My second novel, Plaster Scene, will be out very soon. I’m just waiting for the stars to align, the cat to jump off the fence outside my office window, and the loveable rogues in The Italian Job to pull the van back from the precipice and take the gold, and then I promise it’ll be out. Not long then.
So, in honour of this auspicious moment I thought I’d whet your appetite with a little hors d’oeuvre. For the next few days I’ll be posting an excerpt from the book to introduce you to the characters. First up is my hapless hero, George Spencer. A young lad with the road of life ahead of him, if only he could decide which way to go.
I hope you enjoy.
‘I guess I’ll never know…
… The reason why…
… You love me as you do…
… That’s the wonder…
… The wonder of
He opened his eyes and looked out at the semi-crowded pub for the first time. He was expecting wild applause, wolf whistles, people falling on each other overwhelmed with emotion, in fact, any kind of reaction at all would have been nice. Instead, all he saw were the same familiar people, talking to each other, completely oblivious to the A-grade karaoke which had just occurred. The only person who was paying him any attention was a drunk skinhead who had unfortunately looked up when the music stopped and noticed George staring back at him. The skinhead frowned menacingly and George quickly turned away and handed the microphone back to the DJ.
George Spencer was the type of guy who had no remarkable features at either end of the scale. The chiselled jawline, the sensuous eyes and the muscular physique had all been given to someone else. Thankfully, the massive nose, the cleft palette and the limp had also been spared. Instead, George Spencer was unique in his anonymity. To describe him, his mates would often rely on phrases like, ‘you know, the one who’s a bit taller than me, he’s got a face and he’s got other stuff where it should be, oh and he looks a bit like Martin Freeman from The Office.’ George Spencer was Mr Average and this had been his biggest problem since he left school. He never seemed to be memorable enough to anyone.
He walked away from the cordoned off area near the dartboard, making sure to avoid the skinhead who had now been distracted by a crisp packet which had blown off the table next to him. The pub was big enough to hold about a hundred people but it could only muster half that number on a Saturday night, even with Jarvo’s Karaoke. The walk back to the bar, and to George’s two friends, took about four-seconds.
The pub itself had not changed too much since the seventies. Around the walls were bench seats covered in red faux-leather and dotted in front of them were small round tables with square spindly legs. A plastic-coated bar was along one side and the ceiling stained yellow from decades of cigarette smoke, only now appearing obvious since the smoking ban had come in. It was the type of pub which was always full of the same faces and this was lucky because no one else would ever step foot in there.
A group of eighteen year olds had commandeered the pool table at the far end and were making as much noise as the Karaoke. Most of this group, as is common with this type of pub, were either sons, or grandsons, of the other drinkers who were sat at the tables. Tonight, however, there was a group of six young girls, all around nineteen to twenty years old, sitting at the end table. George recognised a few of them, but not well enough to talk to, and everyone in the pub had noticed how dressed up they all were as if they were heading into town afterwards.
‘Where have you been?’ asked one of George’s friends when he perched himself back on his bar stool.
‘What do you mean?’ George asked. ‘You mean you didn’t see any of that? I’ve just blown Elvis out of the water. Jesus, I don’t know what you have to do these days. It’s X-Factor’s fault. All of a sudden everyone’s a judge.’
‘It’s not that,’ his friend said, ‘it’s just that I didn’t know. We’ve been deep in discussion, me and Matt, about serious things. The future of the country is at stake.’
‘Oh yeah, what is it then?’ asked George.
‘The usual; football, tits and women.’
‘Thought so,’ said George. ‘But normally the tits and women come together.’
‘Not this time,’ said his friend.
‘Yeah,’ interrupted the other friend. ‘I was reading about this bloke the other day who got some implants as a bet. He had to keep them in for a year and by the end of it, he’s now decided that he’s going to keep them because of the attention he ended up getting from birds.’
‘What?’ said George. ‘He’s a straight guy who’s got fake boobs? And that works for him?’
‘Yeah, are you having that?’
‘No, maybe that’s what I’ll have to do,’ said George.
‘Well, see them over there?’ the first friend said as he looked over at the table of girls. ‘That’s where you could start. They’re well up for it tonight.’
