By: The Birch Twins
Aaron Michaels missed the goal again, and the shot rebounded harmlessly off the crossbar.
“Aw, you fucking ball sack,” my son shouted with his hands in the air, “he’s fucking blind, that mon.”
“Like I said, son, “I replied, “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys. And less of the ‘fucking’ this and ‘fucking that. You sound like your mam.”
“Mum don’t swear,” he said grinning, “unless she’s hammering you for doing something. I keep thinking I’m gonna come home from work and find she’s killed you, dad. ”
I put my hand on the young man’s shoulder.
“Don’t mistake her fury for hatred, son, “I said as the football kicked off again, “she’s all right, your mam is. You’ve got to unleash your inner lion tamer. It were a blazing row the night you were conceived.”
It was true. The night Sean was conceived had begun with a blazing row. And in those days, blazing rows usually ended up with us both shagging, or with me sleeping in the shed if I’d ballsed it up and pushed her too far. Other couples stop doing it after they get to middle age, but we never did. I just know where her buttons are, you know? It all stemmed from a moment when we were fourteen, and because I hadn’t known how to talk to girls, I’d called her a fat ugly slag to piss her off and get her to come and belt me, like you did when you were kids. And because we were horny teenagers, after she’d belted me with her schoolbag, we were shagging behind the old bank on Market street. Don’t look at me like that. We were horny kids. She didn’t want to be a princess any more, she wanted to see what lads were like down the council estate, and there I was, all mouth and second hand trousers. I made her laugh. We talked about stuff that you talk about when you’re not a kid anymore and you don’t know if you’re supposed to be grown up or not. And then I had to go meet her mum and dad in the posh houses, and have tea and wash my hands. We had to take our shoes off and everything. I think I was her first boyfriend. And, you know, we saw other people, and split up, you know, but I fucking loved her right then. We used to bunk off school and shag in her bedroom while her dad was at work and her mum was up the bookies.
Anyway, that’s our sordid little past. It’s easy to judge, and sit there fucking tut-tutting, but we’ve all done stuff. Walk in mile in my fucking shoes, that’s what they say. Up the hill to the off license in my case. If you’re coming back down again, bring me a case of lager and some rizlas. But don’t judge me until you know me. Anyway, me and Nicola split up after a bit, and as you do, you see other people. You learn the trade, you know? Learn how to handle women, or men, whatever floats your boat, you learn the trade. What to say, and what not to say. It’s easy to piss a woman off. Any prick can do that. It’s not hard, you know? And, with somebody like our Nicola, because she’s tall and mean looking, she’s probably just going to belt you. But, you know, you’ve got to just temper it, and know what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. You know? You’re not saying things to actually hurt her, just to kind of rile her a bit. Get the old fires burning. She likes a bit of fire, you know? A bit of conflict. A few cracks about her being barefoot in the kitchen and she’s all sparking and fucking fury. But you’ve got to say it right.
“Fucking ref’s blind,” said a voice next to me, “how come I was conceived after a row anyway, dad? I thought it was after that coach trip with the club to Skegness. Weren’t you and mum were late back for the coach because you were shagging her in the sand hills?”
“I did shag her in the sand hills,” I said, “if you’ve never shagged a pregnant woman in the sand hills in Skegness in February, then you’ve never lived. We’d had more than a few in the local, and of course Little Miss Awkward decided that she wanted to wee as soon as we were halfway back to the coach. All the public toilets were boarded up and we sneaked off to the sand hills so she could have a piss on the quiet. There she was, stood there, all pregnant with her dress up and her knickers down. And with the choice of Arnold Grove and his coach that smelled of dirty dogs, or your pregnant mum with her knickers off in the sand hills, then we were going to be late back, no matter what anybody said. But you came after a night out in the club on Bowness Grove. You were already well on the way by Skegness.”
“Great,” said Sean, “She was pregnant and pissed up? That’s nice. Fucking miracle I’m normal then.”
“Some of the times we had, It’s a fucking miracle you’re still alive, Sean. But we learned. Your grandma and granddad were great in the early days. We were still kids living in a council house. Shooting the fucking breeze, that’s what it’s all about in the early days. Find a soul mate, hold on to her and get her pissed on the coach on a day out. You’ve got to live the dream, son. Take her hand, jump off the cliff and float the fuck away. Try to avoid hitting the ground for as long as possible.”
“So was it a good night out?”
