Monday, 1 September 2014

Meeting Herr Mann

New Short Fiction by Philip Lee
Without Apologies

Diane, the very image of Punk Diva, stares into the eyes of Fanny Geezer,
Got no probs with kinky for inst. Hands on hips, white fingers bursting from black lace mitts, she pouts, You tie, I tie, all the same to me. A girl gone mental to be pierced in unusual ways, she wears a jewelled padlock on platinum necklace. Though the accent is half-borrowed, you can tell she half-believes all that way-out crap, You should see my regulars having their 'Specials'. She winks, Whereas you, my darling, will be on the house.
Manfred smiles, as the joke is pretty telling of her: staking a claim on his rent-boy arse, then fishing for a spot of the old barter. Very witty. Cast your eyes on her sluttish poise: Carnaby Street written all over it. Clearly this young femme means to GET THE LOT DONE before her last stab at fatale is carted from the building.
Picture me in a boy scout's outfit?
Manfred takes a sidelong glance. Her eyes, like a puppet's, slot away. She giggles,
He mirrors her far-gone look before answering. The long lip which follows really shows how much his feelings are meshed. Truth is, he's thinking, no pull should be this easy,
Aw, love-a-duck, not another bloody 'virgin'. How many ways there are to lose it these days? Still, I adore your taste in clothes, Sweetness. Certainly, you may come to the ball! Let me welcome you with this little peck. He kisses her primly on the cheek, But I'm afraid there is one itsy-bitsy issue. He takes two Gaulois from the crush pack, lights both and hands her the snout, I can't offer you the complete pleasure dome chez-moi.
Diane gulps down the smoke, bringing a dilation to her pupils. She almost twigs,
Oh my gosh, is someone waiting up for you?
And Manfred all but misses the beat, only to recover by tossing his quiff and speaking in rapid fire,
Er... No impediment on that socre, ducky. Even if I had some great hunk of a fella waiting on me - which I'm not saying I hain't - it would be no business of his anyroad, would it? So what about yours?
The answer catches in her throat,
My... what?
Manfred peers into her false-coloured eyes. She tries again,
My boyfriend? I ain't got one.
He tuts,
Silly darling. Couldn't face another threesome tonight, not with these nerves. What I meant to say was, can we stage this little tryst in your place rather than mine?


Di pretends to mull over the scenario, before committing to the inevitable. Which once settled, an empty bench-seat presents itself. They sit down like awkward sisters, sucking on their ciggies in silence.
To pull someone at a gig is great fun. Going round to theirs – especially a stranger's – even more so. Lately, she's seen enough of her own gaff in Victoria. To dive into any old hole would be preferable to kicking the stray unmentionables under her bed. But the last tube won't wait for a better catch. At least, now the deal has been brokered, she can relax and slip exploring fingers under that to-kill-for blue velvet jacket.
Brut mingles with patchouli, cool lips brush ticklish throat. The fine stubble of his cheek sends little shudders up and down her Lumbar vertebrae. Not that different really.


