‘Charlie! Wait up.’
Charlie turned around, ‘Run!’
‘Fucking hell Charlie what’s the rush?’
‘What’s the rush? Give me a winning argument for being slow.’
‘Because… Just hold on!’
Charlie stopped to let Simon catch up.
‘Thank you. Where’s the Basement then? Shall we get a taxi?’
‘What’s the rush?’
‘That’s what I just said!’
‘Yes, but I wasn’t actually rushing or even moving particularly fast. I was just slightly ahead of you. You’re the one inflicting me with verbs.’
‘Safe answer. Actually I don’t really want to go to the Basement. Not right away anyway.’
Charlie looked at Simon in a way Simon didn’t recognize, at least not on Charlie. He seemed Sober. He seemed like he was about to be serious.
‘I need to visit someone, and I can’t do it on my own.’
‘Who do you need to visit at this hour?’
‘You have a daughter?!’
Charlie’s expression saddened, ‘I need you to come with me. Please. I really need to see her.’
‘Ok, let’s go and see her.’
Charlie looked over the road, ‘She’s not far from here.’
Simon looked over. They were standing opposite a cemetery.
‘Charlie, please tell me now if this is one of your jokes.’
Charlie crossed the road and climbed over the main gate to the cemetery. Simon stood for a moment wondering if this was one of his jokes and if it was it was a sick one. Simon crossed the road and followed Charlie into the cemetery.
‘Charlie, where are you?’
Simon weaved through the graves until he found Charlie standing in front of a small heart shaped gravestone. Someone had left a yellow rose in front of Claire’s grave.
‘There she is,’ said Charlie.
‘Claire Deavon,’ Simon looked at the gravestone next to it, ‘Samantha Deavon.’
‘She’s my wife. This grave was reserved for me. I never thought she would be filling it for me.’
Simon opened his mouth but couldn’t find any words.
‘Samantha died in childbirth. She never even got to meet her.’
Charlie took a cantina of whisky out of his jacket pocket and took a sip. He passed it to Simon and both of them sat down against the opposite graves. They sat there silently for a while. Charlie lit a cigarette and looked at the Cantina in his hands.
‘I’m a cunt. You know that?’
Simon didn’t answer.
A tear began to form in Charlie’s eye.
‘It’s all here, all my problems, in this fucking cantina!’
Charlie stood up and threw the cantina as far as he could. He sat back down again.
‘It doesn’t hurt as much as it used to,’ Charlie took the picture of Claire from his inside jacket pocket and looked at it, ‘she was seven when she died. It would have been her 18th birthday today.’
‘I don’t know what to say,’ said Simon.
‘I was giving her a lift to her friend’s house. I’d had one glass of wine. Just one! But it was enough to lapse my concentration for a split second. And now look at me. What have I learnt?!’
Charlie stubbed his cigarette out in the grass and lit another one. He put the picture back in his pocket.
‘We weren’t even in the car a whole minute before it happened. We got in the car, we were both in a playful mood, you just don’t expect anything to happen, and I pulled out of the drive without looking. And that was it. Our friendship was no more. It was my fault but the guy who drove into us was drunk. He was sent to prison for twelve months for driving while intoxicated but hung himself before his sentence was up. Claire died on my lap in the car. I wasn’t even scratched. I hate alcohol for everything that has come of it yet I consume it like it’s all that matters! What the hell is wrong with me!?’
‘If you want to quit I can sign you up to a group.’
‘No, that won’t work. I just need to stop.’
Charlie stood up and walked over to the grave stone. He took a diamond ring out of his pocket and placed it out of site in a gap between the grave stone and the soil.
‘Happy Birthday Princess.’
Charlie took a step back and looked at the two gravestones standing quietly together.
‘And besides, I’ve got nothing to lose now have I. Come on, let’s go and lighten the mood a bit.’
The doorman at The Basement noticed Charlie and Simon walking toward him and immediately stood in front of the door.
‘He seems to recognize you,’ said Simon, as they approached the bar.
‘We’ve had our differences,’ said Charlie.
‘Charlie Deavon, how nice of you to pop back for a visit,’ said the heavy looking bouncer.
‘Stand aside kind sir! I’m here to visit the king!’
‘I just want you to know, before I let you in, that I don’t like you and I think you should have been barred!’
‘Bizarrely, I tend to agree. Alas, your landlord does not.’
Charlie pushed past the doorman and headed up the stairs, Simon hesitantly followed.
‘I’m warning you!’ the doorman shouted after them, ‘any fires this time and I’m not letting you back in!’
‘Fires?’ enquired Simon.
‘I may have set fire to the place last time I was here.’
‘Any particular reason?’
‘Describe our current motion,’ said Charlie.
Simon thought for a moment.
‘We’re walking upstairs?’
‘Correct, and what is the name of this pub?’
‘Thus we have good reason for fire.’
‘I’m not sure I follow,’ said Simon.
They arrived at the bar.
‘Such a callous use of irony puts me in a state of serious disrupt. And so I set fire to the bar.’
‘And you didn’t get barred?’
‘No, luckily my friend Keep here agreed with me.’
‘Charlie,’ said Keep, ‘what can I get you?’
‘Two of the usual,’ said Charlie.
‘You usually have a bottle of whisky.’
‘Right, two please.’
Keep went out back to get the bottles of whisky and Simon and Charlie went to the back of the bar to sit at a table.
Keep arrived with the booze and sat down. The Black Keys filled the room with whisky soaked rock music.
‘I think I’ll join you,’ said Keep, ‘You know, since you set fire to the bar last week we’ve been packed. This is now officially the place to be.’
‘Great, let’s start another fire and lock the doors this time so we can kill them all for being populous chasing cunts.’
