An uncle of mine would often reiterate an adage he recalled from his days in the British armed forces (circa WW2), "Never volunteer for anything!" Especially when you're drunk! But then again, just sometimes...
Clarification: Mufti = out of uniform or dressed in civilian clothes. Sort = a female of the species, usually (but not always) a rather good looking one.
There's an old adage in the British armed forces; "Never volunteer for anything!" Maybe it's a good rule to follow, maybe it isn't? You have to concede that the Para's, Commandos and SAS, have all found themselves where the shit was flying particularly thickly over the years. Oh yeah, there's some kudos to be gained by being able to wear a particular tie in later life, but that assumes that you're still going to be left with a life to lead.
No, I wasn't in the forces. Not that I'm adverse to the principle of fighting for my country. I just don't trust the buggers who run the bloody place. Honestly there's not a one of them I'd give the time of day to, once they get themselves elected to that private "you scratch my back" club, known to the world as The British Houses of Parliament. Honestly I don't trust a one of them, no mater what party they belong to, once they've joined that exclusive club.
Anyway I'm wondering off the subject, let's get back to the question; should one volunteer? Or maybe I should be asking, should one allow themselves to get roped in, so to speak?
That's a question I should of really have asked myself, when I heard the words
"Look fella's I need a volunteer to escort my cousin Jenny to the wedding?" Billie had announced as, as a collective group, we staggered from the last nightclub in town to the taxi rank.
It wasn't particularly late, but we'd done the rounds of -- and been ejected from -- every available drinking establishment in town. It was then time to get back to... Bugger I can't recall who's flat we stashed the reserves at that night. But I had known that a stripper had been booked for later.
"What about you Simon? Are you gonna do the honours for your ol' mate?" Billie Biddle my soon to be fettered and extremely intoxicated comrade asked. "She's one good looking bit of stuff mate, I promisssh ya!"
Now, had I been sober, I probably have used an iota of common sense and refused Bill's request, or at least, been able to come up with some unlikely excuse for turning him down.
You see, Billie had already spoken one untruth; I really wasn't his old mate. Actually we'd got to that stage in our lives hardly ever speaking to each other. And then only when we'd been forced too. Billie Biddle was one of the guys, the same as I was, but no one could mistake us for close friends. We were just two guys from opposite ends of the spectrum who happened to hang around with the same group of... All right, if you want the definitive description, Piss Artists!
Every Friday night we'd be found at one or other of the towns drinking holes, doing our best to empty the cellars. Actually at one time or another we'd visit them all, twice every weekend; but let's not make things complicated before I need to explain why. Often, when we'd worn-out our welcome in one, we'd -- be request to -- move on to a second, and so on. None of the pubs and clubs ever banned us because we never did any damage. We just... well we pissed a lot of people off! Anyway I'm kinda wandering off the subject here.
Now, if Bill lied about him and me being good buddies, then it stands to reason that he was also going to lie about this Jenny bird being a tasty piece of stuff. That is a logical conclusion, but logicality finds no place in an inebriated brains calculations. Therefore instead of asking Billie why this Jenny bird had not been able to find a date for herself, seven days before a wedding that had been planned for well over half a year. I found myself replying.
"Sure thing, Billie boy; you just tell me where an' when to pick the sort up!"
That's all I can recall really. Well, I was pretty-well stewed by then -- more than pretty-well stewed to be precise, Billie had been paying all night -- and anyway... other things kinda took precedence with the few brain cells I still had working after we got to that flat. Like, "Who the bleeding-'ell was that stripper?" But I'll get to her in a minute.
When we got back to whoever's abode it was that we spent at least some of the rest of the night in; I have no recollection of getting home at all. Not one, but two rather tasty looking strippers turned up, along with a Giant Haystacks look-alike type minder. Quite put a damper on some of the guys' nefarious plans for the rest of the evening, that did; or so I'm told!
I was way past though thoughts of that kind, figuring that I was only just going to manage to stay awake long enough for the main event.
Actually it turned out that one of the strippers not only made sure I was awake for the main event, she made damn sure I'd never forget it either. But I just said, "I'll get to her shortly."
