Excerpt from Chapter Four
Archie sat at the table waiting for me. He looked up and grinned, then said.
“I thought you’d flushed yourself down the bog!”
I smiled and thought, you have no idea how near I came.
“This is Tommy,” he said, indicating a man sitting at our table.
“Oh, hello,” I said.
Tommy was a stick-insect of a man. He wore a black, leather waistcoat over a forlorn collarless shirt that had, probably, once been white. He sported faded tattoos of dragon-like creatures on both of his sunken cheeks, and looked like he would benefit more from a good meal than the pint of lager he had in front of him.
“All right,” Tommy said with a cockney accent, giving me the thumbs-up sign, “Fought you ‘ad moved in there?”
“I’m sorry?” I said.
“Fought you ‘ad moved into the shitter,” he explained.
“No, the boarding-house is about as low as I go,” I joked, trying to seem composed.
“Archie’s an old friend of mine, ain’t seen ‘im in ages. Then ‘ere ‘e is. Funny in’ it?”
“Small world, eh,” I said, and then continued with the first thing that came into my mind.
“Has Archie told you about his island?”
Archie coughed uncomfortably, and started to speak, but Tommy spoke over him.
“Island? Wot bloody island? Wot, like Paddy’s Ireland? You going to Ireland? I fought you was a Scot?”
“No, Simon’s got confused. I’m not going to Ireland,” Archie said definitively, and with a little menace.
He then gave me a hard look. It was the look I realised I had been expecting from him. In the short time I had known Archie, his warm bonhomie had always seemed suspicious. I realised that, subconsciously, I had been waiting for the real Archie to emerge; a malevolent, frightening Archie. And here he was, in a simple stare. Now, I not only felt uncomfortable, but scared. I thought I had experienced the lowest I could go in the toilet, but somehow this was worse.
“Actually, I’m not feeling very well,” I said, trying to engineer a fast exit.
“Ah, that’s why you was in the shitter for so long,” said Tommy.
Archie’s stare seemed to increase in intensity. My darkening feelings deepened.
“I think I should go back home,” I said shakily, desperate to make this my last sentence.
“All right, mate,” said Tommy, cheerfully, “Night on the bog, eh?” he added.
“Bye then,” I said as I walked towards the exit as fast as I could without running.