I want to explain why Captain Vegas was different.
Captain Vegas worked in a chip shop and he looked like Elvis. But that
wasn't why he was different. He had a silver jacket that even after a
ten hour shift was still shiny. He had a quiff that no amount of chip
fat air could diminish. But even that wasn't why he was
Captain Vegas was different because he had a girlfriend. And while we
all liked Leia Organa none of us were jealous. We were more than happy
without any kind of girlfriend. That's the kind of people we were.
There's no point beating about the bush. There's no point going around
the houses. That would only lead to a loss of breath and nothing else
Captain Vegas was also different because of his name. There aren't too
many people in the world known as Captain Vegas. How Captain Vegas got
his name and how he became our friend is quite a story. So
That night, the night that Captain Vegas got his name,16 had pulled.
16 always pulled. He said it was manifest destiny. The Poet had other
words to say what it was but that was partly jealousy. The Peot had a
thing about south-east Asians. There weren't too many south-east Asians
to be found in the gay bars of Derby and therefore The Poet often went
home alone. In fact, he always did. And, to be honest, I guessed it
would have been the same story even if Derby had been a suburb of
Bangkok. It wasn't that The Poet was ugly, it was just the way he
talked. The Poet took some getting used to.
Anyway, that night, there was no way to describe this guy 16 had
pulled except to say that he was fat. He had a fat face, fat fingers,
fat wrists, fat ankles. He had a round head on a round body. But for
all that he was one attractive guy. Until he opened his mouth. His
voice was as loud as his body was big.
In the club we hadn't noticed. Everyone had to shout because the music
was so ear-splitting. For example.
"DO YOU WANT A DRINK?"
"I'M JUST GOING TO THE LITTLE BOYS' ROOM."
"OK BIG BOY."
And so on.
It wasn't until 16 had well and truly pulled and we were all on our
way back to what was later to be called the Castro that we noticed. We
were walking along quite nicely until the fat man opened his
"DOES ANYONE FANCY SOME CHIPS?" he said. "I FANCY A BAG OF CHIPS." He
was that loud.
The Poet picked himself up off the pavement and brushed himself down.
The Poet was often to be found on the floor in moments of stress.
"CHIPS ANYONE?" said the fat man again.
"Yeah," said 16, "chips would be great."
Me and The Poet looked at 16 and then at each other. It was impossible
that 16 hadn't noticed. It was impossible that he hadn't registered the
decibels. Therefore, we couldn't believe he hadn't said anything. After
all, the man was his responsibility.
"WHAT ABOUT YOU TWO?" said the fat man.
The Poet was on the floor again so I answered for both of us. I said
we'd like chips. I said chips would be great. I tried to speak quietly.
I hoped it would rub off.
In the chip shop I ordered first. "A portion of chips, please."
Then it was The Poet. "Chips. Open."
Next 16. "Sausage and chips. A lot of salt and vinegar."
Finally it was the turn of the fat man. Out of the corner of my eye I
saw The Poet grip nervously on to the counter top.
"CAN I HAVE SOME CHIPS PLEASE?" said the fat man. "LARGE."
The man behind the counter had a quiff. He had a shiny jacket. He was
Captain Vegas although we didn't know that then. He looked at us and
then at the fat man. He opened his mouth.
"So," he said in that way of his, "three portions of chips. One
sausage and chips."
"THAT'S RIGHT," said the fat man. "YOU GOT IT. SPOT ON."
Captain Vegas ran his palms down the front of his shiny jacket and
then did a movement with his hips. He turned towards the fryers.
"EXCUSE ME!" said the fat man. "DO YOU SELL DRINKS?"
Captain Vegas put some chips in the fryer and then came back to the
counter. He looked at 16, The Poet and me and then finally at the fat
"Yes," he said, "we sell drinks."
"THAT'S GREAT. I'LL HAVE A COKE." The fat man turned to us. "WHAT
ABOUT YOU GUYS? WHAT'LL YOU BE HAVING?"
Unfortunately, in a moment of madness, The Poet had let go counter and
he found himself on the floor again. He stood back up wiping a dollop
of tomato sauce from his chin.
"ARE YOU HAVING A DRINK OR NOT?" said the fat man. "THEY'RE ON ME. MY
TREAT. NO PROBS."
I looked at 16 and he shrugged sheepishly. It was going to be a very
sheepish night. I would have bet my flock on it. I looked at the fat
"No drinks," I said.
"FINE," said the fat man. He turned back to Captain Vegas. "THEN JUST
ONE COKE," he said. "LARGE IF YOU'VE GOT IT."
Captain Vegas did that thing with his hips again. Then I saw that look
in his eye that later I was to come to recognise.
"You don't need to shout," he said.
"WHAT?" said the fat man.
"I said you don't need to shout," said Captain Vegas.
"I'M NOT SHOUTING," said the fat man.
"You are," said Captain Vegas.
"I'M NOT." The fat man looked at 16. "AM I SHOUTING?" he said.
16 was not the person to ask. He was still after his shag. It must be
said that the fat man was a very attractive man. "No," said 16
thrusting his hands deep in his pockets and nursing a chip on the floor
with the toe of his left trainer. "You're not shouting. Honestly. In
fact, I would say you're being quite demur."
The Poet was on the floor again. Now he had mayonnaise in his hair and
an old chip sticking out of his left ear.
"THERE," said the fat man, looking at Captain Vegas, "YOU SEE.
EVERYONE AGREES, I'M NOT SHOUTING."
"OK," said Captain Vegas without a hint of irony. "If you say
"I DO SAY SO," said the fat man, "AND ANYWAY, WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE
GOING AROUND ACCUSING PEOPLE OF SHOUTING ALL THE TIME? YOU'RE NOT
PERFECT YOU KNOW. LOOK AT YOU. YOU WORK IN A CHIP SHOP AND YET YOU'RE
DRESSED AS IF YOU'RE ABOUT TO GO ON STAGE IN VEGAS. WE SHOULD CALL YOU
CAPTAIN VEGAS, YES WE SHOULD. HA HA. YOU'RE NOTHING BUT A CAPTAIN
VEGAS, YES YOU ARE."
And that, for that night, was that.
But from then on every time we went in that chip shop we always talked
about that fat man with the guy behind the counter. It became our joke
and eventually Captain Vegas became our friend.
What happened to the fat man I don't know. I don't even know if he had
sex with 16. That must be, as they say, another story.