After getting a quick glimpse of the two shapely young females as they entered the flat, I saw no more of them until they came out of the bedroom they'd used as a changing room to get ready do that thing they do.
In the meantime, I'd ensconced myself in a large armchair, handily positioned in the perfect location to get a good view of the main action, and complete with one tinny on the go, and a couple of others -- still sealed -- pushed down the side of the cushion as replenishments.
The first girl to come out was of mixed race. I figured three parts Anglo Saxon, to one (probably) Afro-Caribbean; but that's just an inebriated guess. And unusually, she fixed me, not Billie, with those hypnotic almost black eyes of hers as she and... well, danced I suppose. I also appeared to be the chosen target for all of her discarded garments. That -- for some inexplicable reason -- I found I'd absentmindedly folded on my lap, as I watched her gyrations around the room.
Much to everyone's dismay -- including Billie's -- she gave him -- but a cursory -- lap-dance at the end of her act.
There were a few vocal objections from the boys, but the arrival of the second stripper soon put an end to them.
There was no mistaking the fact that the second bird came from Eastern Europe and she was built like the proverbial brick... Yeah well, all the right bits stuck out in all the right places. Boy, the first girl had one killer of a figure on her, but that bloody Russian tart made Jordan look like a prepubescent schoolgirl.
We were all so engrossed in the Russian birds routine, that even I (for a long time) failed to realise that the first dancer -- still dressed in only her birthday suit -- had perched herself on the arm of the chair I was sitting in. As the Russian girl got near the end of her routine, she began to give Billie a lap dance he wouldn't be forgetting in a hurry. Well, I gathered she did from what I got to see, the last I saw she was sat astride Billie's legs grinding her breasts into his face.
I couldn't see anymore because, apparently the first dancer had slipped from the arm of my chair and was suddenly sitting on my lap. Not only that, but her arms were around my neck and her tongue was trying to locate my tonsils.
Alright yeah, I'm not backward in coming forward, so I'll admit I took the opportunity and enjoyed a quick gentle grope. Who can blame me, what man in his right sense wouldn't, and if you remember I wasn't in full control my faculties, anyway.
Hey, that's my story and I'm bloody-well sticking to it!
God alone knows how long the clinch lasted, until the music stopped at least, and probably a damned sight longer. Then, as suddenly as she had pounced upon me, the young lady in question disentangled herself from me and stood up.
"My my, Simon you're just as good as you ever were. What a shame we've got another booking for later. See ya!" she said, and then she was gone.
Now it ain't everyday of the week that an extraordinary good looking -- and naked -- female, with an unbelievable beautiful figure, snogs me like that girl did that night. And just to make life confusing, one whom I did not recognise. But, who not only appeared to know who I was, but led me to believe that I had the pleasure of at least snogging her, at sometime in the past.
The logical next step was to find out exactly whom she was and possibly take her home, then... yeah well, had she not hinted that a liaison was in the offing?
But there, I had big a problem; I was no longer capable of free movement. I was so pissed by that time that I was incapable of standing up, even though I wanted too. If I had managed to get to my feet, then I was well aware that there was little (if any) chance of me making it to that bedroom door, before I attained a permanent horizontal position on the floor somewhere; for rest of the night anyway.
Yes, my mind, did want to know who that stripper was. And in all honesty, I'd still like to know. But I'd moved on into the realms of alcoholic stupor very quickly after the second stripper left the room.
I have no recollection of getting home that Saturday morning, or maybe it was the afternoon. Although, I do recall being sober enough to make me way down the local for a spot of hair of the dog, sometime during the Saturday evening. Yeah well, I can't actually recall getting there or back home again, but I do remember the bar tab stuffed under my nose by the govner when I popped in there later in the week.
But all-that's really unimportant. What is, is the fact that I was roused from my bed at the unbelievable hour (for me) of eleven o'clock on the Sunday morning. Billie Biddle arrived at my flat with a couple of the gang and announced that his mother and sister wanted to meet the poor sob he'd roped in to escort his cousin Jennifer to his wedding the following weekend. Only he never put it in the same words I did, after I'd remembered that I'd broken the golden rule.
