Opportunity and Cost
They landed in Rio de Janeiro and wasted no time acclimatising. Caipirinhas in hand they basted their bodies on rooftop recliners taking in the panoramic view. Jimmy dived into the pool. As he surfaced he glimpsed Christ the Redeemer atop Sugarloaf, blessing him, arms outstretched. They lay back like accomplished Rock Stars, sipping ice cold mojitos from sugar rimmed highballs;
“Did you ever think it could be like this? Ninety in the shade, brown eyed girls twisting samba.”
“Born to do it.”
By some quirk of fate Pra found out Yvonne, Marvin’s latest squeeze was indeed from Brazil, Salvador. This was their chance, no text book tours but a chance to join a Bloco and party non-stop in the mother of all carnivals, The Cachoeira. He took the initiative and discretely arranged a meet, without letting Jimmy know.
“Marvin’s here in Brazil, fuck off.” shrieked Jimmy.
“Did he mention me?”
“He mentioned you alright!” Jimmy winced “Don’t worry he’s with Yvonne now.”
“What about Kelly?
“I’m telling ya man he’s loved up. I think he’s going all the way.”
“What, getting married?”
“Apparently, she’s the one.”
They checked out for an internal flight to meet Marvin and Yvonne in Pelourinho; an old style town lined with colourful Baroque houses and narrow cobbled streets. Marvin and Yvonne emerged hand in hand into perfect light cast from the Basilica. He wore a skin tight white vest, khaki shorts and she a white linen dress with floral print. They met like it was yesterday.
“You still a veggie Pra?” asked Marvin.
“But you’re Hindu aren’t you?”
“Hindu Atheist now. Love my cow man.”
“Does your Mum know?”
“Very funny. Your Dad know you’re a spliff head?”
“Okay keep your hair on. Anyway I was hoping you’d say that. Not much fun munching bread sticks all night.”
They made a pre-planned detour to Mam Bahia, a meat brasserie run by friends of Yvonne. They were warmly welcomed and seated in a small private room in the back. Jugs of red wine Sangria and bottles of Cachaça were placed on a huge oak table. They were treated to the local dish Feijoada; a black bean stew crammed with succulent beef and pork. They left mid-afternoon and strolled into the main square. Yvonne highlighted posters citing black history and a government initiative to bridge divisions from the favelas. She was charming and showed genuine kindness and concern. They walked toward a line of waiting yellow cabs. Pra accompanied Yvonne engaging gentle discourse, diverting Marvin to Jimmy in the hope he could wrap up unfinished business.
“I know you had the hots for Kelly, don’t deny it,” Gleamed Marvin.
“Don’t be stupid.”
“It’s cool, go for it, I don’t mind. Be warned mate it’s no picnic, she’s a nightmare?”
“How do you mean?”
“Blowing hot and cold, totally, mixed up you never know where you are. It’s not till you meet someone like Yvonne, you realise what a mess she is. She maybe pretty but… well just beware.”
He nodded, chewing it over, “I guess, yeah. After we split I got so twisted trying to figure her out, I thought she dated me just to get back at her Dad. Major head-fuck.”
Jimmy felt relieved but wary, he had been given permission to date a psychopath but felt where Marvin had failed he could succeed.
He double checked, shoring up position. “Yvonne is cool.”
“Yeah nothing’s a problem.”
“How did you meet?”
“I sold her a policy.”
“Who made the first move?”
He grinned “You make me laugh; you always want the detail.”
“What? Did you cosy up over some charts?”
“Actually she didn’t buy a policy at first, said she wanted to think it over. By the third visit I was getting a bit suspicious. I walked in on her just as they were about to have dinner.”
“Yeah she lived with her Mum and Dad. So I need to sell this policy right? I’m thinking the more the merrier. Maybe I get the folks on board too. I reach for my briefcase and she invites me to sit down to dinner, can you believe it? It was all a bit weird.”
“Did you cotton on?”
“I had no idea, too busy rubbing my hands together. We sit down then out of nowhere she starts playing footsie.”
“You’re having a laugh.”
“No, straight up. She puts her toe in between my legs, I had a Lou Ferrigno in the pants.”
Jimmy stopped, bent over double. “Don’t do it, please.”
“She wouldn’t stop it was getting difficult.”
Marvin continued intent on bringing him down to make him pay for asking. ”I
had to go to the boys’ room, waddling like a penguin. Her mum asked me if I was alright. It wouldn’t go down so I came back, hands crossed, head bowed like a freaking priest, I couldn’t look at them.”
Jimmy was in full swing, rolling around gasping for air. Pra and Yvonne looked back wondering what was going on, he caught his breath before she came over. “You got a wild one there.”
“Yeah, then I realised she had another side. She had it together, so I ran with it.”
