We are in a prayer circle on Bridgeport High Street. Praying for the lost. It rains. Pastor Simon, in his shit brown suit, leads the long prayer. The rain comes in at a slant. He holds a bible to his chin. He takes forever with a prayer, does Pastor Simon. We are wet below the knee. We are saved. We have our eyes closed, except me & Tammy. Tammy rubs her arm. She mouths the words to the long prayer. I brush the slant rain from my corduroys. We haven’t slept since Wednesday. Or Tuesday. We’re speeding for Jesus, me & Tammy.
She looks around the circle to make sure no one sees her. No one sees her. I see her. The crowds flow around us. Heathen hoards. We offer up a communal mumble, Amen! Pastor Simon and the other Christians begin to open their eyes, Tammy tries to close hers. Her eyelids twitching. We ain’t ever coming down for Jesus.
“Let’s go to work,” says Pastor Simon.
Our circle dissolves into the crowd. Tammy says, “Oh, look! The sun is coming out!” It is, too. “Thank you, Jesus.”
This sun is silver.
Me and Tammy slip down Derby Road. My feet are wet. Cheap shoes are a false economy. Suddenly, a voice, and then a laugh rises up out of the noise from somewhere across the road. A group of four – three men and a woman, are staggering up Derby Road with cans of cider. It’s Jack Slaughter. He’s styling a battered straw hat. He keeps it tight over his brow so Jesus can’t see his eyeballs But, Jesus sees you, fucker. It’s not how Jesus would wear a battered straw hat, but this loser wouldn’t know Jesus if he came knocking. He carries a blue plastic bag, filled with more cans.
They have the confident, cocky in the a.m. gait of all-night drinkers. But now it is morning. Piss vampires. No good can come of drinking after 3 a.m.
“Be in bed by sundown and rise at dawn. keep the windows shut and the curtains drawn. And keep the fridge well stocked.” This is what I tell the piss vampires. Amen, says Tammy. They won’t be saved though. Poor lambs. Jesus would wear a better battered hat than that, Jack, I think.
Kenny B tosses the keys down from the upstairs window. You okay Kenny B? Kenny B pulls a couple of wraps from the side of his shitty sofa. He’s buying a boat, he says. Practically bombproof, he says.
A boat? Tammy says.
“Practically armageddon proof,” says Kenny B.
But that’s bullshit.
He’s just yesterday come from the auction on Middleton Street. Always fancied a boat, he says. And he begins to tell us all about this boat.
It was listed on page number 23 of the brochure, he says. This holds some heavy significance for Kenny B. He’s a fucking pagan or something. He sports a tattoo on his face of that very number. And a swastika on his arm. He takes impressionable hippy girls to a sweat lodge that he built in the woods. He, and he told me this sometime ago, also swears by an egg cup of his own urine every morning. He only swills, doesn’t swallow. Why only an egg cup? It’s all you need, Nick.
It ain’t no sweat lodge to my understanding. It’s a bivouac at best. A collection of branches covered in ferns and furnished with a couple of spunky duvets. Jesus wouldn’t swill with an egg cup of his own piss. Not for you, not for me, not for anyone. Piss swiller.
It’s a thirty footer and it’s waiting for me (and the balance of payment) in a marina on the east coast of Ireland. The plan is to sail it back over to Whitehaven.
“That’s a notorious stretch of water,” I say.
But this is where Matt David’s name, with some inevitability, crops up. It turns out that Matt David’s parents run a pub in Whitehaven. So, a little sojourn in Whitehaven after the voyage, he says. Some west country girl action. Then sail it back down the coast to Weston.
“Didn’t realise you were such a salty sea dog,” says Tammy. He just looks at the fat lines she’s chopping out on the table top and says he believes Matt David has some knowledge of sailing.
“Whitehaven. What a dump. Went there once. Just turned around and drove out of that town. Jesus never made it that far north either.”
But, Kenny B doesn’t reckon it’s so bad. Just don’t go there on Black Eye Night.
“Black Eye Night?”
“Easter Sunday. The locals roam the streets beating each other up. The black eyes are prized.
“Some fuckers don’t deserve Jesus,” says Tammy.