When Jake invited me to join in his invitational this time. Oh he's invited me most every time and I've started a tale for them all. I just ain't too clever at finishing the damned things sometimes; this old mind mine kind-a wanders off into pastures new; well, new stories anyway. Anyway this time - just to stop Jake form getting too crotchety with me - I figured I'd better finish one.
Being a melancholy old bleeder, I chose this song that can often be heard playing in my study. Usually quietly in the background whilst I'm writing. The version I have is by Tom T Hall, I have no idea if anyone else has recorded it.
Thanks to LadyCibelle and my friend SH for sorting my foul-ups and editing for me.
I suppose a lot of folks would put it down to the old midlife crisis kind of thing. Or maybe, after all those years, they might say it was the seven-year itch, running a little on the late side after fourteen years of marriage. Anyway the truth is that at thirty-eight I had those niggling questions beginning to come to the forefront of my mind.
After sharing the last sixteen years of my life with my wife Christina — Tina to most folks, mum to our three little tykes and Babe to me - I was beginning to wonder what it was all about and maybe what could have been.
Well that's a lie really; maybe — somewhere tucked away in the back of my mind - where we all fear to tread most of the time - I think I had always been asking myself the "what if" question.
You remember what it was like when we were teenagers. How you first found the girl of your dreams, and kind of developed ideas about where your life was going. For some folks it was a quiet life in a nice little house in the country, for others it was to become a big man in a big house, with a big high fence all around; read becoming rich, and leading the life of Reilly.
I can't say for sure what happened to those dreams I'd had as a young man. I always did have myself a good job, even if I could never understand why they put up with me lately. Maybe I was feeling pretty bored with it, after all those years. I figured that I'd reached the peak of where I was going to get to with my employer.
A couple of times I had thought that maybe a change of employer would get the ball rolling again, but that would have meant a move to another part of the country and ... Well, there was the kids' schooling to take into account, and all the rest of the upheaval a move would have caused in family life to take into consideration. No, a change of employment and all that involved just weren't on the cards. Well not at that time; it would probably have led to an abrupt end of what was left of my marriage anyway.
Yeah, all right I've got to admit that life at home wasn't what it should have been. I know Tina found it hard sometimes, what with those three little urchins, and the house to look after. Well yeah, she did find time to do some charity work, she was on the children's school board of governors and had been a member of the PTA before that.
Okay, and I'll admit that I wasn't always as supportive around the house as I could have been. But then, I was working my socks off earning the cash to pay the mortgage and feed and clothe the little buggers. And give Tina almost everything any woman could want in life. I'd always thought that that was my part of the bargain.
Generally Tina was out at her charity things, two nights a week and I stayed home watching the kids. I usually went down the Band Club, Mondays and Thursdays to practice snooker on a full size competition table; I got a three-quarter size one tucked away in the garage. I ain't half-bad on the baize; not up to professional standards, so you won't see me at the Crucible. But I've won a good few bob in amateur competitions over the years. Before the children came along, Tina would come and watch me play in competition. Hey she's no slouch with a snooker cue herself; well she was, when she had time to practice with me.
If you get the idea that things had sort-a cooled down in our relationship, you wouldn't be too far wrong. I kind-a got the feeling, that like quite a few married couples, we were just going through the motions by then. Yeah, we went out together — just Tina and I — a couple of times a month. And yeah we generally had — some pretty basic - sex most Saturday nights. But most of the time our social life together was revolving around the kids and their needs.
I sort-a had it figured that Tina and me were both killing time until the kids were old enough to fly the coop, and then ... Well then, maybe we'd go our own separate ways.
Anyway I hope these revelations give you some insight into my state of mind that bright sunny summer morning, as I sat in my office pushing papers around and wishing that I was anywhere else in the world but there.
Quite unexpectedly there was a sharp tap on my office door. Unexpected, because, Betty - who acted as my secretary - normally called me on the intercom if I had a visitor; and if she wanted to see me, I usually went out to her, because she wasn't my exclusive secretary and looked after all the rest of the guys in the department as well.
And yeah well, most of my colleagues had learnt by then that I wasn't the most sociable of people first thing in the mornings. So if they had any problems that they'd rather bring to me than the department head, then they knew they were best left until after lunch.
Anyway, there was this sudden rap on my door, then it burst open and Martin Goldman strolled in like he owned the place. Which, to be honest, he did; so I couldn't very well tell him to f-off, could I.
Old man Goldman - whose father had started the company way back in the days of yore, just after WW2 — had kind-a grown up in the organisation, and for years run it with an iron fist. Anyway the old bugger had died about eight months previous and his only son Martin had come back home - from wherever he'd been hiding out for more years than I care to remember — to take over the reigns.
Martin and I had history, - of sorts - we'd grown up together. Well kind-of, we just happened to live not too far away from each other as kids, and as we'd got older - coincidently - gone to the same college for a while, and hung around the same teenage hangouts.
We even drank in the same pubs and went to the same dances and clubs etc. But we'd never been what you might call mates. Martin's education — as you might expect, being the son of a rich Jewish businessman — had mostly been in the private sector, and I'd struggled along in the State system.
Sometimes we'd even dated the same birds in our younger days, at different times off course. So you can understand that we'd always known one-another, even if in a very tenuous way. I'd always known who he was and he was well aware of my existence, although we had never actually run with the same crowd. At that time, I'd have doubted we'd ever said more the half a dozen words to each other in our whole lives.
But Martin Goldman was now the big cheese of the company I worked for, and his arrival at my lowly door was completely unexpected.
As Martin entered my little office, I went to stand — to show the subservience that's expected when the big boss man pays an unexpected call on one of his lowly minions — but much to my surprise Martin gestured for me to remain seated and plonked his arse on the seat opposite me. He took a quick look down at the cheap typist's chair he found himself sitting upon, and then glanced around my little domain, with an expression of some distain on his face; before leaning back in the seat and fixing me with a long stare.
For what seemed to be an eternity Martin Goldman didn't say a word, he just sat there staring at me.
To be completely truthful, I feared exactly what the bugger was about to say to me. Word had gone around the company that Martin had been making some big changes upstairs, and the rumour was that he seemed to take pleasure in doing the required firing personally. Or to give the man the benefit of the doubt; at least he took the responsibility for doing the actual deed himself, rather than delegating the task to one of the many brown nose's he'd inherited from his old man since he'd returned.
"Long time no see Josh." Goldman finally said; with a smile on his face, just as if he was an old friend I'd run into in the pub.
I'm not sure why, I was extremely suspicious of this casual greeting, but decided it would be diplomatic to follow his relaxed lead.
"Well Mr Goldman, some of us had to stay in town and keep the home fires burning." I replied trying my best to smile back at him.
"Good lord, Josh; cut out all that formal crap. We've known each other long enough for you to call me Marty; at least when we are in private."
"Cheers, Marty. But to be honest; we never..."
"Don't give me all that bullshit, Josh. I still remember the night of the cup final just before I went off to Oxford. If you and your crowd hadn't backed us up, those wankers would have had our guts for garters."
Martin was referring to a night many years before that I'd almost completely forgotten about. My friends and I had gone to the cup final at Wembley. On our way home — and by complete chance - we'd come across Marty and a couple of his friends, just as they were confronted by a little group of Neanderthal skinhead thugs, masquerading as football supporters.
Anyway three Jewish boys wearing the wrong colour scarves were probably just what the half dozen numbskulls had been looking for that day.
.... There is more of this story ...