’
Quick as a flash, I flipped her round and slid into her from behind. I gave her a few deep strokes and then I switched holes and she screamed the place down. ‘Shoosh, shoosh, babe,’ I said pulling her hair tight.
‘No, Terry, no, I’ve got piles,’ she cried.
That did take the wind from my sails briefly. But I was already through her tight rim and guessed she was bluffing. ‘I’ll push them back in then, won’t I babe?’ I reassured her, sliding back and forth.
‘You’re hurting,’ she said, but softly, her hands gripping the armrest. Then her breathing changed and she started pushing out her backside in rhythm to my strokes. ‘Go slow,’ she said. ‘Gentle…Gentle.’ I kept going at my own speed regardless, wrapping her dyed black hair round my fingers, watching her nails clawing at the sofa. I reached for my G&T and took a long, victorious mouthful.
Then Kel came in when I’d given her explicit instructions to stay out until after eleven. She burst into the living room. Deirdre tried to twist free but I pushed her spine down with one hand and gripped her hair with the other.
‘DAD. DAD,’ yelled Kel.
‘GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE.’
She was in floods of tears and I could see her forehead was grazed. ‘GET TO YOUR FUCKING ROOM THIS SECOND.’
She stormed out in a strop. I heard her stomp up the stairs.
Deirdre was still trying to wriggle loose like a speared beast. ‘YOU PROMISED YOUR GIRL WAS OUT,’ she said. ‘WHAT’S SHE GUNNA THINK OF ME?’
I took a mouthful of gin. My concentration was shot to pieces and I could feel myself softening up. I started going hard and fast and told her a few home truths as well. ‘What do you think she thinks of you? It’s the same as everyone else. We all know you’re the estate’s bike. That when the last of your looks goes you’ll finish your days a lonely alkie, broke and bitter.’
She went rodeo on me but I held on for dear life ‘til the deed was done. Amazingly, when I pulled out, I was spotless. Occasionally, you can get these pellets in your helmet or nasty smears but I was pleasantly surprised by how clean her arsehole was. She slapped me as I was marvelling at this fact of nature.
‘YOU’RE A HORRIBLE WANKER, TERRY FITZGERALD,’ she hollered.
‘You’re not the first to make that observation and you won’t be the last,’ I said, pulling on my jockey shorts. Looking at her in the cold light of day now I had shot my load, I understood why some of the regulars at the Blue Lion were telling me to go for something better. It’s incredible how that clarity occurs about a bird after the third or fourth time you shag her, never before. Even their conversation, which had seemed riveting, suddenly sounds unbelievably tedious. Deirdre was living proof that once a woman hits thirty-four and a half, all she’s fit for is the knackers yard. Tits. Face. Arse. Vag. They head south. That’s with or without children. Whereas men get better with age. I’m twice the man I was ten years ago…In mind and body.
Deirdre had put on her clothes. Stupidly, she went to kick me in her high heels. I grabbed an arm to stop her from falling onto the Hi-Fi. Once she was stable, I let fly a gentle slap on her blind side (literally, she lost her eyesight serving behind the bar at the Blue Lion. There was a hoo-har over a pool competition and some nut started firing an air gun willy-nilly). ‘Behave, treacle,’ I said, ushering her to the balcony.
Predictably, she made a scene outside. Raving that I was ‘a user’ and giving it the verbals. I went and topped up the gin and added a splash of tonic. I stood at the foot of the stairs. It was unlike Kel to disobey me. ‘Sweetheart, what’s the matter? Who’s upset you?’ I asked. She was in the bathroom. I went into the kitchen and lit a cigar off the stove. Put ice in the drink and a slice of lemon. Deirdre had gone. As I knew she would. Some birds can stay tanked up with hatred for hours, days, weeks on end. Deirdre was too bothered about finding the next drink to stay angry with me or anyone else for that matter.
I took a lug on the cigar and pulled a bit of fluff from my belly button and sniffed that clammy, cheesy smell. Kel was out the bathroom and I went to see what all the commotion was about. She had some sore on her forehead. That much was evident. ‘What’s gone on here then?’ I asked her. She was on the side of the bed. The waterworks came on. I went to the medicine cabinet and found cream her mother used to use and a wad of tissues. ‘Have a sip of this,’ I told Kel. She gulped it like lemonade but I let her and didn’t go into why she already reeked like a proverbial brewery. Tenderly, I applied the cream to what I realised was a fag burn. ‘Who did it, sweetheart? Tell your old man what this is about.’