We’d all been drinking in the old working men’s club and after last orders, we’d gone back to see my old mate Paul. At one time, me and Paul had lived in the flats together, but when I met Nicola from the posh estate, I moved out. I was glad to move out. The flats were all local authority, and, you know, full of smackheads and dickheads. Lads who thought they were gangsters, you know? They were the ones that walked around trying to look hard. Fucking wankers. Me and Paul were just Maggie’s lads on the fucking dole, trying to get by, do a bit of work here and there, ducking and diving, sell a few cars, that sort of thing. And then I bumped into Nicola Barker, the posh bird that I’d deflowered behind the old bank on Market street when we’d been kids. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I ended up moving out of the flats, and getting a council house with her round the corner. Fell right in love with each other all over again. My fucking soulmate. There we were, living over the brush, as my Auntie Lily used to say. So anyway, this night, we’d been to see my old mate, Paul. He’d met this black girl, online, I think. She weren’t a stunner. I mean, Paul wasn’t exactly a catch, you know? But even so, fuck me. She were a big one, that’s for sure. Always had a smell of baby wet wipes. You know them things you can get from the fucking pound shop? Anyway, there we were, me and Paul, and our birds.
So we’re sitting there and, just casual like, he drops this into the conversation, looking at that big bird of his.
“Oh yeah,” he says looking at poor unsuspecting me, “Dave likes his women curvy, don’t you Dave?”
I saw Nicola’s face change. Like fucking thunder.
“What do you mean,” she said quietly.
And then, if he hasn’t done enough fucking damage, he turns to her and digs the hole a bit deeper.
“Nothing love,” he said, “it’s just…I’m not surprised him and you got together, he was always attracted to curvy women. It’s all right by me. I like girls with a bit of meat on them myself.”
I could see her face, you know? It was like…she went through all the emotions at once, from wondering if she really was fat to wanting to rip Paul’s arms off, and then my arms too. Plus, she was a bit pissed up. Then this black bird chimes in.
“We’re proud curvy women, aren’t we honey.”
Nicola did that smile, you know that smile that women do when they’re really fucking pissed off but have to be polite. Cheers, Paul. I’ll have to deal with this on the way home now.
A less experienced man would have believed her on the walk home, when she said,
“It was a fun night. I’m fine.”
It’s a good job I was pretty experienced. I wasn’t a fucking boy scout, and while most lads were busy poncing about with action men, I’d been busy fingering fannies.
So when she said:
“It was a fun night. I’m fine.”
“Mess with me at your peril. Tread carefully.”
So I did what all brave husbands everywhere do, and I kept quiet. I tried to make small talk, you know, as we do. Small talk such as how pretty the lampposts on the estate were making the puddles pretty, or how the buses were on time even this late at night. Bullshit like that. And, like any pissed off woman, she just murmured. It was like the main part of her brain was furiously churning through something important, and it was left to some little dickhead YTS lad to give out standard responses to everything else.
And then it came.
“So you think I’m fat?”
There it was. Tread carefully, sunshine. Tread very fucking carefully, because you’ve wandered into a fucking minefield. In fact, she wasn’t fat, or even curvy. But my Nicola was tall, and fit and took care of herself. She wasn’t one these stick insect things. I think it was the fact that the girls and teens on the estate and on the television were these tiny five foot one skeleton things and she felt like a fucking wrestler compared to them.
“I never said you were fat, my love.”
“But you prefer curvy girls.”
“You fucking heard.”
“I mean…yeah, I dunno. It’s not fat though is it, just…big, you know?”
“So you think I’m big? That’s what you’re fucking saying?”
“Just…just temper your language, will you. It’s me from the council estate, not you. What would Mrs. Pritchard from next door to your mum and dad think if she heard you effing and jeffing.”
“I don’t give a fuck. Answer the fucking question. Do you think I’m fat?”
“I don’t think you’re fat. You’re just big. You’re a big woman.”
Big. As in a normal size tall beautiful woman. That’s what I meant. Those scraps of flesh and bone that they call celebrities are just bloody horrible looking. All ribs and no potatoes, so my Auntie Lily used to say. Nicola went running, and to the gym and everything. Just ‘big.’ That’s what I meant.
“Thanks a fucking lot,” she said quickening her pace down the dark street, “You’re not exactly Brad Pitt, Dave.”
“I’ve never tried to be Brad fucking Pitt. And if I was you can’t be Angelina Jolie cos you’ve never been to fucking Africa.”
“And according to you, I’m too fat. Probably wouldn’t let me on the plane. Might not even fit in a fucking seat. I can’t be Angelina Jolie cos I’m too fucking fat. Thanks for being a prick, Dave.”
