Low life

Treble doubles, shattered glass and a copper on the doorstep

25 November 2017

9:00 AM

25 November 2017

9:00 AM

The door to Trev’s flat was open so I walked in and found him on the sofa watching TV. He looked up and gave an ironic cheer. How long was it? We thought it must be at least a year since we’d last seen each other, maybe a year and a half. And how was Trev? He was fine, he said. He had plenty of work on — building work and delivering logs — and was generally taking care of himself.

We had arranged to go for a few scoops at the pub. While he got ready he told me what he’d been up to. The headline news was the closing down of the King Bill, about which I already knew. Trev went to the private closing-down party, he said. The departing landlord locked everyone inside the pub and told them to drink everything and smoke away. Trev attacked what he thought was a single-measure optic underneath the big house vodka bottle, learning only when he’d finished it that the optic gave a double measure. So he drank treble doubles all night without realising it, and on the way home he fell through a plate-glass shop window. Trev had no recollection or knowledge of this, but a week later a policeman appeared on his doorstep and told him that he had been seen climbing out of said window covered in shards of glass. The bill for a new window was £280 and, most irregularly, the copper said he would accept a cash payment right there and then. Trev paid him. The copper tore off a receipt and said the matter was now closed. Paying up without a murmur was more convenient, explained Trev, than having the constable come barging in, nicking him, subjecting his home to a thorough search, and then Trev having to stand up before the garden gate in some far-flung magistrates’ court. Undoubtedly, I said, but what was the world coming to if the local police were now both issuing and collecting fines?

As he struggled into his overcoat, Trev said did I remember his lodger, Simon? I did, I said. Pleasant young fella. Cooked me a massive meal once. Humble sort. Well, he died, said Trev. He had gone back to living on the street and then he had died. I was saddened to hear it, I said, but at this rate the pub would be closed by the time we got there.

And did I remember Viv, said Trev? (Now he was searching for his keys.) That young hippie woman with the teeth who came round occasionally to give him a massage? I did, I said. She used to give me the odd massage, too, and I remembered her vividly. Well, she died as well, said Trev. Six weeks from diagnosis to burial it was. Shocking. As Trev knows just about everyone in town, a casualty rate of just two, and in a year, or however long it was, was nothing, I observed. And if he didn’t hurry up and find his keys, I was going to die of thirst, or even old age, raising the local death rate by a staggering 30 per cent. Trev ruefully agreed that two was indeed a paltry number and had I noticed his keys lying around anywhere?

We found them in the tiny kitchen, on the counter. Then Trev stood in front of the sitting-room glass, applying the clothes brush to the arms and shoulders of his Crombie overcoat. He was wearing his old brown heavy leather brogues, recently polished. He’s old-fashioned in many ways, is Trev. Oh, yes, he said, pausing with the brush in his hand, and I didn’t tell you I was slung out of Benny’s the other night, did I? We laughed at that. The mere thought of the seediest club in the district is enough to make us laugh. Benny’s is the only place to get a drink after 2 a.m. on a Saturday. It’s patronised by that hopeless and lost segment of the population deliberately and cynically targeted by the betting companies with their fixed-odds gambling terminals. Trev had gone into one of the cubicles in the gents’ lavatory with entirely lawful intentions, he said, and when he came out five minutes later a bouncer was standing there waiting. The bouncer then hotly accused Trev of using the cubicle for drug-related purposes and chucked him out of the club. Trev’s impression of his own bemused reaction to being chucked out of Benny’s, falsely charged with taking drugs in the toilet, made us both laugh. Then he started patting his pockets for his wallet, and it wasn’t there, so he had to go and look for that. And while he looked, he asked me whether I’d heard that Sharon’s dog had died, the bloody thing. Instead of answering, I exited the flat, went down to the car, started the engine, and sat there revving it.

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