She talked too speedily at first, so that she had to catch her breath to get the words out.
‘Easy, sweetheart, don’t rush, have another sip of this.’
She composed herself. ‘We were playing.’
‘Me and Pearl. There were these two boys. One of them is that tramp boy, with the afro and the ragamuffin clothes, except he doesn’t have the afro now and his clothes are…’
‘He wears dungarees?’
‘He did. He was wearing…’
‘His old man Ken drinks in the Blue Lion. He’s a right wanker too. Never buys a round.’
‘And this other boy was there. I don’t know his name or nothing. He was getting well facetee.’
I asked Kel to pass me her ashtray. I tamped the ash and took a thoughtful lug.
‘That’s gunna stink my room out.’
‘Maybe I should use your head like those boys.’
‘It was the tramp boy that did it.’
I was narked by what she said about the cigar. ‘Your joints don’t stink either?’
‘Don’t mug me off. I know what you do. So it was Ken’s lad that did it?’
‘We were messin’ about and that fucken tramp…’
‘That tramp gets all facetee and nasty and callin’ us names and we calls him names back and he stabs a joint on my head and…and…’
I put my arm round her. Hugged her. ‘Not only do you not hit girls, especially a girl who’s 13, you definitely don’t use them as ashtrays.’ I squeezed her tighter to me. You never know love until you see that child of your own. They’re a part of you – it’s as simple as that. Your blood. Your flesh. Your tribe. ‘Where does the other boy live?’ I asked.
She couldn’t answer for choking on snot. I passed her the tissues. ‘Alright, alright, steady yourself. That’ll do. Daddy’ll take care of it. I’m hardly going to let liberties be taken with you, sweetheart, am I?’
I took her trainers off and she lay on the bed. I squeezed her hand and was grateful to see a smile. ‘What are you gunna do, daddy?’ she said, sleepily.
‘Not sure. Better start with Ken first though, eh? Best for you not worry about it though. You get some rest.’
‘What’s going on outside?’
That’s when I heard the filth. Loads of them. Banshees in the night.
‘Can you put the tele on?’ she said.
I did as she asked. I’ve never known anyone to watch as much tele as Kel. Frightening amounts. Apart from her mother…
Tenants lined the balconies like spectators in a stadium. Neighbours I suppose you’d call them. I rarely said two words to them and they got the message I wasn’t a man for small talk. I didn’t want to hear their moans and whingeing because they couldn’t figure out why they were at the bottom of the barrel. Ninety-nine per cent of the poor confuse friendliness with telling you their problems. Going on about the council, back pains, poor TV reception, arthritis, headaches, tax bills, cruel managers, football teams, the dole office, or so and so did this, when they should’ve done that. It’s hot air. Wasted energy. I saw them glancing at me as I stood there on the balcony in my jockey shorts, watching the towers of flame lighting up the darkness. I scratched my belly. Took a lug. There was an explosion and a geyser of fire shot up the side of the block of flats opposite, shattering countless windows. Where the others cried and yelled with fear, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. The tenants were fleeing their homes like rats from a sinking ship, taking what they could in hurriedly packed sportsbags and suitcases and plastic bags. In those bags would be jewellery of sentimental value, bad photographs of relatives they didn’t like, clothes they hardly wore. The worthless bric-a-brac of their lives.
Whereas inside those flats would be items of real and genuine value.
My mind raced with the possibilities.
This was heaven sent.
The ultimate gift horse.
I had to act fast.
Kel helped with the necessary illusion of packing. We joined the stream of refugees heading down the pissy stairs to the ground floor. I left Kel with her mate Pearl, who had a fat lip. In one sportsbag, I had put a couple of items of actual importance in case the flats were totally destroyed. ‘Kel, don’t lose that,’ I told her.
‘I won’t.’ She was tired and sulky and didn’t bother looking at me as she said it.
‘Girl, I’m talking to you.’
‘Don’t lose that bag and stay here.’
‘Alright, I’m not deaf.’