“The full package, nice. I heard you’re tying the knot?”
“Yeah she’s the one, anyway it’s too good here I can’t go back to selling insurance.”
“You gonna stay?”
“Already am, I’m a Personal Trainer, Yvonne hooked me up. They’re loaded and super vain,” he said flexing his pecs. “Can you believe it, getting paid for training?”
Jimmy was green with envy but all he could do was look on as his old school friend, lived the dream.
“Just put yourself out there mate,” he preached. “Something will happen, trust me.”
They went back to their flat, a posh duplex on a gated community. Marvin had hit the jackpot; Yvonne’s dad came to London in the 60′s to study, stayed then returned to Brazil a Neurosurgeon. He gifted them the pad, flat-sitting, whilst he jetted back and forth from London, giving lectures on paediatric epilepsy.
Yvonne came out the kitchen, asking about dinner.“Você vai comer agora ?”
“Não temos que ficar pronto,” replied Marvin.
“Fuck off, you speak Portuguese?” said Jimmy frozen in disbelief.
“Yeah, I know, it’s easy.”
“Easy when you have a good teacher,” said Yvonne leaning in for a kiss. She looked at Jimmy. ”Does he know?”
“Know what?” asked Jimmy.
“There’s a tradition for Cachoeira,” explained Yvonne.
Marvin produced two Nun Habits, It was amiss of Pra not to mention the Sisterhood but he was soon captivated and in no time became a willing and most fetching participant. Moments later they were in costume shuffling to the cavalcade of drums. They shimmied and shuffled their way down from the hilltop over-looking the main drag. In the near distance custom made floats made ground, crawling, stopping for crowds to behold the spectacle. Magnificent artics bustling with bikini beaded samba troupes. Surdo Rockbands trailed choreographed burlesque feather showgirls, a truly vibrant display of music and dance.
A steel band played, Jimmy was desperate to zone in but was hindered. He dug out his panties “My stockings are chaffing bad.”
“Why are you wearing tights, your robe is ten feet long?” asked Pra.
“Marvin said…I had to,” the penny dropped. Pra screamed with laughter, Marvin ran and Jimmy gave chase “Marvin you bastard!”
They made their way down the hilltop to join the main parade. In the melee and several beers to the bad, heated passions burst. Nun set upon nun, with Police in hot pursuit, a surrealist haze Dali himself would struggle to conceive. As the expulsions swelled the Sisterhood dwindled but nothing could dampen their spirits, the hysteria only adding to the excitement. The law stepped it up, eager to quell the unrest, jaws cracked bloody and bruised. They ducked out before they too fell victim to the vagaries of the night. They decamped in a secluded, quiet café to unwind.
Marvin ordered “Três cafés pretos por favour.”
“Can you stop doing that, it’s freaking me out,” said Pra.
“How did you learn so fast anyway?” asked Jimmy.
Marvin held Jimmy’s hand and gazed into his eyes tenderly. “You can do anything if you really, truly believe…”
“Yeah right, then click your heels three times?”
“You sound bitter and twisted mate.”
Jimmy smiled “Can I have my hand back.”
Marvin leaned in “I was shit at school. Remember Frenchy, Miss Platt? Couldn’t remember a word, but if you need it, it makes it easy. You really can do anything. Look at that girl over there Jimmy?”
“What about her?”
“She been looking over since you sat down. Go over and talk to her?”
Jimmy enunciated hard “I am dressed as a Nun.”
“Excuses ay Pra?”
“Yeah he’s never going over.”
The gauntlet had been thrown Jimmy had no choice but to accept or never hear the last of it. He bought two vanilla cones, calmly walked over, she looked up coyly and giggled. A self-projection flashed his cerebrum, he removed the coif headdress. She scooched across and after a while were alive with laughter, nestled in close, kissing. Jimmy got up to save unwanted attention. “Don’t forget to click your heels,” yelled Marvin. He opened the door and left arm in arm.
They sat on the sea wall staring into the darkness, listening to the waves break on the shore. Little was said, she didn’t speak much English, she didn’t have to. He could see her story in her eyes. He could see himself looking back. A man with nothing who knew there was more, something better waiting to be found.
Morning broke, Jimmy reached across to find an empty space, still warm. There was a simple note scribbled on a napkin and left on the dresser, ’Obrigado Ana X’. The perfect relationship played out in one night. He smiled no longer a spectator, not bitter, not twisted but happy to have listened and taken a chance.
Marvin met Pra and Jimmy at a beach bar for a farewell lunch. After being comprehensively beaten by a gargantuan bowl of Vatapa, Marvin pulled out a holdall packed with herb, necked vials of O and stepped to, clambering to the beach before the H kicked in. Palm trees bordered the white sandy shore and beyond turquoise ocean teaming with bronzed gym fit bodies. Slumped in beach chairs, Pra rolled a long necked blunt.