However, a man's word is his bond, as my old man used to say. Never could it be said that Simon Truman, went back on his word. You could say a lot of other things about me, and people often did; but that was one quality of mine that no one could ever challenge.
I have to admit that it took well over an hour to turn the dishevelled drunk into a presentable gentleman. Usually it takes all of Sunday afternoon and a good portion of the evening for me to revert from my weekend drunk mode, into my smart efficient office worker persona. But that morning I had no time to take a long hot snooze in the bath.
The dressed in my second best whistle. My best one I was reserving for the following weekend. Billie's people came from a more affluent area of the town and I wanted to make it clear that I owned more than one designer suit.
There was another reason I wanted to look good, -- and possibly a second reason for me keeping my drunkenly made promise anyway -- Billie's sister Marsha. Marsha was the MD's secretary at my place of employment. And yeah well, I had it figured that she was going to throw one hum-dinger of a wobbly, when she discovered just whom Billie had roped in to as an escort for this Jennifer bird.
Probably now's a good time to explain precisely why Billie and me had never really hit it off. The Biddle's came from an affluent background as I just said, and us Truman's... -- Okay there was only the one of us left, but I bore my proud father's name. -- Well, we were from good working class stock. There were no airs and graces about us Trumans'.
My late father had assured me, that I was as good as anyone, and if I worked hard at school to get the right qualifications, and then studied my job when I got one. Then the world was going to be my oyster!
Yeah, some bloody hopes. I did well at school, passed every exam I ever took; with distinction. I did the same at university and held down a part-time job to pay my own way at the same time. Then I entered the workforce full time.
What's more, I found a job I enjoyed and proved myself to be bloody good at it; too bloody good, as it turned out. It was much later that I discovered -- through office gossip -- that I'd become far too valuable an asset to the company where I was. For years I flogged my guts out and watched while complete idiots were promoted over me.
It took me a very long time to come to terms with the fact that I was so good at the job I was doing, I was going to be stuck with the bloody-thing for the rest of my working life; as far as the company management were concerned anyway.
The thought had crossed my mind, to tell the buggers exactly what they could do with their job. But it's a hard world out there, and there aren't many vacancies where my particular experience would prove an asset. I'd been with the company for some years and I was at the top of my salary grade. If I threw the job in, I'd have to take one hell of a cut in pay wherever I found work.
That might explain one chip on my shoulder. And possibly why I'd eventually thought, "fuck-it" and taken to over-consumption most every weekend.
My second hang-up, were people like Marsha Biddle. Billie weren't really like that, when he was with the boys, anyway. Shit, he wouldn't have lasted long if he was.
But his sister Marsha! God alone knows what she had jammed up her arse, but it kept her nose pointing to the sky I can assure you. I got on pretty-well with a lot of the girls around the office, but Marsha would never give the likes of me the time of day. In the seven years we'd worked for the same employer, not once had she even nodded in my direction, let alone said good morning.
Okay, I hope I've set the scene for what was to happen when I climbed out of Billie's car and followed him into the family mansion. Well not quite a mansion, but bloody not far off. Well-out of my price range, anyway!
Billie led the way into a lounge the size of the complete house my parents had spent their whole married life in and bad me to sit down. Actually he told me to take a seat and I was tempted to do just that; but it was only a thought. Anyway, then he went off to find his family.
Mr Graham Biddle came in first and introduced himself; I of course, stood to shake his proffered hand. We didn't have a lot when I was a kid, but my parents had good manners and they passed them on to me.
Billie's dad was still giving me some bullshit, along the lines off 'how kind I was being offering to escort Jennifer to the wedding' when Billie and his mother entered the room, followed by Marsha. Who took one look at me, then spun on her heel and dragged her mother out of the door again.
Billie and his father -- after giving each other a quick double take -- rapidly followed them. One assumed -- correctly -- to enquire about their sudden withdrawal.
I sort of wondered over to the -- by then closed -- door, to see if I could earwig.
