Don's Tiny World
The sky that day was typical for the time of year. Flat, grey, and uninspiring. Like a white sheet that has been washed a thousand times, covering the land like a shroud of dullness. In his limited experience, this was a sky-colour that he had become used to, and one that he accepted as normal. He knew it well, and its accompanying dismal prickle of near-rain. It was dull, drab, boring, yet somehow strangely safe and comforting. He rose from his dishevelled bed, staggered to the kitchen and put the kettle on.
He poked his head cautiously around the living room door, eyeing the sofa with its motley collection of blankets piled up where his father was sleeping. He cleared his throat lightly and ventured a word.
A response. Dad was waking from his slumber.
Dear old Dad. Why the hell did he have to come and crash on his sofa every other week? Well, that was a question that was its own answer. He crashed on his sofa every other week because he was a drunk, and a philanderer, too. Always getting into trouble with the missus, because of some drunken flirting, drunken groping, or out-and-out drunken affairs. She would throw him out, and he would come knocking on Don's door, begging for a place to sleep. Then a few days later, he would leave in a storm of apologies, buy the wife a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates, and go crawling back to her. Then the cycle would repeat.
"What time is it?"
How was that relevant? he thought. Still, he bravely continued.
"It's, um, seven -thirty."
"Mm-mmm... too early." Why did Dad sound like a teenager being made to get up for school? Well, there were many possible answers, but Don didn't want to get onto that train of thought. How many sons in the world took in their Dad when Dad got kicked out by the missus?
Don was forty-two, the older of two kids, and his father had never been what you would call a constant presence. He worked as a lorry driver, a bus conductor, and several other jobs that required long hours away from home. They also seemed to require long hours away from home after work was over, too, whether it be drinking with workmates, or flirting, groping or shagging other workmates (of the female variety, natch) and male workmates' girlfriends and wives. So why his dad now chose him and his flat as a refuge from the storm that awaited at home was somewhat of a mystery.
In the kitchen the kettle was boiling and Don made two cups of tea, deposited one on the end table next to the sofa that doubled as Dad's nightstand replete with used bus tickets, watch, cufflinks (Dad was definitely of the old school class of drunken lechers), half bottle of Old Spice and two empty cans of Tuborg, and took the other for himself back into his room, slamming the door behind him. He did not mind if he pissed Dad off, and in fact went out of his way most of the time to do so in the vain hope that Dad might grab his things and fuck the hell off. All Don wanted was a quiet life, a semblance of normalcy and time to think. Well, that wasn't going to happen. It never had before, but still, he lived in hope.
As it happened, though, things got off to a surprisingly good start. Don drank his tea and drifted back off to sleep, and when he awoke some time later, the place was deathly quiet, save for the dull thump-thump-thump of the downstairs neighbours' stereo, cranking out that shit they called music these days at all hours of the day and night. Don didn't mind it that much. After all, he thought, he had been their age and had been something of a party animal. Hell, let 'em. You're only young once. He barely even heard it any more, he'd grown so used to tuning it out. No, the flat was silent, comparatively speaking. Which meant one of two possible things had occured - his Dad was still asleep, or he'd done the unthinkable and cleared out.
Don tiptoed back across the hall to the living room and gingerly peered round the corner.
Oh. Em. Gee. He'd gone!
Of course, the blankets were still piled up like some great rat's nest on the sofa, and they smelled a bit funny, but he'd actually done it. Gone. Phew. The weight lifted off of Don's shoulders like, well, like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He felt a surge of relief course through him like a dose of salts.
Unfortunately, this relief was to be short-lived. In fact, in the whole history of short-lived events, it was one of the absolute shortest. His doorbell rang like a fire alarm had just been set off, and panic set in. Who the hell wanted him now? All kinds of possible scenarios played out in his head. Was it Dad, changed his mind? Was it one of any number of girlfriends he had dumped, coming back for revenge? Was it the arsehole landlord, come demanding the rent? Or was it.... nooooo. He did not need the aggravation this morning.
He opened the door, and with a sigh of resignation, bid the interloper come in. "Hello, Perry.... cup of tea?"
"Got any organic apple juice? Just started a macrobiotic diet."
Sometimes Perry fucking annoyed the shit out of him. And for a best friend to do that, and on such a regular basis, made Don sometimes wonder why the hell they were even friends, let alone best ones.
Perry was a strange man at the best of times, although to call him a 'man' was pushing it a bit. Don had known him since primary school, where his weirdness had been very attractive to Don. The weirdness had been cool all the way through secondary school, but now it just irritated him to a severe degree. You know how sometimes people follow fashion and trends and then stop at a certain point? Well, in Perry's case, he had stopped at the point where it was fashionable to dress like Midge Ure in the "Vienna" video, trenchcoat and pencil moustache included, and hadn't progressed any further. Trouble was, here we were in 2010, and Perry had put on some weight since the early '80s, and now looked more 'wide boy/spiv' than 'cool synthpop icon'. But to call him a man just seemed not to fit. He was a manchild, a Peter Pan, a 42-year-old teenager who had not grown up.
"What do you want, Perry?"
"I just told you, organic apple juice. Have you not got any in?"
"Fuck me, Perry, I live in a shitty little flat, I don't have a regular job, what the hell do you think?" he snapped.
Perry almost winced.
"Besides, when I said what do you want, I did not mean what do you want to drink - I meant what the hell are you doing here?"
"Our trip, our grand day out, two lads out on the town.... you don't mean...?"
He had forgotten. This was the day he had promised Perry they'd go to Camden, to the market.
"Give me ten minutes."