“Class A man, Yvonne know you smoke?”
“Where do you think I got it?”
“Mother-dick, that’s one hell of a bubble.”
Heads pasty, they started to drift, munching Sequilhos and carrot sticks. A group of topless girls played volleyball in plain view, it fell quite, “I must be dreaming.” They were off sky-high, two hours passed in a blink. A cabana boy hauling cold cans emerged, the gentle clink aroused interest. Marvin beckoned; ice cold refreshments delivered comatose relief, scintillating breeze gently coaxed sensation back to paralysed limbs. They watched the sun set and reminisced, cracking up over misadventures and the folly of conquest. The trip had been all the more fulfilling for Marvin and Jimmy knew it. They hugged a heartfelt goodbye leaving an indelible image of the All Saints boy who walked magnificent into the setting sun; the bar had been set stupidly high.
Jimmy and Pra rounded off the evening at a Rodízio, a carnivore’s all-you-can-eat brasserie. Waiters served at beckoned call with endless barbequed meat skewers sliced straight onto their plates. The shear array of bowl licking desserts was mindboggling. Jimmy literally cried in pain as he was pig full and could only gaze longingly at the achingly delicious treats. Pra stayed on to chase a waitress he was sweet on.
“Meet you back at the hotel.”
“Yeah Pra. Remember, click your heels.”
Jimmy rushed into the midnight air combing the streets for a taxi, a cool zephyr refreshed his flushed face. Two boys selling cigarettes and sweets approached him. He felt one of them brush against his pocket. There was an almighty furore. Jimmy looked round to face a grim shadowy man pointing a double -barrelled shotgun straight at him. The two boys were spotters checking for his wallet. The noise was a crowd trying to dissuade him from pulling the trigger. It all happened so quickly he didn’t have time to react. He looked Jimmy in the eye. I don’t know if it was the locals screaming or Jimmy’s doe-eyed look of innocence that changed his mind but thankfully he lowered his weapon. Jimmy turned his back and calmly walked away. His mind flashed back to the pool baptism his head bobbing between shock and euphoria. He drifted to a diner and placed a trembled expresso to his lips. Brazil was a crazy place full of fun and excitement. That night Jimmy got more than he bargained for, he had fallen prey but was spared. Nothing could kill his spirit; his brave crowd of saviours knew it and now a desperate man from the favelas knew it too.
Jimmy met Pra where he left him, on the steps of the hotel still clutching a bottle of Asti Spumante. Pra was unmoved by Jimmy’s near miss; they were young and could dodge bullets so what. All that mattered was the future, what lie ahead.
They hailed a taxi and crashed at Galeão, International good-looking vagrants catching ZZZ’s on industrial bench seats. The trip was over and the mental torture to follow unbearable. Reality bit hard, reality was a bitch, colder than the steel that lay beneath their skin. They made small talk diverting attention from prevailing gloom.
“I heard Si’s dating Lucy,” said Pra.
“Na-h, he told me. He goes round there when he gets high and regrets it after ..but he keeps going back.”
“Did you hear why she transferred to our school?”
“Compromised by an Alsatian? All bollocks mate, urban myth, just like Peter Scott who fell off the Iron Bridge sniffing glue.”
“Actually, that’s true.”
“Well he must be the Second Coming, ’cause I saw him delivering fruit veg to the Grocers on his bike.”
“Really? I’m surprised.”
“What about, the bridge?”
“Nah, the job.”
Jimmy tittered shaking his head “There’s no hope. You’re a class A act you know that.”
As the grey London skyline ascended they realised the truth of it all, this was home, this was their lives. The ride back on the coach hammered it home, cold wet and uninviting. For respite, Jimmy thought of Marvin and his miracle escape.
“Has Yvonne got a sister?”
“Already thought of it, you’re slow. Anyway what about Kelly?”
“She’s not from Brazil.”
“Yeah I know mate, I fucking hate this country.”
It was the 80s, boom time. Punk heralded an explosive new wave; Virgin mde its’ inaugural flight and Band Aid raised money for famine relief. Pra left for University leaving Jimmy at a loss. He spent his days pretending to look for work and commiserating over Brazil. He sought diversion, bought an F-hole guitar, a battered valve amp and strenuously lugged it home on the 88 bus. An audacious brother boarded dressed in a ruffled shirt and leopard print spandex blasting Prince’s – ‘Darling Nikki’ from a boom box; the traffic blurred. He slid back, recounting his own flamboyant journey into music.
Jimmy had an epiphany, it grabbed him; a calling of faith consuming every inch. It all began in ’78. Jimmy bunked college round Kael’s. They cleared the pantry of Martini and entered a music room, Mum’s shrine to his Dad, a prolific jazz pianist in the 60s. Kael sat behind a Rhodes Keyboard.