"You have to be joking Billie! Have you any idea who you have in there?" I could just make out Marsha demanding.
"Yeah, Simon! He's a nice guy, and he didn't flinch when I asked him!" Billie replied.
"What about John or Philip, or anyone except the town drunk?"
"Simon is not a drunk Marsha, he holds down a bloody good job. And what's more, Steve reckons your company would grind to a halt if Simon took one day off sick. Damn, Steve told me there was hell to pay when Simon went off with us on that Amsterdam trip. Simon was away four days and it took them a mouth to clear the backlog. Someone who's that important to a company can't be drunk all the time."
By the way Steve is another of the guys who sometimes joined our drinking binges and happens to work for the same company Marsha and I do; but in a different department. Well, I naturally assumed that was to whom Billie was referring.
"But surely you could find somebody else, Billie?"
"I tried Marsha, I can assure you. I don't like doing this to Simon anyway. But Christ, most of the guys remember Jenny from when we were at school. Simon went to the comprehensive so he never got that honour."
Too say that I had suddenly got a little more apprehensive about what I'd let myself in for the following Saturday, would be putting it mildly!
To make things worse I heard Mr Biddle suggest that the three of them go into the library to talk, well out of my earshot.
I made my way over to the large window at the front of their lounge and stared out at the perfectly manicured cricket pitch, the Biddle's called a front lawn.
"Holy cow Simon, what have you done?" I asked myself. Billie appeared to have implied that just having met this Jennifer bird, would be enough to make any of the guys run a bloody mile if he'd asked them to be her escort. What possibly could be so wrong with her?
Oh yeah, she could well be a dog, I realised that. But hey, who hasn't been caught-out on that one at least once on a blind date; another reason never to volunteer to help-out a friend.
And besides there's always that old expression "You don't look at the mantelpiece when you're stocking the fire."
I'd been lumbered more than once in my life, but I'd never come across a female who by just the mention of her name, would have the power to send all of Billie and my randy friends, running for the hills. I was honestly beginning to wish I'd given Billie's stag-do a miss. Suddenly the three of them trooped back into the room again. Billie actually looked like he was surprised to find that I was still there.
Mrs Biddle did all the talking, Marsha' facial expression blatantly displaying the fact that she wasn't happy with the outcome of their discussion.
"We're sorry about that, Simon; a little family dispute."
"Do not concern yourself Mrs Biddle, I understand perfectly." I found myself replying and wondering as I said it, where the hell I'd dragged it up from? Some old film I surmised.
"Marsha run along and find out where Mary is with that tea. You will take tea won't you Simon?"
It wasn't so much a question, as an instruction; I knew that no other answer except "Thank you!" would be acceptable.
It did have a bonus to though. Marsha left the room!
"Simon, it's so kind of you to offer to be Jennifer's escort next weekend." Mrs Biddle went on to say.
But her statement unsettled me even more than I already was. I'm not sure why, but I immediately got the impression that I'd been written-in for a little more than this Jennifer bird's escort to the wedding itself, and the reception.
"Now, she's flying in on Thursday evening. Will you be available to collect her from the airport?"
Sod it! I thought, in for a penny in for a bloody pound. The Biddle's are pretty influential people in our town. Who says a Truman can't kiss-arse now and again? Old man Biddle's say-so might even get me into the town's one good golf club one day!
"Sure, why not? If you give me the flight details, I'll be only too happy to collect the young lady. Is she going to be staying here?"
I got a surprise; just for an instant an expression of horror came over Mrs Biddle's face. But the condescending smile very soon replaced it again.
"Oh dear, no. We have so many relatives coming this week, and there just aren't enough rooms here. Jennifer will be staying at The Moat House Hotel. Its more her style anyway."
Mr's Biddle had said the magic words. The Moat House Hotel is the most exclusive and prestigious hotel in the district. Invisible from the nearest road, I, and most people locally, had only ever seen pictures of the place, and the odd bit of film on the TV news programs when presidents and foreign royalty stayed there. Actually, I'd never met anyone who could afford to enter its hallowed gates, and I hazarded a guess that that included my then present company.