…to be tearful or overly sentimental, especially when one is in the effusive stage of drunkenness     

“Yes. I remember,” Henry said for the fifth or sixth time, each time prompted by one of Oscar’s pathetic pleas – “Do you remember?” or “You remember don’t you?” 

Since returning from the pub Oscar had opened a bottle of mulled wine he had found in the back of a cupboard as well as a bottle of whisky which he had bought for his father’s birthday which he had forgotten to give to him. He had drunk all of the mulled wine straight from the bottle; Henry had refused Oscar’s offer of the bottle. The whisky Oscar poured into a dirty glass on the table and was slowly sipping through one glass after another, though when a particularly troublesome memory came to the fore and almost prompted a tear, he threw back whatever was in the glass. There was such a substantial amount of whisky in the glass when he recalled almost getting fired from Didsbury Girl’s Grammar that he coughed and spluttered and nearly choked in front of the too weary to be bemused Henry.

“I’ve got school tomorrow even if you don’t,” Henry pleaded.

But this simply prompted Oscar to set off on another tangent.

“… that time I was out in the bushes with you… it was rec, wasn’t it? And it was bloody freezing and you said come out for a fag and you know I don’t smoke and I said there’s nothing I’d love more than a good fag and we skulked out of the staffroom and into the bushes… into them bloody bushes around the back of the new building… and no matter what… no matter… the damned freezing dew would fall down the back of your collar… every bloody time… and you’d wake up then… by God – then you’d wake up. And who was there? D’you remember? Do you? That fifth form girl with the stupid hair and the attitude. What d’you call her?”

Henry got up to leave.

“My God Henry… sit down and I’ll get you a glass… you can call in sick tomorrow.”

“I can’t call in sick. Not after what you getting the heave-ho today. I’ll be up for interrogation. You know how it works. I should never have put you forward for that job. It was only a matter of time before you put your foot in it.”

“Bloody hell Henry!” Oscar grabbed another dirty glass from amongst the newspapers and other detritus on the coffee table and poured Henry a whiskey. “Just have a drink before you go. One drink, that’s all I ask. What harm can one drink do?”

Although Henry’s face seemed to show that he was very aware of what damage one drink could do, he sat down with the dirty glass and took a sip of whisky which slightly contorted his face, rendering his look of forbearance and running-quickly-out-of-patience momentarily ridiculous, but once his face uncontorted itself, it had the look of one who was resigned to his fate – that fate being to listen to Oscar drag out his monologue of tedious memories, self-pity and pathetic whining until the early hours of Friday morning.

“Her name was Muriel – the girl from the wrong side of the tracks.” Henry consented to be part of this staggering through pointless memories.

“Muriel. That’s right!” Oscar was back on track. “The wrong side of the tracks – that’s right! She had bleached blonde hair and a sour look on her face like she was ‘well hard’. And she was standing there as if to say what the hell do you want. And she was obviously holding a fag behind her back. And the two other girls had scampered off, but she just didn’t give a damn and it really wouldn’t have surprised me if she came over to us and blew smoke in our faces.”

“Brazen little hussy.”

“And then you start off on the whole what-the-hell-do-you-think-your-doing kind of thing. And I say never mind all that. And she comes over and has a fag and tells us all about how she hates the headmistress ‘cause she’s a snob and how she confiscated nearly every item of jewellery she ever owned and we’re all laughing like anything – even you’re laughing your ass off. And I get you to give her a fag and that’s why we’re late and that’s when the white head of that old bitch Lowry could be seen hovering towards us through the bushes. And of course the one thing you don’t want to do is run, but that’s what we do. As soon as Muriel’s sensed danger she’s off. And that set us off. And who bumps into Lowry and knocks her to the floor?” Oscar wheezed a laugh at this point, obviously struggling to keep all the mirth in. “…of course it’s me. She was out for the count. And I have to practically carry her to the staffroom… all the way telling her how I heard voices in the bushes and was intent on rooting out those girls who smoke in there… I tell her how I want to root them out… and she says how my jacket smells of smoke and I say how even the leaves in those bushes are reeking with the stuff. It’s like a tobacco plantation, I say.”

Henry can’t stop himself from smiling at this recalled story, and this makes drinking the whisky all the easier and soon Oscar is topping up his glass for the second time. And they’re both beaming. But of course it was always going to end in tears, at least on Oscar’s part.

“That poor little bitch Muriel…” Oscar shook his head. “…she doesn’t stand a chance.”

“She’s as hard as nails,” Henry was trying to steer this drunken conversation towards happier climbs but must have known that it was impossible.

“They’ll break her spirit!” Oscar raised his voice.

“Don’t get over dramatic about it all,” Henry cautioned.

“I’m telling you Henry…” and then Oscar proceeded to tell Henry, between sips of whisky and shaking his head and sniffing and once wiping away what must have been the beginnings of a tear: “There were three of us running for our lives in those tobacco bushes that day and we’ll all be caught… eventually. I got caught today. And that poor little bitch won’t last long. And how long will it be before they catch you?”

And the two of them sat there, Oscar looking up at the cracks in the ceiling, Henry looking at the crumbs floating in his whiskey, and the both of them coming to the conclusion that the world was far too cruel and petty a place for three such pure and honest souls as Oscar, Henry and that girl Muriel.



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