“What you being like that for now,” I said trying to put my arm around her, “nobody’s said you’re fat. I had a thing for fat women when I was a younger lad. My Uncle Harry always used to joke about him and Auntie Lilly and a bag of flour. Every time we saw them at a wedding or a funeral, he’d bring out this bag of flour. She had humongous tits. I got a bit of a fixation. Knocked a few out at the thought of Auntie Lilly and them tits.”
She shrugged off my arm and paused to look at me as we reached our gate.
“So eventually you married your own fat woman?”
“You’re not fat, for fucks sake, I said opening the door, “I swear to god, I’m going to kill fucking Paul for kicking this off and dropping me in the shit. Let me get you’re a brew.”
“I don’t want a fucking brew,” she said kicking her boots off, “and take your fucking shoes off.”
“My slippers are upstairs, I said, “you could go and get them for me. Be exercise for you. Get some of that fat off.”
A lesser man would have withered under that baleful furious gaze. A lesser man would have realized he was trying to tie a firework onto a tiger’s tail. A lesser man.
“I’ll fucking slay you,” she said, coming towards me, “just…”
I stood nose to nose with her, and I saw what I expected to see. The little sparkle in her eye. The sparkle that said ‘I don’t want some pussy to come and tell me bullshit I don’t believe anyway, I want to play. I want my fucking husband to make me feel good, to know that he still wants me’.
The thing is, kiddoes, Nicola and me had been together since we were fourteen, more or less. I mean, we’d both shagged other people, but we knew each other. It might look perilous, but I’m on familiar ground here. I’ve looked into the eyes of this tiger before, and if you just tickle it in the right place, it rolls over and purrs like Mrs. Dodgson’s nasty bastard of a cat did when you started to play with its balls.
“You’re slaying nobody,” I said, facing the furious face full on, “just do as you’re told and get up them fucking stairs.”
She stood looking at me for a minute, with the look a posh bird usually gives to a council house lad. She was tall, even in her socks she was nearly my height.
“Fucking make me, cunt.” she said, her eyes narrowing.
I held her about the waist, and we came close. She tried not to smile, but I knew her so well. If she was really pissed off, she’d struggle to get away, but she didn’t. I knew the little sparkle.
“Get up them stairs, get them pants and knickers off and I’ll be up as soon as the kettle’s on.”
“Better bring a bag of flour,” she said under her breath as she padded upstairs.
“I’ll fucking bring something in a minute, chubbilocks.”
I went into the kitchen as fast as I could, filled our kettle and set it going. I could hear her upstairs, and I couldn’t wait. As I banged up the stairs, my phone rung.
“Can I call you back,” I said, “I’m just getting in the shower.”
Holding my phone with my chin, I struggled with the belt buckle on my good trousers.
“I’ve got the tobacco. It’s here, in a carrier bag. I’ll leave it in the canteen for you tomorrow. I’ll have to go.”
I could Nicola banging about in the room. Fuck me, come on.
“I’ll have to go, mate. I’ll be honest with you, I’m about to backskuttle the fucking wife, pal. I’ll see you in a bit, yeah?”
I skimmed the phone down, and went into our room.
“I thought I told you to get your knickers off,” I said a I saw her in the room undressing and folding clothes.
“So you don’t think I’m fat,” she said.
“I think you’re gorgeous,” I said, “I thought you were gorgeous at fourteen and you’re gorgeous now. Fucking Hollywood celebrities are too thin. They look like…I’d feel like He-man on a date with Skeletor.”
“He-man wasn’t gay,” she said, unclipping her bra and coming up close to me. I could smell her scent now.
“Depends who you played action figures with when you were kids. Fucking Oliver one-eye used to make his have orgies. It was like being in a bluey. He-man and Beast man and…what was that other guy? With the fucking spider suit on? I’m telling you, it can corrupt a young man more than the catholic church. Honestly love, you’re beautiful. That’s why I’m here, now. I know I’m not good enough for you. I know your mam and dad wanted more for you than being shagged up the arse in a council house, but I love you and I think you’re beautiful. Not just for how you look, but for you.
“You’ll fucking do, Dave.”
“You sound like your mam. Quit with the swearing, will you. It’s not clever, you know.”
“So that’s it then, dad? How I came into the world?”
“Unless you want the sticky details, then yeah, that’s about it. In our old house on Windermere Road. About half one in the morning. Laithwaites came out at half five having a slanging match and we were still getting busy in the bedroom.”
“Fucking Laithwaite was a paedo. He was shagging little boys.”
“Come on. We better get back. Your mam’ll have the tea on. Don’t tell her we lost again, for fuck’s sake. She’ll have me shopping instead of football next week.”
“Fuck that, dad.”