Gnashing medication teeth, orange vintage dungarees, hair adorned with plastic beads (and other Keith Richard bits and pieces), Tin Ribs removes herself from the bus and shows her greeting hand to me. The heel of her palm is pink, I don’t know what this means: but, surely, it don’t bode well. Her wrist, of course, is pale, and is ringed with cheap and cheerless silver bangles and hitches of string, just like Saturn. A star is inked there that I’ve never seen.
On the seafront everyone is in flip-flops and the air is vanilla and suncream. Their colours range from lard to lobster to teak. They shall inherit the earth. But, we, Tin Ribs and me, we are more akin to shadow or night time glass. We weave between the crowd and they can’t see in. Seagull apparitions circle, leering, and recede. We thread some sentences and promenade toward the Double Standard. The shingle whispers something, but beneath the beach-lovers’ din, I cannot say, for sure, what it means. It sounds like, wish you were here, wish you were here.
She’s promised Kenny the money her mum owes him for the coke and the Spanish whore she got Stephen for his birthday. Kenny’s boy, she tells me, was round again this morning, come for it, it’s late. But she told him, later. Tin Ribs has to cash the giro first. Mum thanked her for this. Won’t happen again. Won’t happen again.
How did that work out for Stephen and your mum? With the Spanish whore and everything.
Tin Ribs regales me.
They waited in the bare bulb kitchen for the birthday coke and the Spanish whore on tick. Stephen, on the worktop in his joggers, bade Tammy and her daughter wish him happy birthday for the umpteenth time. Once more, he decreed. And this time with passion. Do you want the bumps as well, says Tin Ribs. Thumps, says her mum. He says, bumps’ll do nicely, but he’d lost the knack of saying shit like that some birthdays before and it came out a little too creepy, or something. But the shit lager was good and so was the laughter and the rain was like poetry on the skylight in the toilet. And, for an hour or two, even taking a piss became music. Queen for a day, cunt for a month. When she says this I don’t know what to say. I’m only the barber and the closest I’ve got is, something for the weekend? I say it anyway, despite having never once said those words seriously. But Tin Ribs is quick and she says, weakened. But she’s right. Obviously.
After some time, Kenny’s boy, straddling a big black bike, appeared at the window with the coke on tick, but no Spanish whore riding backy. It’s my birthday, Stephen tells him, but Kenny’s boy, a sullen and sallow streak, manages only a pissy, Kenny says, Tuesday for the money. Where’s the Spanish whore, says Tammy. She’ll be on her way. And with that he was off, rainwater arcing his nylon back.
I say, I wouldn’t imagine there are so many Spanish whores in Penn Beacon? Tin Ribs says she was coming from Weymouth. I chew this over, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
Stephen, something of the surgeon possessing him, though he knew next to nothing about such things, opened the wrap, splayed it, licked and dabbed a dirty, yellowed finger. Mm, birthday coke! Mum laughed. And even I had to laugh, says Tin Ribs. He sliced three lines out onto the work top and they snuffled them up with some drama. Happy fucking birthday, they said. And, for that moment, we all believed it.
That’s nice, I say.
So they waited on the Spanish whore and duelled with the pink-white powder and they smoked off the pack and the ashtray became crowded and mum fingered its contents for suitable dog-ends and I bet she almost never once thought of those butts as bullets or masonry nails – even though, at times, she would happily drill either into him. I could see that, says Tin Ribs. But it was his birthday.
Stephen, Tin Ribs’ stepdad, had mentioned some time ago that he would like a prozzie for his birthday. This pissed Tammy off. She hadn’t even asked him what he wanted for his birthday. The notion of a threesome was repugnant to her; not that she’d fuck him anymore anyway; not that a threesome was even suggested. She’d seen a Brew Your Own Brew brew kit in B&M’s that she figured she could easily have away. She’d seen a Happy Birthday You Wanker card there, too. But, no. He wanted a prostitute.
Tammy opened the door and there, kitten-heeled, lolled a dumpy, dank and middle-aged woman with a gash of gloss and clumped mascara, where, inevitably (this being the kind of half-remembered, half-forgotten concrete block on the far side of the dead quarries, at the eastern end, the armpit, so to speak, of Penn Beacon, lived mostly, as Tammy told it, us disables, druggies, drunkards and fuck-ups), the fluorescents flickered on and off, illuminating the greasy walls and damp spots and this trollop’s belly, only sporadically, but constantly, as if life were nothing less than a hellish and headache-inducing horror film.
“You the prozzie?” She asked. The woman appeared not to understand and shrugged her shoulders. “You don’t look fucking Spanish.”
“I’m Portuguese,” says the woman.
“I don’t talk Spanish, love.”
Stephen and the woman sat on the sofa and in-between deep swallows of lager he prattled on and on and the prostitute sipped a beer, looking around the bare flat. Tammy stood by the television, smoking butts, wondering how much all this nothing was costing her. Perhaps the meter didn’t start ticking until the fucking began? But that didn’t make so much sense. She’d paid up front through an acquaintance of Kenny’s missus who had, she said, connections on the mainland with South Coast Taxis, whatever that meant.
They snorted up the last of the birthday coke and, with a deep throated grunt, he climbed out of the sofa, as if it were a leatherette grave, taking, almost, the coffee table with him, and felt his way along the thin wall.
The whore began to wiggle out of the sofa, saying, I go? I come?
“Nah, he’s just going for a piss. You’re just pissing, aren’t you, babe?”
Stephen said, yeah, just pissing.
“Your husband has fat prick?” said the whore.
“You fucking what!”
“He has big prick, yes?”
“He is a big prick if that’s what you’re after.”
The whore bit her lip and said nothing.
That’s when I left, says Tin Ribs.