"Ya gotta be bloody hosin' me." Rupert threw his rolled up London Times to the ground, reached under the bill of his wool golf cap for a scratch, and tugged up his loose corduroys, bringing his hands to rest on his hips and leaving a thinning tuft of orange hair protruding out from under the crooked cap. "There's nuttin' but yanks and wanks here." He motioned toward the inordinately long lines of eager idiots standing and waiting much too long for the likes of marathons and McCartney, tickets clutched in hand. A thin blackish man adorned with silver body jewelry to the point of resembling an awards ceremony jumped at the sight of an outstretched hand.
"How many tickets pal? One for each of you?" He pulled a rubber band off of a stack of yellow and gold scalpers specials and waited for Rupert to respond. He didn't. The punk didn't exist. Instead he turned rather impatiently to Alferd. "Ya really 'spect me to stand 'ere till judgment just cuz yer cousin Patty's on the Irish cricket spittin' team? Oh no, absolutely not, not when there's pound Tuesday goin' on at Satchel's."
The tall slender Alferd rubbed his temples, eyes closed, waiting till he calmed down to respond so the vein in his forehead would't pop out. Once it did it hardly ever went back in. Especially on sultry days like today (Where was all the London Fog when you needed it?). And he abhorred talking to the ladies in such a state. He downright refused, actually (they would stare at the vein throughout the entire conversation in stead of looking him in the eye). And talking to the ladies wasn't only a great reason for going to the Olympics, it was his reason for leaving the house period, (groceries, mail, bills, whatever) as far as he was concerned. In a calm tone, "It's not cricket spitting, it's pogo vaulting. My cousin MICKEY is a champion pogo vaulter, you stupid brick." He took his hands from his head and crossed his arms over his pastel plaid button up. "How many times do you get to watch someone you know compete in the Olympics?"
"Ever' year, ya wank, the 'lympics come around ever' year. Why, just last year I got to go watch me own sister, Tercil, in the special Olympics down at Portshire, member?" Rupert pulled out a pouch of E.B. Stansbury's smoking tobacco, wafting the sticky sweet of brown sugar into the air, and hand rolled a fag. "C'mon, I know ya remember that, she won the tin medal?" He licked the edge of the smoke, stuck it in his mouth, and patted the pockets of his black leather Fonzy knock off looking for his matches. They weren't there. "Hey buddy," he tapped the scalper on the shoulder and put on a broad smile sans some of the teeth, cigarette hanging from the corner of his lips, "ya gotta light?"
"Light this," the street worker flipped him the bird over his shoulder as he walked away.
"Well howdya like that..." Rupert, sincerely bewildered, watched him saunter off to his next potential customers. "Alferd, you got..." The jewel encrusted zippo lighter flicking up in front of his face startled him.
"The Olympics are only every few years Rupert," he held the zippo while his compatriot drew the cherry to life and then dropped it back in the watch pocket of his trendy denims, "and they're only here in London once in a lifetime."
"Why do you 'ave a lighter, Alferd? You don't smoke." The day was now hotter, the men thirstier, and the line much longer than when they had first gotten in it. Somehow they were moving backwards.
"For the the ladies, of course." Alferd had become increasingly aware of the smell of concessions emanating from within the stadium.
Burgers, Fries, Dawgs...
"You and yer ladies. Everything with you is the ladies," he said the next part in a high pitch mock voice while doing a little ballerina dance, "the ladies this, the ladies that, ladies, ladies, ladies," back to his normal voice, "there's more to this life than women, ya know."
Pizza, Brats, Nachos...
"There's ALOT more to this life than women FOR YOU because they won't answer YOUR calls," the mouthwatering aroma of hot wings was being carried out of the arena on the cheers of the crowd and were lighting a fire in Alferd's stomach, "AND, for the record, the special Olympics only took your sister because she was dumber than a bag of hammers," Rupert's jaw dropped at the low blow,"which makes her the smartest one in your family! No, No...You should be proud. She took home the tin medal. What's that, eleventeenth place?" Alferd chuckled at his own wit.
