Well, what a joke that was. I don't know why I went. I didn't really know the, heh, Deathday Boy, as it were. I just went as Richard's plus one. He brought the missus with him officially, but I'm his number one and he knows it. Anyway she was off trying to look solemn on the other side of the pub, so there was no problem there. All the same Richard looked worried. Poor git.

So I'm stood there basically with a brandy and coke, which I've had to pay for, by the way. Before I went, I said to Richard, 'Now you're not going to tell me there's no open bar' but apparently the Dwights have other plans for their money. So yeah. I'm standing there, bored, and I start telling Richard a story. I'll tell you what I told him. It happened some time last week down Kelston Street, which has the off license. And I meet a woman on the way there, and she's saying things to me like, 'Oh hi, why don't you come round to mine for a drink, yeah, why not, or maybe I could pop round yours?' And I'm thinking, well, you're in your pyjamas, woman, but I decide to give it good neighbour basically, and we go round mine for some dirt-cheap vodka. I try to find out when she moved in, and she's only been in my house for three hours, talking, and I realise suddenly who she is. A friend of mine, Greg, he's just started working in the crisis team. According to him, this woman is a fucking legend in my field of work. She's had childhood abuse, bipolar, spells of anxiety, bloody insect phobias, the lot.

So she's been talking for hours, crying and drinking vodka and talking about what a lovely lad her little boy is, and I'm not even working with her. She's not a patient, ad I'm sure she's fucking radiant, and clever and funny, a real Oscar Wilde once you get to know her. But I couldn't get involved with this woman so I had to shove her out.

By this time Richard's coughing and offering me food, but I'm not having any. I mean about fifty percent of that lousy buffet was celery sticks, and warm and bendy ones at that. So I get on with the story. Barely two days after that, I'm back down Kelston Street to get fags and I see this son the woman was talking about so much. It's obvious to me the guy's door's locked because he's all but battering-rammed his way in. He's struggling, distressed, sweat pouring off him. So I walk up to him and say 'What's happened' and he says 'Well, she's locked the doors.' He asked me if I worked with her. I said 'Depends, what's your full name, if you please' and he tells me 'Andrew Frances'...

And then, and only then, Richard points out that the boy I'm talking about is sitting at the table behind me with the sister, whatever her name is. Andrew, bless him, poor bugger, he does his best to make it look like I haven't fucked up and that he isn't the Andrew in the story at all. But I never pretend I haven't made a mistake, so I steam on. I introduce myself as Kimbo, and then make a crack at the buffet to lighten the mood. Then the sister tells me she did the buffet - some grocer gave her the celery for free, apparently - and I said 'Ooh, well, aren't I the tactless bitch today?' Nobody thinks this is funny, so I decide to put an end to this. I say, 'Oh, you're very skinny, poppet. Was your brother skinny?' And she says 'A bit, yes?' And I say, 'Well, that's probably why he fell in, then,' all apologetic-sounding. And that's my cue to exit. I think sometimes being rude is all a woman has to get out of something. I'm not getting younger, I mean one day I'll be some old biddy and people will expect me to start shouting and swearing and shaking my zimmer frame at them. Why not start early? Anyway I'm not sorry for what I said. It was probably the truth, and I reckon the last thing that girl wants is more false sympathy. I mean you should have seen the way Andrew was simpering over her. It was pathetic.

The End

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