“This was my Dad’s. He had a meltdown on tour, left without a trace.”
He swigged Martini straight from the bottle. “Mum had to bring us up alone, Anyway..”
He put on some Thelonious Monk. “I wore this track out, must have played it a thousand times.”
He cranked it up and then to Jimmy’s astonishment started to play along and play very well. Jimmy sat, jaw sagging, transfixed.
“Christ, are you serious?”
Kael pointed with his head, inviting him to grab an orange SG Guitar conveniently on display in the cupboard. “Are you in….?” Jimmy looked bemused. “ I said are you in?” He nodded along, his thoughts expanding his mind beyond the confines of his circumstance. He smiled as he reached out, seizing prospect.
A week later Pra got in on the act and Black & Fantasy Tan was born.
They had their first gig at the Bricklayers Arms opening with Stevie Wonder’s – Signed Sealed Delivered. Simon played roadie, Marvin offered support with Kelly in tow.
They walked on, Jimmy positioned the mic centre stage, Kael behind sporting fringed leathers and Pra on Bass to the side. Jimmy began supremely smooth and soulful. “Like a fool , I stayed too long…” The crowd erupted, girls went loco, clapping in time.
They came off to a volley of wolf whistles and cheers. Jimmy saw an opportunity to strike as Marvin wandered off to score weed, but he held back for morality’s sake. Bolstered by Kael he waited for his moment and shuffled across holding a pint pretending to walk-on by.
“Alight Jimmy,” said Kelly “Great set. You got a cracking voice.”
“Did you like it?”
“Yeah, I liked it a lot.”
“Can you sing?”
“Yeah, I can.”
“Maybe we should get together?” Kelly smiled receptive. Jimmy was cut short by Marvin’s return.
Raucous guitar and synth swells died as Darling Nikki’ faded, the Bus buzzer snapped Jimmy to his feet. He alighted and dragged the gear home, hooked up the Vox and got started. Band Aid was live on TV, he played along, improvising is if he were there; mimicking screwed face expressions, bowing for applause.
Jimmy had lofty dreams, rock star aspirations, to him this was work but his Mum saw it as an excuse. She nagged him to find a job but did nothing more than feed his discontent. Jimmy flicked through 45’s and put on James Brown –‘ Try Me.’ Mum had reached her limit, about to blow a fuse. As she looked at Jimmy picking through her collection she saw him in a new sympathetic light. She sighed, resigned to the love she felt for her son.
“You know that was his first hit, 1958, he was with the Famous Flames back then.”
“You know a lot?”
“I wasn’t always your Mum. Do you remember Harold?”
“Yeah, blond guy in the old black and whites.“
“He was our lodger too. He wrote for the NME, knew everything. ’James Brown was a shoe shiner, Elvis a truck driver, Mick Jagger a hospital porter, he was full of titbits. Point is Jimmy no one is born successful it’s something you got to work at.”
Spurred by Marvin, he had searched for a quick fix but knew deep down he’d have to slug it out. She struck a chord; he began to itch, the reverberation gnawing at his psyche. He had put it off for long enough, daylight peeped. Immediately a conversation with Simon Randall (aka TV) sprang to mind. Months ago he said he had a vacancy in the DP department at Shatkin, a firm of city stockbrokers he worked for. He rang him to see if there was an opening. Simon gave him an update.
“The position was taken but he was a proper loon. He lasted a few months ’cause he was good on the keyboard. They were about to re-advertise but I’ll see if I can get you in.”
Simon vouched for him and got him an interview, exaggerating his non-existent keyboard skills. Mum was over the moon and dragged out her old Corona Typewriter to get him up to speed. Laurie, his bird brain brother, chipped in and lent him his Commodore 64. In the end he landed the job without trial for the simple fact he was not a loon. In two weeks he was off probation and made a permanent employee working in back office, deciphering trading slips, entering chits from the exchange floor.
He worked at International House, a stylish rectangular office block on the approach to Tower Bridge. The main concourse oozed prestige; smartly dressed receptionists stood with contrived smiles greeting the elite mob on arrival. The clicking and clunking of stilettoes and leather heels reverberated off the cold marble floors and high ceiling like a cavalcade of hoofs at Queen’s Parade; a ritual prelude to a frenetic day. The rear floor-to-ceiling glass wall afforded a cinematic view of St Katherine’s Dock, a marina filled with playboy yachts and sailing boats.
Jimmy’s desk was literally facing the Tower of London. He’d gaze at the 13th Century walls, it’s medieval history and resplendent views induced vacant day dreaming. On his first day he was abruptly interrupted by a toff in a razor sharp pinstripe who, unbeknown to him, was the Managing Director.
“Hi you must be Jimmy, I’m Bob, How are you finding it so far?”