From behind me, a voice said, ‘She’ll be fine.’
It was Pearl’s mum, Cheryl. I thanked her and inappropriately shook her hand. I so wanted to ride Pearl’s mum it was untrue. She was the exception to the thirty-four and a half rule. It was one of those where my fancying the arse off her was so obvious that it she would never let me go near her in a million years.
Off I marched to the Blue Lion. A copper told me I couldn’t go in that direction. It was like a seal telling the seal clubber what to do.
Joe the landlord had gone into “lock in” mode. I rapped the agreed knock (two slow, two quick) and Mousey let me in, holding a pool cue as usual. The pub was heaving. Ray and Bal were playing darts. There was a game of killer round the pool table. I asked Joe for a light and bitter and he asked who I thought had started the fireworks. ‘Kids playing probably,’ I said. He used an opener to flip the lid off the bottle. ‘You think? All those fires at once?’ he said. I took the bottle and sat on a stool. ‘Well, you’re the one asking. How do I know who did it?’ He poured himself a half and said, ‘There’s enough bloody nutters round here to choose from, that’s for sure.’ I made a noise like I agreed, wondering how often he’d rolled that line out to punters all evening. I took a sip of the pint and was pleased that I made the right choice of drink after the previous five hours of chucking them back.
I spotted Ken when I walked in, wearing his pork pie hat and moth eaten sweater. He was playing cards with the regular gambling cronies. All of them without a pot to piss in and the worst ponces on the planet. To my mind, gambling of any sort was for mugs. I’m yet to meet a bookie who has to ride a bus to work in the morning.
Ordering a whiskey was probably a mistake. It does send me a bit loopy. My blood was boiling already though. What had gone on with Kel – and Pearl too – was a liberty. I hadn’t quite decided what I was going to do to Ken but he wasn’t going to have the best of nights in his local, that was for sure. In some ways, he was responsible for the diabolical liberties taken with Kel. Her mum used to hark on at me saying that I couldn’t be judge, jury and executioner. But why not? I’d tell her. Who’s is to say what I can and can’t do? She wanted me to play by other people’s rules. What’s the point of that? You’re on to a loser straight off.
A song was on the juke box that I liked. I would have to give Ken a hiding at some point in the evening, there were no two ways about it. The problem I had was time. I needed to put a couple of calls in to the chaps or go round to Nellie’s and get a move on. There was a whole estate of empty flats to plunder. Think of the TVs. VHS recorders. Cameras. Furniture.
Money to be made.
This was my passport to proper cigars, a villa in Spain and oceans of fit young fanny to dive in and out of as and when I pleased.
As I daydreamed, I didn’t see Parkie creep up on my shoulder. ‘Mine’s a double scotch,’ he said.
I dropped the shoulder. ‘Look what the cat dragged in,’ I replied, going through the motions of shaking the cunt’s hand.
‘Double,’ he told Joe.
‘Nice to see you Tel.’
He knew I hated to be called Tel. I couldn’t bring myself to make eye contact. I stared at the optics instead. ‘You too.’
‘How you keeping?’
‘How’s your little girl?’
‘Not so little.’
He took the scotch from Joe and swallowed a mouthful. ‘They do grow fast. It’s frightening. My two girls couldn’t wait to be teenagers and buy clothes, make up and look like grown up girls, basically. They’re so keen to lose that innocence of childhood, aren’t they?’
I wasn’t sure if he having a dig at Kel. ‘I thought you were at the Tooting nick nowadays. How come you’re on your old stomping ground?’
‘Who told you that?’
‘Rumours, Tel.’ He pulled a stool next to me and asked Joe for a pack of pork scratching and another double. Without a word, I paid for them. Once a cop has collared you, as Parkie did a few years back, they act like you’re their bitch.
‘Rumours,’ he added.
‘You got friends here?’ I said, thinking about my tight schedule.
‘You’re my friend, Tel.’
‘I wouldn’t go that far.’
‘Don’t be like that. We’re bound together. Two of a kind You’re the yin to my yang.’
‘If you say so.’
‘Did you hear about those robberies in Albert Square?’
I tightened up inside. I considered glassing him and getting Joe to let me out the back way. ‘The actor’s gaff?’
