Last week I posted one of my entries for the Dazed & Confused lyric based short story competition. If you missed that bit of fried gold click here. Here is my second entry based on a Bowie lyric.
It was the third weekend of the month which meant we were all skint and smoking roll ups outside the Legion Social Club, hidden at the top of the high street round the back of the church. The reason we were there was two-fold. At least one of us was banned from each of the pubs along the high street and the Legion served up a pint for cheaper than anywhere else, it cost me more money to open the fridge door. The Legion was a lot more reserved than most of the watering holes available elsewhere and our presence had earned us a nickname – The Young Dudes.
I walked in first, chucking my dog end down and catching it under my brogue as I stepped up to the door, behind me in formation were Freddy, Rex and Lucy, who were possibly my only friends in the world. I didn’t stop moving until I got to the bar and greeted the barmaid with the same greeting I gave her every time I led the way.
‘Alright Wendy, how’s things?’
I don’t really want to go into how I became a member of the Legion and yet managed to escape fighting in the war, you can just draw your own conclusion and judge me for it, most people do.
‘Yeah, can’t complain Billy boy, got some M&S men’s shirts doing the rounds if you’re interested, back of a lorry, you know the drill’.
‘Nah, sorry Wendy, got no money and no need, I spend the working week in overalls, thanks though’.
Wendy got our drinks. We always ordered the same and it was always the four of us, that was just how it was. I handed the exact change over to Wendy, we took our respective pint glasses and headed for the table in the corner that was always available to us when we arrived, as though they were expecting it.
‘What are we doing for your birthday then Billy?’
‘Nothing’ I said, ‘I don’t want anymore birthdays, this will probably be my last one’.
‘Don’t start with all that bollocks again, there’s nothing wrong with having no direction at 25’
‘Yes there is Rex, it’s pathetic, when my old man was twenty five he had two kids, a mortgage and was second in command at the factory, what have I got?’
‘We are a different generation, what happened with that job on the paper?’
‘They want someone with smarts, like a degree and all that shit’
‘University of life mate’ said Freddy, raising his glass to me. I lifted my pint to drink but couldn’t help staring straight down it like the barrel of a gun, and then beyond it at his funky little boat race, which glistened from his burrows of acne, it made me a bit sick.
Suddenly the television blurted to life, it wasn’t something I had ever noticed before, and it cut the usual hum of old voices like scissors to puppet strings. It meant something big was happening. I was reminded of school, and how a big old set would be wheeled in on an aluminium frame to show us a documentary on osmosis, to keep us dumb and spellbound for a little while longer, to stop us progressing. The television man was illuminated by fires, there were shadows and people running back and forth behind him carrying blunt objects, smashing up pig cars, it was all a bit Lord of the Flies. There were mentions of a protest descending into riots, but it wasn’t reasoned and casual, they were blaming the youth, saying we were juvenile delinquent wrecks.
The rest of the Legion sat low in their chairs with goggle eyes and dropped jaws, they couldn’t believe the disrespect of it all, and for some reason they thought that we were involved.
‘You’re lucky I’m not thirty years younger’ one of them shouted, ‘I’d punch your lights out’.
They didn’t mean any harm, we were all they knew of youth, we carried the news, it was sad in a way. We were drawn to be with them, to sit in there, and it wasn’t all down to the cheap beer, there was an essential Britishness, which you just don’t get anywhere else, it’s reasoned and it’s wisdom and we knew it.
I finished my pint and ordered Lucy up to the bar, I refused to be left dry. Lucy was more one of the boys than any of us, she could kick like a mule and drink like a fish, and often combined the two as a night wound down. It was beneficial, it showed that I didn’t have no hope with birds, because I had a mate who was one.
We kept drinking until the concrete walls started to fold in on me, and I got freaked out. It often seemed to be that way, I’d drink to a point that a lot of the mindless chatter in my head would stop and then I could get to the crux of the problem with my life, I hated it and I wanted out.