He had a suave laid back attitude and made a point of meeting all new starters. This boded well as the M.D. usually sets the tone for the company. Unfortunately he was an exception as Jimmy’s immediate boss, John Jones was an egregious bully. He caught him in the corridor, barking.
“What’s the answer?
“The fucking question, come on.”
That was John freakin’ Jones, so frantic he’d start a question at the end. There was a time when he would start in the middle, giving you half a chance to respond but now he skipped the chase expecting everyone to follow and if you didn’t you were out. Jimmy survived, on Simon’s say so, by playing the good boy. He dressed everyone down on a regular basis, moaned constantly, they were all afraid of him.
“Have you worked him out yet?” whispered Simon collecting a morning coffee for him.
“There is nothing to work out, he leads a miserable existence because he is a miserable fuck who likes to bring us all down, I know his type.”
Like it or not Jimmy was an unwilling inhabitant of the rat maze, collecting monthly deposit from the reward tray. He wore a suit, carried a briefcase and every morning stood squeezed next to faceless commuters on the sardine run. At Tower Hill, he would splinter from the tourists, skirt along a little known underpass and converge with his fellow city workers, all desperately rushing trying to avoid the walk of shame. Every day dragged, he became John’s new punching bag, made to feel small.
“Jimmy what’s this?”
“I thought I told you to dummy receipts for the reds.”
“I was told not to.”
“Just do what I tell you, ok stupid?”
He clipped him across the back of his head. Jimmy hated every minute but tolerated it because he liked having money and Shatkin was the only way he could earn it. He convened with Simon.
“I will kill that Gestapo git, I fucking swear.”
“No you won’t, you’re gonna lube up and take it, like we all do.”
“I’m serious, he needs a slap.”
“So what you gonna do?”
“I don’t know yet.”
Jimmy lived for the evenings shredding guitar and smoking weed in the garden shed, imagining every possible way of ending Jones. The one which afforded most satisfaction was a double tap to the head, just enough time for him to feel the terror before meeting a deserved end. Wood chipper, acid baths simply lacked punch. Every time he saw him he felt he was back at Primary School being bullied, only this time he could not fight back. He needed the job, the money, a future. Picturing the double tap bought temporary relief but he longed for a more permanent fix.
Simon was in the firing line next day. John tore up his report in front of the entire back office and threw it in his face. “You imbecile, can’t you get anything right.”
Simon vented in the Kitchen. “I take it back, you’re right. I can’t bear it.”
They were at their wits end desperate to put a stop to Jones. They chatted over a ploughman’s at the Coach House.
Simon shot straight off the bat. “Let’s cut the brakes on his motor.”
“Fuck, steady on.”
“It was your idea.”
“Yeah to fuck him up a bit, not throw him off a bridge. Believe you me if he slipped and broke his neck I’d be the first to throw a party.” said Jimmy alarmed at the extent of Simon’s rage.
“I need more than slashed tyres.”
“Well I ain’t greasing no floor. We want him shot from Shatkin, remember?”
Simon recoiled, still reeling from Jone’s sting, “It’s not enough.”
“Ok I get it.”
“I met a guy in The Punch & Judy, for £300 he’d do him over with a pipe.”
He nodded. “Ok let’s meet him, see what he can do.”
They swung by the chemist on the way back to slip Colon blow laxative into his coffee; just a little something to keep them going till the meet.
Before Simon set down the brew, John made an unexpected announcement. ”You’ll all be pleased to know I’m moving back to Middlesbrough. I was thinking about it for a while. The wife finally said yes, so I’m off.” The team quietly contained their excitement as Simon placed the steaming instant down, smug with a grin.
There was a send-off party that Friday. Jimmy was flanked by John and his new boss Alan, a friendly breath of fresh air. John chugged a few glasses of Chablis, drunk he slurred tipping over.
“You’re glad I’m leaving aren’t you? You hate me don’t you?”
Jimmy smirked. “No, not at all.” He turned to Simon “The lucky fuck, he has no idea.”
Jimmy kept his distance, he hung with Simon but shunned yuppie traders until he met Mark Stevens that is. Mark was your typical barrow boy made good, sharp and cocky. He was a floor runner on the Options market at the LSE. They collided at Bank Station jostling for door position on the platform during rush hour. Jimmy had seen Mark before but didn’t know who he was. As the train approached it blew a column of air into their faces. Mark joshed “Can you feel it Connor Macleod?” Re- enacting the shore scene from the movie Highlander. Jimmy screamed with laughter. His Connery was impeccable and got him in stitches. They had an instant connection and soon became inseparable. Mark was part of the Mod scene; a strict and fussy dresser. Trademark Sta-Prest trousers and Fred Perry shirts was the order of the day. Being a Mod was all about the hair and Mark had none, rather than retire gracefully he sported a badly maintained buffoon wig. He was of Jewish extraction; no oil painting, had a big hook nose and tiny stained teeth but his charisma more than compensated.
