Thursday, 30 July 2009
At lunchtimes, I worked with Elsie. Seventy-six, arthritic she said during the War she had to knock on the door of the Snug. Flushed ladies adjusted their stockings; she’d look the other way as she gathered empty glasses and catch a wink from a man in uniform.
The apprentices from Leeds United boarded with her. They got homesick and she made them miss their grannies.
Her son-in-law, a folk-singer, gave her that marry-joo-arna to try last month.
“What was it like?”
She sniffed. “I’d rather have a cup of tea.”
A croupier from the casino was in after his shift, heard my curiosity; offered to initiate me. I took him at face-value – I was a silly girl – and followed him home.
His mother was waiting. She put down her book, made space on the sofa. Sat too close.
He made instant coffee, black and bitter, picked a green apple from a bowl on the table, scooped out the pale, watery flesh; lined it with silver foil. He stabbed at the waxy skin with a hollowed Biro, sucked at the beads of juice. There was a block of something brown, crumbled between his long fingers. His Zippo lighter flared. Outside the sky was falling dark.
He sighed, passed the pipe to his mother.
She sucked hungrily swallowing the sweet, heady smoke said, “This makes him randy. I used to dress up his last one. I like to feel involved.”
The croupier smiled, rubbed his thumb in slow circles just above her knee. She passed the apple-pipe to me.
As I said, I was a silly girl.