‘We could, but then I really would have to bar you.’
Charlie smiled, ‘Did you keep the name change?’
‘Yes, thanks for that,’ he said sarcastically, ‘people seem to like it.’
Keep could see that Simon wanted some involvement in the conversation and so involved him.
‘After the fire last week we had to evacuate the pub so Charlie and I decided to have ourselves a little lock-in.’
‘Oh dear,’ said Simon, imagining Charlie in a fire burnt bar with all the free alcohol he could consume.
‘Charlie can be quite persuasive at times,’ continued Keep.
Charlie nodded in agreement.
‘He had been calling me Bar Keep all night even after countless attempts to teach him my real name. After we had consumed enough alcohol to fuel a small plane he had convinced me that changing my name to Keep would be a really good idea.’
‘And I stick by it,’ said Charlie.
‘And so, he went online and changed my name by deed poll.’
‘The pleasure was all mine.’
‘I hadn’t actually remembered any of this until my official papers arrived in the post a few days ago.’
‘Oh god what have I got myself into? Please promise me that I’ll wake up with my own name tomorrow,’ said Simon.
‘I promise I won’t change it but I can’t promise that you’ll remember it.’
‘That’s fine. So, do I call you Keep? Or… what is your real name?’
‘You can call me Keep, everybody else is.’
‘Ok, so how come you didn’t mind when Charlie set fire to the place?’
‘He helped!’ said Charlie, ‘I can’t take sole blame for this!’
‘I was having a bad day and Charlie came along like a catalyst. He has a way of explaining things that makes you think venting in such an extreme way is normal. Or at least justified.’
Keep poured a second round of drinks and Simon began to feel tipsy.
‘How do you guys drink so much? I already feel drunk. And how come you seem sober? You were smashed when you got to my house!’
‘Functioning alcoholic,’ said Keep, pointing at Charlie.
‘I’ll take that. Functioning alcoholic, makes me feel… “functional”. Like a useful drunk,’ said Charlie.
‘Oh god, I’m going to regret this night aren’t I?’ said Simon.
‘Good! Drink up, you’re going to need it,’ said Charlie.
‘We, Simon, are going home in an hour and you are going to want to be drunk.’
‘In an hour? We’ve only just got here.’
‘We’re only going back to yours for a bit and then we’ll come straight back and really hit the drink!’
‘Why are you going back?’ asked Keep.
Charlie looked at Simon.
‘Why are we out tonight?’ he asked.
‘So we can have a few beers. And because Jane wanted a girlie night in.’
‘Even though she invited me round so we can all get together.’
‘Like I said, she’s been acting strange recently.’
‘You didn’t notice a kind of, serious sexual tension between Amelia and Jane?’
‘Well, I kind of did. A little bit. I guess.’
Keep picked up his glass.
‘Sounds like your wife is urging for some deep, and pure, tongue induced, thigh watering, chest pounding, toe-curling orgasms from the gleaming lesbian fire that is the taboo of same sex passion.’
‘Very poetic,’ said Simon.
‘When we get back we are probably going to find Jane and Amelia in the steamy throes of hardcore lesbianism.’
Simon stood up, ‘Right, we have to go back now and stop them!’
Simon headed for the exit but Charlie got up and grabbed him.
‘No, it’s all very well stopping anything from happening but then you’ll never be sure and it will play on your mind until you become a paranoid, wife beating, estate agent!’
‘Oh yes, estate agent, because you’ll get fired from being a literary agent because you were caught masturbating in the stationery cupboard!’
‘That doesn’t make sense!’
Charlie grabbed him by the collar! ‘None of this makes sense! That’s why we have to wait!’
‘Yes. You have to trust me. If we get back and they are watching a chic flick and doing each other’s hair then you can stop worrying about her acting strange. That is a good thing.’
‘Yes, I suppose it is. But what if they are doing something?’
‘I’ll have my camera phone ready,’ said Keep.
‘It’s up to you what happens. And that is why we are going for a drink afterwards. It will give you both some time to think.’
‘Yeah, I guess that makes sense.’
‘Excellent, let’s get shit faced!’ said Charlie.
One bottle of whisky later and Simon’s bladder was begging for mercy. It was time to gather his senses and set off in search for the men’s room.
‘If I’m not back in five minutes,’ said Simon getting up, ‘I’ve probably pissed myself.’
Simon waddled off and Charlie took his notepad and pen out of his pocket. He tore out a page and wrote down a number.
‘This is Jane’s mobile number,’ he said to Keep, ‘I need you to phone it without Simon knowing so you can give Jane the heads up.’
‘If all goes well this could end up being good for both of them,’ said Charlie.
‘And how exactly is us helping her cheat be good in any way?’
‘We’re not helping her cheat. We want her to feel like she’s been caught out without actually being caught. Put the fear of god in her!’
‘Or the fear of Charlie.’
‘The reason being, she’ll know that we know but also that we don’t want Simon to know and hopefully it will snap her out of this little midlife crisis and feel guilty enough to focus on Simon again.’
‘That was hard to follow. I must be drunker than I thought. So, I tell her we know but don’t want Simon to know because it will crush him?’ said Keep, trying to concentrate.
‘And that will hopefully force her to reflect on what she’s doing with the kind of hindsight you might get from actually being caught.’
‘Yes! That’s amazing!’ said Charlie.
‘It was your idea.’
‘I know, but the way you said it makes it sound better than I thought. I guess I must be a genius!’
‘I guess you must be.’
‘And Simon going back to find her watching TV with Amelia, instead of fucking her, will hopefully stop Simon from being such a paranoid retard! It’s win-win!’
‘I didn’t know you had it in you to help another person,’ said Keep with a slur.
‘I am an enigma!’ said Charlie.