‘Oh yeah?’ said George, ‘and how do you know that?’
‘Just heard them talking. They’re all on the pull. One of them just said to her mate that if she ends up going home on her own tonight then it means she’s going to become a nun. What a perfect match, I thought to myself, you’re just about to become a monk if this barren spell goes on any longer. The two of you could save each other’s souls, or whatever the opposite would be.’
‘You’re an idiot, Chris, anyway look at how rough they all are. I mean, they’re going out on a proper night out and they stop into The Painters for a few looseners first. What’s that all about? Real classy, those ladies. Is that what you’ve stooped to, Chris?’
‘It is what you’ve stooped to, Georgie boy. People are starting to think you’re gay.’
‘Whatever, let them,’ said George. ‘Miss Right is just around the corner, I know she is, she’s just shy, that’s all. Anyway, I’m sure I can do better than them.’
‘Not dressed like that, mate,’ said Chris.
‘Yeah, I’m not being funny, George,’ said Matt, ‘but you’re starting to look like you don’t care anymore.’
‘Maybe I don’t,’ said George. ‘Maybe I don’t feel like I have to be on bloody show all the time. Not to impress girls like that anyway. If we were going up town, instead of coming to this dive again, then I might have made an effort but what’s the point.’
‘That is your best shirt,’ corrected Chris.
‘It’s your only shirt,’ said Matt.
‘Yeah, alright, what is it?’ said George. ‘Pick on George night? Like I say, what would be the point in getting good gear if all I’m going to do is wear it here. You’ve got Barbara over there who knows your Nan, and Lynn in the corner who works at the shop, and that’s about it most nights. How was I to know that a bunch of young and single girls were going to walk in?’ He stopped and had a sip from his pint. ‘Anyway, they’re not even fit.’
Just as he said this, he noticed one of the girls stood at the bar behind him. She was quite small, with dark hair pulled back across the top of her head in greasy lines and her face resembled that of a pug. She must have grown a lot that evening too because the black boob tube she was wearing would have been more suitable for someone three sizes smaller.
‘What’s your name?’ she said to George and her Marlboro breath wafted in front of him.
‘Oh, um, my name, um why?’
‘Because I don’t know it already,’ she answered. Matt and Chris were trying their best not to laugh on the other side of George.
‘Ok, well, it’s George, if you really want to know. What’s your name?’
‘It don’t matter. See my mate over there, yeah?’ she said in a guttural accent pointing at the table, ‘the fit one there in the white. Oi, Crys, look r’and. Ya fucka, look r’and. Well, the only one that ain’t looking r’and at the mo, yeah? Yeah, well she yeah, she fancies ya. She said she loves a bit of Elvis, she says it reminds her of her Dad, and she really misses her Dad.’
‘Oh, that’s nice,’ said George.
‘What’s nice? Her missing her Dad.’
‘Um, no, just the fact that she quite likes my Elvis.’
‘Oh right, who is Elvis anyway? Oh, it don’t matter.’
‘How long ago did her Dad die?’
‘Die? Ha, you fucka. Nah, he’s in prison. Armed robbery. Anyway, what ya gonna do about it?’
‘Nothing, I suppose. There’s not really a lot I can do if he’s inside, is there?’
‘Nah, ya muppet, what you gonna do about my mate Crystal?’
‘Oh, well… um… I don’t know…’
‘He wants to talk to ya, Crys,’ broadcasted the pug as she strutted back to her table.
Chris and Matt both prodded George in the back but George was too scared to move a muscle. He watched nervously as the girl in white slowly turned around to face him. The first thing he noticed was that she was obviously not related to her friend and for this he was grateful. She bashfully looked over at George and, even in the surroundings of The Painters, he thought she looked alright.
To a cacophony of encouragement from all sides, she finally performed the walk of shame and arrived at the bar slightly away from where George was sitting. She was wearing an all white, skin tight dress underlined with some white stilettos which looked uncomfortable to walk in. Physically, she looked as good as anyone else he had ever seen in The Painters and he decided, for once, to give it a go.
She stood leering at him with the straw from her Pernod and Black resting seductively on her teeth.
Until next time…