‘That’s the one.’
‘Mmm. Read about it in the South London Press.’
‘Just read about it?’
‘Yeah.’ I was looking at him now. Trying to figure what he was fishing for thanks to a grass and what he knew as a stone cold fact.
‘You haven’t heard anything, then?’
‘I don’t mix in those circles.’
‘Come off it, Terry.’
‘Not me, Parkie. I’m clean as a whistle. A bit of warehouse work and that, but I said goodbye to all that nonsense when I got out.’
‘Well, that’s alright then.’
‘I knew you’d be proud of me.’
He downed the scotch. ‘I like this song,’ he said, gesturing upwards and grinning to show his yellow teeth. ‘I wouldn’t mind having this played at my funeral.’ He moved his fingers like a conductor with a baton and stood up, pushing the stool to one side. ‘What song would you have played at your funeral, Terry?’
‘Never gave it much thought, given I won’t be there.’
He paused, then said, ‘Suppose you’re right. This’d suit you though. This is you to a fine T.’
‘What’s your song? Everyone has a funeral song.’
‘Beethoven. The complete works.’
He grinned. ‘Well, see you soon,’ he said, touching my shoulder again.
One of the pool monkeys let him out. I ordered a double scotch from Joe. ‘Why didn’t you tell me that ponce was in here?’
‘Didn’t see him Terry, otherwise I would’ve. He came from the public bar.’
‘What’s it coming to when you can’t have a quiet pint in your local without getting your collar felt?’
I was drinking the rest of the pint when Ken made the mistake of going to the gents. I let a few moments go by and then followed him in. Ken had a hand on a white tiled wall and was leaning like he’d had a few. He saw me standing there out of his peripherals but concentrated on his stream off piss hitting a half melted white cube of soap on the plughole of the urinal. I waited by the sink. The cold tap was running, as it had been for the past three weeks. Joe said he was going to get it fixed.
‘Hey Ken,’ I said.
‘Yeah, Terry,’ he replied.
‘Ever played cards with broken fingers?’
That interrupted the flow of his piss. He glanced at me, frowned. ‘What you talking about?’
‘What do you mean about broken fingers?’
‘Don’t fucking ask me questions, you cunt. Who do you think you’re talking to? So have you then?’
I stepped closer to him, unfolding my arms. He zipped up. ‘Are you fucken deaf of something, what did I just say about asking questions? You think I’m a cunt, is that it? Is that why you’re giving it the big un? You feeling brave, Ken? Is that it? You feeling fucken brave now you’ve had a few, eh?’
The material round his crotch darkened. He had zipped up too quickly. He went to speak, then stopped. Someone tried to come into the gents. They saw what was going on and left without a word. ‘What’s your boy’s name?’
‘Where is he?’
‘I don’t know. Out.’
‘You don’t know where your own son is?’
‘Do you care?’
I punched him in the stomach. He buckled over, gasping. ‘Don’t fucken ask questions.’ I could feel my head going lighter, like a valve had been released…Energy surged through me…Circuitry came alive…‘Where’s your liberty taking son?’ I made him stand straight and poked his chest hard. He retreated until he hit the pipe on the wall. ‘If I knew, I’d say,’ he blabbered. ‘Christian goes out and does his own thing.’ He reeked of booze and his nose was exploding into an alcoholic bulb. ‘Ken, I can see why your boy has turned out like he has. You’re a bad parent. In my book, there’s nothing quite as disgusting and wretched and selfish as a bad parent, except a grass. You haven’t been grassing me up, have you?’
‘I’d never do that. I don’t know anything.’
‘But you would grass me up if you did know somethin’, is that what you’re saying?’ I punched him hard. This put him on his knees, hands on the piss wet floor, sucking for oxygen. ‘Find your boy tonight or it’s broken fingers.’ I yanked a hand and twisted a couple of fingers to the point of breaking and then let him go. He gathered himself as I unzipped and took a slash.
‘What’s going on Terry?’ he said.
I couldn’t believe my ears. I finished and then slammed one in his guts and another to his back, leaving him face down on that watery floor. I went into the saloon bar, drained the scotch, ate the last of the pork scratchings and then stepped out into the smoke filled, firey night.
I would gather the chaps together.
There was work to be done.