With chips, a cold pint, bleu cheese dressing...
"Now listen hear," Rupert evidently indignant, "ya might be the smarter o' the two o' us," his cockney getting stronger the angrier he became, "but I can still squish yer skinny bum like a water roach at homecomin', so unless you want an honorable mention in the long toss competition, I'd tie up those loose flaps o' yers." The line still didn't seem to have moved a stitch. Ridiculous. Why would anyone do this? The stronger the smell of the food grew, the farther from it they seemed to be.
That had done it. The vein on Alferd's forehead was now thoroughly bulging and throbbing. He could feel it pop with every heart beat. There went his chance with all those ladies. All those beautiful unrequited American ladies. But Rupert was right. He wasn't opposed to knocking lose a few teeth for those who didn't know when to quit. So he held his tongue.
"C'mon, Alferd, if we leave now we can still catch the last half o' pound day." Rupert's go at diplomacy. "I dunno 'bout you but I'm about due fer some frosties. And at only a few coppers each our money'll go alot farther. H'mmm what to do, what to do," he made a mock set of scales with his hands and weighed them back and forth," one ticket to the 'lympics or an arm full o' pint's?" Alferd wasn't thoroughly convinced so Rupert continued. "One over-fried coney or a man-hole-cover sized platter o' wings?" He visibly softened a bit at this. "Plus, we can still see the 'lympics. Remember? They've got a Television set at Satchels's. C'mon how often do ya git all o' that in one place fer a few quid?"
"Every Tuesday, you loaf." He spoke slowly and over enunciated his next words. "That's why they call it pound Tuesday?" Alferd was getting too hungry to play hardball. He had promised his cousin Patty that he would come and watch. But he HAD come, and technically he could watch on the big-screen at Satchel's. And by the time they were through this line, the show was liable to be over anyway, and by gum there would surely be no wings left.
"C'mon Alferd, I'm already tired o' standin'...I'll owe you one."
Alferd resigned, "hail a cabby."
The two rolled down their windows and took in the fullness of their hometown. The taxi ride over to Satchel's was filled with all the sights, sounds and smells that London's Holborn district had to offer. The yeast of warm rising bagel dough, a candelabra of colored lights, a symphony of the small high rev western European automobile engines and horns. A cult of sensation that lifted the heart rate, spiked the blood pressure and carried all the various sentiments to the epicenters of the brain where they converged into possibility.
. . .
Satchel's was archaic. The rustic brick and mortar and faded sign exterior cantered down into a British pub antiquity. Squeaky bar stools (not nearly enough of them), tarnished brass banisters, and glass mugs made for giants, long ago faded to a frosty finish, brimming with golden suds and slung wildly down the waxed oak counter top by salty baristas denoted the over-capacity dive. The smell of burning molasses from old world cigarettes billowed up into a stratum of smoky haze that drifted loosely above the crowd. In the center of all the confusion, a large dusty box of a television adorned one wall. Interviews with the Chilean men's couch wrestling team emblazoned the screen.
"You'll definitely owe me one," Alferd yelled over the crowd, wedging himself between a waitress so short she was holding the tray up as high as she could on her right hand (she was standing on her tip toes and still barely clearing their heads) and a large man wearing a too-small T-shirt that read KI$$ me I'm Rich who was so tall Alferd's face came only to his armpit. He hadn't bathed. "The wings better be bloody amazing." They inched their way to the bar one body at a time. For this he'd rather be standing in line back at the stadium.
"Alright, alright. I'll owe you TWO fer cryin' out loud. Now quit yer belly achin'." The shorter, stalkier Rupert became little more than a golf cap in the crowd. The journey from the door to the bar took no small effort and no small turn of the hour hand. For this they could have been IN the Olympics. As the two reached the brass border of the bar and the gaze of the tenders, Rupert began to hold up his finger and spout his order. His words were cut short when a triangular self standing sign was slammed down with hand inscription reading, OUT OF BEER.