Mark introduced Jimmy to the boozy after works scene. From that day on he never bought a drink, there was always a tab running. Tankards of Wallop and bottles of Grolsch would magically appear at the Piano bar, a popular haunt in the bowels of the Trade Center. Post work tipples spilled over into parties held by leisure class traders.
Mark invited Jimmy back to Ewan’s pad, a Biffex dealer who netted £30k a week in intro-commission alone. His apartment was a penthouse in the Barbican overlooking the Thames. Jimmy walked through the door into a three story atrium. A 15ft high Jean Basquiat graffiti hung from cables against the rear wall. The interior was designed by his bikini model girlfriend, Guri who boasted connections with Warhol. It oozed neo-classical chic, an architect’s post-modern dream.
Mark called Jimmy into the bathroom and scooped blow from a glass bowl. He placed it on the granite top and began chopping, spreading it thin, working it fine with his Amex. He grabbed a razor from the cupboard and split the mass into four equal lines. “It’s all about surface area, the finer the dust the further it goes.” Jimmy rolled a fifty, pressed his nostril and snorted. Almost immediately the night sky began to glow, the room fell in slightly concave, duvet cosy. He felt a trickle of liquid down the back of his throat. The lights grew softer, his senses accentuated, heightened, he felt really, really good. The very ordinary girls who Jimmy paid no attention to before were suddenly amazingly beautiful with alluring smiles and pert breasts.
Everyone was high, trashed on coke and Krug. Jimmy strolled over to a couple of the ladies, Mary and Kath. He put one arm round each and kissed them in turn. They sat down one on either knee. Mary, a fiery redhead wore a short black chiffon dress. Kath, a short brunette, wore a leather skirt and red ruffle shirt unbuttoned down to her see through half cup. He turned Mary’s hands up and studied the lines in her palm.
“Can you read?” she asked.
He grabbed her left then right hand. “Passive, active. Mmm your dominant is different from the passive. You’ve changed your inherent traits seeking independence, you’re quiet rebellious.”
“Oh my god you can!”
“You see this long curvy heart line. Means you are picky in love. You’ve had many lovers, you’re not into serious relationships.”
“You little vixen,” ribbed Kath.
“It’s not a bad thing, just means you express your emotions freely,”
“Oh, do me,” pleaded Kath.
“Which hand do you write with?” She held out her right. “That’s your dominant” He followed the lines with a feather like touch “ - for years you wore skirts below the knee - -”
“That’ll be school, St Aquinas Catholic,” she interjected.
“- - and now,” She slipped his hands down her skirt. “Christ, are you wearing undies?” She smirked shaking her head.
Mark tapped him on the shoulder. Jimmy excused himself much to their disappointment. He beckoned him upstairs to the Jacuzzi for a private chat. They changed off and sunk into the hot bubbling water.
“Where did you learn that stuff?” asked Mark.
“Cosmo mag at the Dentist.”
They sipped Krug from stem flutes parked on the edge. “That blow is seriously good.”
“Finest Columbian, sounds corny but all the best shit’s from there.”
“You must be loaded, day job at the LSE, dealing coke?” asked Jimmy.
“It’s easy at the mo. You can sell 20, 40 wraps all day long but the real money’s in moving bulk, wholesale. I sold a kilo for £30k, a kilo is 2.2 pounds right?”
“Wrong it’s closer to 2.4, made me an extra £2G’s for nothing. Easy money, you sound interested?”
“Well, maybe a little interested.”
Jimmy looked at the surroundings. “Cool pad isn’t it? He’s got a flat in Manhattan too, I got the keys. I use it when he’s not in town.”
“Are you shitting me?”
“Totally not shitting you. It’s in Central Park, there’s a balcony, housekeeping.”
Jimmy polished his teeth with some blow and swilled Krug in his mouth before swallowing. “How did you meet?”
“We started on the floor same time but he was always gonna move on. His Dad’s a Lord. Literally three months after he started he set himself up and took off fast.”
“So what are you to him?”
“I fix things up for him, anything, you name it.” Mark emptied the Krug. “I’m telling ya it’s who you know.” He grabbed a towel and stepped out to relieve himself. “Well if you ever want to top up your pay, let me know. I could use a guy like you.” He stopped at the door. “Do you fancy a doob?”
Jimmy went down for the pouch. Kathy made a B-line for him.
“Hi Jimmy, where did you go?”
“You need to finish us off.”
“I’m just getting something.”
She brushed his leg. “Please?”
Mark’s errand suddenly slipped priority. They got comfortable on the sofa. He caressed Kathy’s palm then Mary’s. “That’s interesting, very rare and you both have it. It’s called the fate line.”