I told you it would work, Manfred. A dead cert every time. Des the Elder, provider of wisdom & snouts, proffers a No. 6 from his pack of ten, They're so curious they can't resist. You get loads of that sort down the old Drag Night. Didn't I tell the absolute?
It's only lunch-hour so our man, despite the fact he's having a drink, declines the cancer,
I feel a bloody fraud, and that's not the worst of it. This girl I got off with the week before last... She's called Diane... Well, we've taken to each other. I mean, she SAYS she's really into me. Meanwhile she happens to be the exact clever little sexpot I've been on the lookout for... forever...
So what's your problem?
Come on, Desmond. I'm serious and she thinks I'm a shirt-lifter. She hasn't even guessed I might be just another rag-and-bone merchant. So what if there's more to me than a quick mash-up of eel & pie? I am licked, mate. And it's all your fault.
For a few moments, Des seems to remain deep in thought, stroking his chin between deep puffs on the short cigarette. Actually, it's his round and probably the kitty is bare. He's spent the last ten minutes toying with an empty beer glass in hints that young Manfred – who's training to be something in the City - can finish the job. Surely, having scored on Des's sound advice, the winner should do the honours at least one more time? But this complication over the girl's assumption has queried the pitch. His frown seems to ask, what's her game, anyhow? Wait on, though, perhaps something is smouldering in there? Desmond smiles,
Easy-peasy! You GO STRAIGHT on her, my man. TURN HETERO. You say she's been a revelation. Tell her you're in love with a woman for the second time in your life. He drops his voice to a stage whisper, I take it she's worth the countdown?
Manfred's eyes go 5-4-3-2-1. Des winks,
That's sorted, then. Tell her you never thought tart could taste so sweet. Say she's cured you of the bug.
Manfred leans across the table and draws a cigarette out anyway,
Steady on, there, old fruit. Being gay is not an illness in the modern world. Besides... blimey, how shall I put this? I adapted certain mannerisms on that cabaret night which I just can't shake off without giving the game away.
Des shakes his head in disgust,
What d'you mean? Looking at men's bums and whistling? Sitting with your pins crossed?
Manfred stares down at his legs, which are thrust out in front of him. He draws up his knees,
I do that anyway. It's these little flicks of the head I've picked up, and the way I hold my torso... He sticks his chest out and rocks from side-to-side on the bones of his arse. Also I've been using camp phrases like, “Spectacular, Mrs Coward!” or “I'd give my left testicle for a pair like those!” I think she's even turned on by my Cliff Richard impression.
Stone the crows, sunshine, you are in a jar.

Manfred already knows Diane's hair is naturally light brown and red-wedged. In case the reader hasn't already sussed, we're in the late 1970s here, the very Zenit of original punk. Not that this archetypal dilemma isn't somehow outside of all time warps. But in those glorious days, the tyrannous era of women uprooting their privets is still some ways off. Diane's secret garden has been well explored: by touch in the dark recesses of The Lyceum and Camden Town's Electric Ballroom; and by sight, at her place in Victoria under the glare of lights on. So when he finally clocks her stepping off the District Line at Wimbledon tube, he is trebly gobbed. Firstly because she has dyed her top knots anything other than jet black. Secondish because she has somehow chosen that natural reddy brown of her own. Furthermore, the plank-in-the-eye truth is, she's wearing a green blazer, white skirt and tennis shoes without - and here's the clencher - socks. The pleated skirt is short and her long curvaceous pins are utterly bare. The whole effect is simply spectacular, Mrs Coward,
So you've changed, Diane, my pet.
I know. I look and feel completely ridiculous.
She doesn't look as if she feels ridiculous. Manfred puts a hand over his heart,
You could be the young Virginia Wade. So where's your tennis racquet?
Incredibly, and in spite of her complete switch of image, the green blazer carries something over from the military fetishes of yesterday's punk outfits. The girl is a true artist. He takes her arm, as chivalry seems to be the state of play,
You have done it again, haven't you?
Diane smiles innocently,
Have I? What have I done?
Never mind. I've forgotten what I was going to say in the first place.
As they turn out of the station and head towards the High Street, the object of beauty looks about her with relish. Despite living in London all her life, she claims she's never been to Wimbledon before,
So, Manfred, you're finally taking me back to your place?
He nods, having stuck his neck out on the phone to say that yes - purely on spec - a quick pop in and out was called for.
Can't wait for it! Quite posh round here, innit? Got any room-mates? 
She'll have to take him as found. Gives his hand a little squeeze in store. Her palm is already sopping. As soon as they're indoors, she'll expect to leap onto leather sofa, strip off and bonk each other's brains out. That sofa, what a dirty lie! And what will become of him, strutting indoors, arm-in-arm with this bare-legged smasher? For Pete's sake, she's dimpled behind the knees! What will she say when he leads her into the old family living room, sits her down on the settee and does the introductions,
Diane, my precious, this is the jolly old Mater and this smarmy-faced schoolboy is my brother Herman?
A suitable pause, then?
Herr Mann? Such a brilliant name? Charming place to be brought up? And jolly pleased to meet you, too, Mrs Noone? I'm afraid I've been dragged here under false pretences? The victim of a heartless conman? But enough of that, already? Herr Mann, don't squint at my legs, dear, you'll go blind. Tell me straight, how are your grades?

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