"Out of BEER? Are you bloody hosin' me," Rupert demanded, "you're a bloody bar!" Alferd, out of wind from both the press and holding his breath, squeezed out from behind Rupert to see the sign and hear the exchange. Rupert shouted, "how does a BAR run out of BEER? That's where beer bloody comes from!"
Alferd's blood pressure started to climb.
The bartender wiped his hands on a bar rag, threw it over the shoulder of a dingy white T-shirt and shrugged. "The place is full o' yanks," he spoke through a thick chocolate handlebar mustache, "It's the biggest crowd we've ever had. Ya know, the 'lympics and all."
"But you've still got the wings," Alferd added, "Ya know, the one's with crispy buttery golden brown breading and tangy sweet sauce melting off of them in your mouth? You've still got some of those, right?"
"Just sent out the last batch we got," the bartender, apologetically, "Sorry fella's."
Rupert,"Well what do ya have?"
"Looks like we're down to...," the bartender put his finger to his lips and did a mental inventory, "milk and strawberry-rhubarb pie." The crowd cheered and a wave of motion passed them as the Indonesian freestyle hand-walking team (the heavy favorite) faltered at the finish line allowing the Luxembourgians (scant underdogs) to gain the lead.
Alferd turned to Rupert and glared at him through a twitching right eye which was perfectly in sync with the pounding vein flashing like lighting across his forehead, disappearing completely and then quickly popping back to the surface with each contraction of his ventricle.
"Uh, we'll take take two o' those," Rupert spoke slowly and held up two fingers to the barista, eyes locked on the bulging blood vessel. The man disappeared from sight for a moment and then returned with two tall glasses of white-skeletal-goodness and two plates of fresh pie.
"That'll be two and half pounds."
Rupert whistled while reaching for his wallet. "Little high for the likes o' this, don't ya thi..." A sheepish, uneven grin spread across his ruddy face. "I, uh, seemed to have lost track o' me 'fold (coy laughing followed by hard swallowing)." He turned to Alferd. "I don't suppose you..."
Alferd slammed the bills onto the bar and jerked his portion of pie and milk to himself, spilling the milk. "OH ya don't suppose I do, do ya?"
Rupert, tired of the eggshells, "Ey, wot's your problem? Why you gotta take everything so serious??
"I took the day off, RUPERT, to see my cousin competing in the world Olympics, which, I might add, will never happen again, WHILE helping myself to an unjustifiably large serving of hot wings and chasing them with enough lager to forget my childhood. BUT NOO. You had to drag us to Satchel's to witness this monumental event in mindbogglingly low definition, while being the only men in the HISTORY of the Olympic's to watch them over a quaint helping of MILK and STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB PIE!"
Rupert just stared wide eyed at the side of Alferd he'd never seen before for a few moments and then, "Oh hey look, it's yer cousin." He pointed toward the telly and Alferd's attention instantly turned to the coverage of Mickey McGregor and his crowd pleasing dash for the gold in the most important moment in Irish Pogo Vaulting since the great potato famine. With each bounce Alferd's spirits lifted and the inhabitants of Satchel's Cider Street Pub counted, shouting in unison. Alferd stood up, chugging the rest of his milk and slamming the glass down on the bar and wiping his milk mustache on his sleeve. "I think he's gonna do it, Rupert. I think he's gonna take the gold!" He turned a feral smile full of excitement toward his compatriot.
"Yeah, I see, Alfie, I see." Caught up in the swell of the moment, Rupert was standing and chanting now too. "He's gonna- He's just about to..."
"He's almost," Alferd cut in, "..."
The picture clicked and shrank to a small dot in the middle of the screen before going dark and silent. A disappointing Ahh fell from the crowd. The same gent who had served Rupert and Alferd made his way from behind a lift door on the bar to the antique tube, shoving patrons aside as he went. "Excuse me, move aside. You wanna see the rest of it or not?" He stood on a chair and slapped the side of the set twice and then twisted the nob off and and back on. Nothing. "Sorry folks, there's nothin'. 'Fraid it's dead."
Left eye also twitching now.
Rupert, still staring at the blank screen, took a deep breath as resignation washed over him. "Well Alferd, we could always go back to the 'lympics."