“That’s interesting,” said Kathy brushing the hair on his arm. “What does that mean?”
“Many changes will happen to you bought on by external forces.”
He cringed as the words fell out his mouth but it didn’t seem to matter. The signs were overwhelming. He led them to the bathroom to reload, they smiled in recognition. He grabbed the pouch, bypassed Mark and led them straight to the roof. The girls kicked off their shoes and joined him in the outdoor pool.
He puffed on a blunt as Mary submerged her hands between his legs joining Kathy who’d already been hard at work, she kissed him hard. He checked round for prying eyes and clasped their hands in a desperate attempt to slow things down, but they were keenly energetic. He closed his eyes and let go.
Mark released Jimmy from the mundane. He was leading a double life, one minute a working class lad down the local and the next rubbing shoulders with the stupidly rich at the Yacht Club. Everything was cranked to excess, designer suits, loaded expense accounts a veritable fat cat playground with no culpability. They’d rinse the Arbitrage by night, breakfast at the Waldorf then grab a shirt from Moss Bros and get a pat on the back for coming in early. He’d walk pass the trading desks every morning, park his briefcase and watch the frenetic activity unfold as millions of dollars’ worth of trades were bought and sold. They were making the rich, filthy rich and getting plump in the process. No matter if their client made or lost money they’d earn their commission. All they had to do is inspire volume, something the adept desk ops were extremely good at. It seemed all too easy and ever so slightly obscene but no one cared about ethics, profit was the only concern. It was an all-consuming time; they dived in and devoured the spoils till their bloated bellies popped.
Jimmy became addicted to the lifestyle. He received a 300% bonus and blew it on a TVR sports car, bespoke Zegna suits and renting a flat in affluent Notting Hill. Jimmy embraced his new material lifestyle. The old proletariat was buried and in its place a changing man with middle class values.
He moved in new circles but remained rooted; his friends were never far from mind. Prakesh came down from Manchester University for spring break and marvelled at his new found wealth, the flat, the amazing car in the underground car park.
“I thought you said it was all shallow and material?”
“That’s something you say when you got fuck all.”
“I am wasting my time at college.”
“I got lucky. Come to lunch tomorrow, my treat.”
They arranged to meet at The Yacht Club a bar in the Marina behind International House. Jimmy dashed to the dock. He spotted Prakesh soaking in the rays, knocking back a crisp lager and lime.
“Listen Jimmy before you order, I got a little surprise for you.”
“Oh yeah? You got me worried now, the last time you said that I wound up joining a freaking pyramid scheme selling Amway.”
“Oh yeah, how many of those did you sell anyway?”
“Put it this way you could count it on my—“ he stopped in his tracks “—Johnson.”
Kelly stepped out from the bar doors, god-like, holding a Mud Slide cocktail. Her hair was up in a scrunchy. She dressed in acid wash ripped CK’s, air brushed Stussy top and neon LA Gear sneakers.
“I said, I had a surprise,” voiced Pra. She looked achingly beautiful, a young lady all grown up holding an Esprit Tote bag. “Kelly is at the same Uni. I bumped into her on campus, huge coincidence.”
Kelly interjected. “Sorry Jimmy I asked to come. Look at you in your suit, very dapper.”
He lost his cool, fumbled around for words but had nothing.
”So how is it, college I mean. How’s college?”
“Well if you like brown rice and pinto beans it’s a blast.”
“What? With the Bank of Mum and Dad, you two are swimming in it?”
“Yeah, if you’re a Jesuit Priest.”
“So what you’re’ saying is you got no money for ciggies and booze.”
“No, we got no money for food, ’cause we spend it all on ciggies and booze.”
They laughed and joked, smoked cigarettes and racked up booze on a trader’s tab; Mai Tai, B52s, Fruit Daiquiris the mood ran hot.
Kelly popped a skewered cherry in her mouth. “There’s a girl I know ′Working her way through Uni.’ She started doing life poses for art classes then one thing led to another. Well now she’s into it proper.”
“What you mean porn?” asked Pra.
“Adult entertainment.” replied Kelly.
“Fuck, you do mean porn.”
“Once she learned how much she could earn she gave up Uni altogether.
Last I heard she was turning tricks for Crack,”
“A rocky road those life classes,” added Pra.
“I hope you are behaving yourself?” asked Jimmy.
“Of course. I’m on the acting tract.”
They chatted around the edges saying a lot without saying anything at all.
Jimmy returned back to work and left them to chat.
Later that night Prakesh called with an update.
“After you left she wouldn’t stop talking about you. Flash job in the city, your own flat, Sorry, I told her about your flat.”
“So what? Women like that it.”
“Marvin had nothing.”
