This is a preview to the chapter Indian Summer from the book Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott.
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We lay awake for hours, trying to take in the magnitude of our decision and supplying mutual assurance that we had done the right thing. Liam tittered when the sound of raucous roosters filtered into the room just after midnight. He searched in vain for something funny to say about faulty alarm cocks and then fell silent, mesmerized by the strains of the nearby Arabesque disco-beat.
We awoke early to dazzling sunshine streaming through the cotton clad windows. We were renting an apartment from one of Lorraine’s contacts before filling our new home on the hill. The Cheshire cats had got all the cream and couldn’t stop grinning. We spent a leisurely November morning unpacking and surveying our temporary home like excited vacationers, fiddling with various knobs, testing drawers and scrutinising cupboards. Our fun was rudely interrupted by intolerant rapping at the door. Liam fumbled with the unfamiliar lock like a post- club junkie, rehearsing Turklish under his breath.
“Almost. Liam. And you are?”
“Chrissy, my love. Your landlady.”
Chrissy bounced into the apartment with her obedient husband bringing up the rear. Our pushy proprietress was a large rugby ball kind of gal, fat thighs and thick-set ankles poking out from a glut of gut. A low-cut orange lycra top did its best to contain the excess and stretch jeans struggled valiantly with the lower half. Her podgy spray-tanned face was slapped up like a second-hand drag queen and crowned by a blond frizzy perm. For a plain woman in her mid-twenties, Chrissy had remarkable confidence.
“Sleep alright? Bloody mozzies. Can’t stand ‘em. I’m allergic. So’s Bernard. Get this heat, I’m melting. Well, say ‘hello’ Bernard!”
For some reason known only to herself, Chrissy was shouting like a coked up coxswain. I scanned her husband for a hearing-aid. Bernard greeted us with a sexuality-affirming handshake, masking his nervousness with the kind of bravado only straight men can muster. Why so many hettie boys think they’re irresistible to the friends of Dorothy has always been a complete mystery to me, particularly when they’ve got the sexual magnetism of a discarded house brick. The old brick spoke.
“I was born in Indiyar,” he said with a hard South African twang.
“Oh,” said Liam. “Fancy that.”
“I’ve never met an old colonial before,” I said. ”How very Jewel in the Crown.”
“After independence we settled in South Africa. Grew up in Cape Town. Moved to England after they let that Mandela fella out.”
I searched for common ground.
“I spent my childhood in Malaysiyar.” He looked at me vacantly. I tried again. “My father was in the Army.” Nothing.
Chrissy glared at her husband, willing him to say something, anything. Bernard remained frozen and I concluded that the colonial connection was the only interesting thing about him. Liam beckoned our unexpected guests out to the balcony and went to make tea while I attempted to entertain them. Bernard was a tall, painfully thin man, much older than Chrissy, perhaps in his mid-sixties. The passage of time had been cruel. The old boy was a lanky stick insect with a small-bowled belly like a large pea wedged halfway down a straw. What was left of his thinning hair had been dyed jet black and swept back to compensate for the lack of it. He wore a navy-blue synthetic track suit fetchingly set off by a pair of immaculate white training shoes. A tangerine tan outshone Chrissy’s vibrant complexion. Its unusual hue and intensity rounded off the dashing Berlusconi-in-a-shell-suit look. Bernard was the kind of man who would always stand out in the crowd, for all the wrong reasons. Chrissy got our number straight away and this appeared to thrill her no end. While the tea brewed and with very little prompting, she and Bernard became the first of many to tell us their sorry tale. Before they migrated to Turkey, Chrissy had worked as a Lancôme beauty-care manager, overseeing the important goings on at a make-up counter in Cardiff. Apparently, she broke the House of Fraser record for her sales of Juicy-Tube Lip Gloss, an achievement she was immensely proud of. Quite rightly, I presumed.
“I got a certificate signed by the area manager and an all-
expenses paid weekend to Paris,” she said.
It was in a Parisian hotel that she’d met Bernard. He was relaxing after a hard day at a conference jolly and spotted her at the bar tonguing the maraschino cherry she’d plucked from her Daiquiri. Bernard had been a fat cat for some awfully important French investment firm. He was a hire-and-fire man and specialised in the latter. Bernard was instantly captivated by the nineteen-year-old vision, wasted no time slipping his ring on her finger, retired from work and snapped up a new- build mock-Tudor love nest in South Wales.
“They begged me to stay and offered to double my salary,” Bernard explained, relieved to be back in his comfort zone. “I told them where to stick it. Naturally, the company went tits up after I left.”
“They were lost without him,” said Chrissy. “Completely lost.”
“Lost?” said Bernard. “They had no fucking balls. Spineless
“Well, isn’t that nice?” Liam shouted from the kitchen.
As the tea was served, Chrissy continued the fascinating chronicle of their Tristan and Isolde love affair, pinching Bernard if he attempted to butt in and insisting that she’d been attracted to Bernard’s maturity, not his fat wallet or enormous investment portfolio. She and Bernard both hailed from failed marriages. Chrissy wed a hod carrier from Port Talbot. The marriage lasted a year. Bernard’s wife left him after forty years and moved in with Sandra, a prison guard from Holloway Nick. Bored with wet Wales, they sold up, dropped off their fractured pasts at left luggage and started life anew. They now lived in a large hill-top villa built for them by a “useless” Turkish builder. We were lucky, apparently, to get a few weeks in their marvellous nest-egg apartment. People were queuing up.
Liam floated in and out, feigning interest with the occasional “You don’t say?” before clearing the table and throwing me a determined get-rid-of-them look.
“Well, it’s been so nice getting to know you,” I said.
Chrissy took the hint and kicked Bernard in the shin.
“Oh, my loves, you have so much to do! We should go. Shift your arse, Bernard. Maybe we’ll come and see you in the new house?”
“That would be lovely,” I said. “Tamam,” said Liam. “Tamam.”
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