Short Stories

Another Notch

Listen, no listen, you have to have a plan…anyway, as I was saying, we all met: Mark, Betty and me. Well actually, I’d called to see Betty at the house earlier and she asked me if I’d like to join herself and Mark later, they were going for a drink. I jumped at the chance. I’d always fancied Mark, and though I don’t drink, there was a higher goal here.

We met at the King’s Head for a couple of hours and Mark and I got on like a house on fire. The thing is, get them talking about themselves and bingo you have them hooked: they’ll stay talking to you all night. Mark is a blues musician, into it big time and though I don’t know fuck about blues music, was I going to look a gift horse in the mouth? I asked him about his gigs, who were his influences, what he thinks of rock music etc etc? Find out what they’re passionate about, I always say, ask the questions and then sit back – they’ll think you’re brilliant.

Did I make a pass at him? Jesus, no! Are you mad, woman? Sure, Betty was there – no, this was groundwork. Before I left them I said to Mark, by the way, I’d love to hear your demos sometime. Any time, he says. Well naturally he’s flattered I want to hear his stuff. And right up to the last minute I stay sitting down, so Mark is looking down at me as he gets his jacket on: it’s always best to stay sitting down when you talk to guys, it makes them feel they’re in charge.

Anyway, where was I, oh yeh…that was fine. A couple of weeks passed, I didn’t see either of them, then I thought, okay, I’ve left a decent enough interval, I can make a move now. So I drove the twenty miles from where I live and when I was about two miles from Mark’s house I called him up on the mobile. Hi! I said all casual like, I’m just passing – on my way up to Mayo, in fact – so I thought I might drop in, if you’re not busy, I’d love to hear those demos you were talking about. Well, it worked a treat. I had picked my time. If I’d rung too early he might have been working – writing songs, practicing – but around four-thirty, well, he wasn’t likely to be up to much at that time in the afternoon, and also it was near enough to dinnertime. As I say you’ve got to plan these maneuvres well in advance. (I’d also picked my day, for I knew Betty and Mark rarely met Mondays.)

Anyway, in I went, cool as a cucumber, talking ten to the dozen to dissolve the unspoken question mark hanging in the air: what’s all this really about? A good ploy I find is complain vehemently about something, roadworks, lousy garage that made a bollix of your car, anything that gives them a chance to rush in to fix the situation. Would you like me to have a look at it, offered Mark, I’m handy enough with a spanner. No it’s okay, it’ll get me to Mayo. By this stage I’ve cosied myself into an old armchair in the big kitchen so I hint I’d kill for a cup of tea, and immediately he’s up making me a cuppa. Then over the tea, we get on to the demos and he gets a couple of tapes from the studio. As I said, I know fuck all about the blues, but I made all the right sounds, and he went into great detail about cakewalk programmes, backing tracks and a load of other shite that was way over my head, but as I said, there was a higher goal here. After about a couple of hours, I said, I suppose I’d better be on my way, I’m sure you want to be getting on with dinner (hint, hint!) Would you like to stay for dinner, pipes up Mark on cue, I’m just going to rustle up some pasta, but you are welcome to stay if you like. Then we launched into a little duet: me with my, no no, that would be an infringement, to his, not at all, not at all, that ended up with me settling back further into the old armchair. Things were moving along nice and handy.

Anyway, we had a lovely meal, thank you very much – I knew already from Betty he was a good cook – and afterwards we went down to his studio and he gave me a performance of his songs. Actually, he’s not bad, but naturally I told him he was wonderful, Ry Cooder better watch out and so on. Time went by. I snuck a look at my watch a couple of times, nine o’ clock, ten o’ clock. Then at around half ten, l looked at it deliberately and said, Oh, Jesus! Look at the time, I’ll never make it up by eleven. What’s the problem? Mark asked. You see, said I, lying through my teeth, I was to get the key off Marie before she left for Sligo this evening, I just didn’t feel the time passing.
Listen, you can stay here for the night if you like. There’s a sofa in the sitting room and I can throw a couple of blankets on it. Oh fuck, what a fool I am, why did I not keep track of time, I go on, beating myself up, until Mark practically begs me to stay, he’ll be annoyed if I leave. So, reluctantly, mar dhea, I agree to stay.

Then he – being the good host – made us both some chamomile tea as a nightcap and afterwards fixed up a bed for me on the sofa. I was still giving out about life in general, my own misfortunes in particular, for the thing is, I’ve discovered, if you keep the story negative, people feel they can’t do enough for you. Oh, you wouldn’t have an old shirt I could borrow, I asked Mark then, you see I leave my night things up in Mayo, so as not to be carting stuff up and down all the time. Sure, says Mark and off he goes to return with a check shirt and then it’s ‘beddy, bye-byes and sleep tight’. That’s what you think, Sunny Jim, I said to myself, undressing and putting on the shirt, for I had no notion of sleeping on that sofa, no siree. After about thirty minutes, I tiptoed up to Mark’s door, which was ajar and whispered sotto voce, Jesus, Mark, I’m frozen! Are you asleep? Mark, surprised, raised himself up in the bed. Uh…I’m sorry…. I don’t have a water bottle or anything…Oh, fuck waterbottles, I said, could I just lie in here for a couple of minutes to warm myself up, and before Mark could say a aye, yes or no, I lifted up a corner of the duvet and eased myself into his bed, lying at the edge to start with, not to alarm him. Oh, your bed’s lovely and toasty. Sorry I should have realised it was so cold tonight, said Mark apologetically. Not to worry, I’ll just lie here till I warm up ….oh lovely jubbly, I said again, wriggling this way and that, like the cat that got the cream, to show my appreciation, all the time edging myself over towards him, nice and easy like.

Anyway there we were, like a couple of bugs in a rug, chatting away again ten to the dozen about his music etc and before you know it I was right over next to him stroking his arm, his torso, his belly. We stayed like this for a while, and when I felt he was sufficiently softened up, I made my master move. Jesus, what do you want with those on, I said, lifting the elasticated waistband of his pajama bottoms up and down a couple of time, sure aren’t we nice and cosy the two of us, you’ll be baked. And brazen as you like, before he could say a word, I whisked them off and wrapped my bare legs around him.

Well, you can imagine, before we know it, we’re at it hammer and tongs. Oh Jesus, I’m telling you, the earth moved, abandon thrown to the winds, Mark taking me like a fuckin’ tiger. Oh, fuckin’ Ada, it was pure magic! Afterwards, we lay back exhausted. Before we fell asleep, I remember him saying, Christ, I never expected that! You’re not sorry, I asked. No, no, no, he said quickly.

What happened then? Oh, nothing much. I left early the next day and in fact I didn’t see Mark, or Betty either for that matter for a couple of months more. No, it was probably a one-off; Betty has him under a tight rein or maybe he’s feeling a little guilty, who knows. I did ring once, and of course without any reference to what happened, I kind of casually said I might call in sometime when I’m passing, but he didn’t take me up on it, so that was that. Ah, well, you win some you lose some, but I’m telling you that night was one for the books, fuckin’ amazing! I will ring him again…but for the moment, I think I’ll let the dust settle…

Anyway, how are you? Things aren’t going too well between you and Paul, you said? Not to worry, there’s plenty more fish in the sea, is what I always say. By the way, I’ve been doing a clear-out of my flat below and I have loads of those Naxos CD’s that I no longer listen to, Mozart, Beethoven – all that crowd. If you want them you can have them, or if you don’t, sure, give them to Paul…. he’s into classical now, isn’t he?

First published in West 47 Issue 6