“What do you care. Man wantie, wantie,”
“Can’t gettie, I know.”
“This ain’t a fairy-tale, Princess Di, life ain’t like that. My brother’s dating a Littlewoods model, looks like Goldie Hawn, All she sees is keys to the penthouse. You take what you can get. Does it matter why she’s into you?”
“Yes it does, all those things she likes, is not me. I can lose it all then what? Anyway you said she had a bloke,”
“He’s nothing trust me. Look, it’s obvious she likes you, your job got you in that’s all. She’s going back to Uni tomorrow and to be honest I am surprised she came down. Why don’t you give her a bell?”
This was big. He only had one shot to blast the opposition so hatched a plan. He made some calls, pulled some favours and reached for the phone. He decided to play it safe and make out he was a friend. He made small talk, building slow and deliberate to the punch.
“Let’s go see Bowie.”
“You wish, tickets sold out first day.”
He knocked back a large measure of Bushmills. “I got front row seats.”
“Not if you know the right people.”
“Oh my god you have got them.” She grew suspicious then pulled back. “Are you even into him?”
“He’s ok.” As he uttered the words he grimaced realising he had broken cover. It began to unravel.
“I don’t know Jimmy. You know I’m seeing someone?”
It was all going wrong, he panicked. “Pra told me he’s a bit of a knob.”
“Well Pra should keep his nose out. If you really want to know he proposed.”
“Are you serious?”
“I’m not discussing it with you, we’re just Friends.”
Jimmy slammed the phone down. It was a horrible mistake. He was over confident and she was unexpectedly defensive. He felt mortally wounded, his pride in tatters. Years of point building destroyed in a car crash instant. She had let him know in her own inimitable way not to bother.
He lost himself, destroyed fed up of being bested. He drowned his sorrows over lunch with Mark and Pra the next day in the Jamaica Tavern, determined to erase her from memory.
“She used the F-word?” said Mark.
“Yeah, can you believe it?”
“That’s the ultimate smack down. Sounds to me, you touched a raw nerve with the boyfriend thing. Do you know him Pra?”
“Not really,” Pra hurriedly diverted the subject. “Kelly is a hot head, unpredictable. Remember Keith White Jimmy?”
“Keith..oh you mean Otter face?"
Pra choked on his beer. “Man that’s dry.”
“Otter face?” asked Mark.
“White dude; fuck he was ugly. He was dating Kelly at school. Tell him what happened Jimmy?”
Jimmy sniffed the length of a freshly peeled Panatela. “Keith White and his girlfriend Kelly were blocking the inside of the staircase. I tried to squeeze pass but Keith pushed back told me to ’walk round . I told him it was down on the left. Then he started giving it some, ’Oi , can you smell curry? Fucking wog, coon that sort of thing.”
“So you spanked him?” said Mark.
“Nah, there was a crowd building so I put on a show. ‘Do us a favour,’ I said, ’Next time, you speak pop a breath mint, your breath stinks.’
“The truth hurts. He lunged at me so I tripped him down the stairs.”
“Tell him the rest,” said Pra.
“Nah that’s enough.”
“He’s too much of a gent Mark. Afterwards Kelly was so humiliated she walked off and Marvin swooped in for the kill.”
“Who’s Marvin?” asked Mark.
“Jimmy’s best mate.”
“So you did the spade work and your mate cashed in. No wonder you’re pissed.”
“I told you he’s a Saint, never said a word.”
Whiskey and sympathy bought temporary relief but soon wore off. Pra left to catch the train back to Manchester and Mark returned to the LSE. “You better get back too.” advised Mark.
Jimmy ignored him, had a procession of shots and tried to catch the snooker on the overhead TV. He glazed over, passed out slumped over the bar and failed to return to work.
The next morning he knew he was in trouble. Simon left a massage to warn him.
“Man you are for the high jump. You better think of something they are waiting for you.”
He was summoned to see his boss, facing certain dismissal. Vanessa, an uppity bitch from HR sat their smug, raising the guillotine. If he apologised at the time he might have stood a chance but he had left it too late, it was curtains, a mere formality. He entered the office, a lamb to the slaughter, head bowed shoulders slouched. Ten minutes later he emerged cheerful, smiling. His boss, Alan shook his hand and apologised for the mistake adding ’if he needed any help to let him know.’
Simon was in deep shock. ”What did you say?”
“Take a look.” He handed him a white slip of paper.
“A prescription for a heart condition.”
“You ain’t got no condition.”
“It’s my Mum’s.”
He chuckled “I don’t believe it. You are fucking Houdini I swear.”
“I need my job.”
Jimmy said he did not want to make a fuss, felt poorly so went home. Not only did he keep his job they felt sympathy and told him to use the company cab account ’whenever he felt the need’ They felt the need that evening and used it to take them back to the ale house later.