amorals 6 - Grasping at Shadowsview galleries
I had only just sat down at our table when James arrived. I took a big sip of my beer as he scanned the QR code, and ordered his beer. I needn’t have rushed as there was a delay in the notification being registered on Aesop’s system. Sometimes that happens, we are the hurry up and wait generation. I had plenty of time to enjoy my surroundings in the finest public house south of the river. Nonetheless, I shall ensure I am at least five minutes earlier next week to avoid any possible need to go to the bar together.
At the bar counter, a couple steps away from where James waited his order, sat the same man on the same stool the same as each of the previous five times I had come to this pub in the last five weeks. I should ask Martha his name for this little journal I am keeping of our weekly meets. This week I debated long with myself on the issue of this journal. Should I tell the others or should I not. Eventually I came down on the side of keeping it a secret until that hopeful day when Martha and I are a little more than weekly pub companions, then I would let her read our story from my perspective. Always something to look forward to: these little things are so much more important now we are in our fifth lockdown. Can it really be five?
The pub was exactly as busy as it had been for each of my previous visits. Five tables occupied: a trio, a large group and two smaller groups. It is strange, but perhaps it is just me struggling with getting used to being out again. In my previous visits to Aesop’s Playground I have not paid much attention to the large group in the booth. I am not sure if it has been the same each time, but it has always been a large group. It was mostly women in the group, six or seven, I didn’t pay enough attention to them, and a pair of guys seated nearest to our table this time. One of the men was a beautiful tall slim black man with fine features and an eclectic style - somewhere between Shaft and Prince. The other was somewhat less stylish, it is difficult to write something rude about someone who is always cheerful, perhaps chubby would suffice.
As James approached our table, drink in hand, the chubby fellow leaned back and intoned the words: soapy tit wank. James barely faltered, he glanced across before sitting next to me facing the pub. He placed the spare glass of beer across from us for Martha. The chubby fellow had the grace to look sheepishly about the pub, everyone other than James had stopped what they were doing or saying to look at him. James is classy like that. We watched in silence as one of the women stood from her table, smiled at a murmured comment and crossed tables. She squeezed in between the two guys. I glanced across at Aesop behind the bar wondering if he was timing her visit to the large group. I wondered if he would add them to her contacts. I assume he did. We are all quite conscientious about these things. New normal. Though when thinking back on it, I think she was probably returning from visiting the young folk’s table.
"I have to say that was an unusual way to invite someone to your table."
"The vocabulary of the young people these days."
"I think you forget how we talked at the sales conferences when we worked at HB."
"I don't know, I was very drunk at the time."
"Yeah. It was so sweet being in the right department for all the fun but not senior enough to pick up the tab."
"Oh the bill never mattered when it came to expenses."
"Yes. But don't forget the contract we all signed not to sigh about days past."
"What. Oh yes."
"So. Talking of history, I have been reading Aesop's fables. Ok, I opened them on my phone coming here. Thought I would suggest a fable to see if Martha can spin a story about it."
"She has such fabulous stories."
"Do you think they are true or do you think she makes them up."
"You know how it is: names and places have been changed to I courage the deviousness."
"Anyway speak of the devil."
Martha entered the pub at that moment. She waved at us. James pointed to the beer he had bought her. She came to the table, nodded to Aesop as she scanned the QR code on our table.
"You boys seem to be chuckling about something."
"We have been joyously entertained by the three closest to us in the large group."
"Leo, Bea and Jack. Let me guess, Leo said something a bit rude and a bit loud."
"Yes, and silenced the pub, presuming Leo is the chubby chap."
“They have a child at my school.”
“Doing Aesop’s fables? Um, and is they all three of them?”
“Their boy is not in my class, and we have moved on from Aesop’s fables to recycling anyway. They is Bea and Leo. Jack is far too beautiful to be bothering with all that offspring malarky.”
“Talking of Aesop, I happened to be flicking through a little storytelling app which had a collection of Aesop’s fables.”
“They all have Aesop’s fables, it’s a copyright thing.”
“So I read a version of the greedy dog with a juicy bone crossing a river and spotting another greedy dog with another juicy bone and thinking to itself I would like me a bit of that, jumps down to grab the meat only to find the other dog was its reflection and all he got was wet, and lost his own juicy bone in the ordeal.”
“Grasping at Shadows.”
James shook his head slightly at me. He was right, I should have been more subtle, but it was too late by that point so I blundered on.
“Oh yes, that is what it would be called. And all those juicy bones reminded me of your stories. And I wondered if this would fit a little tale you have.”
“Ooh, a challenge. Don’t even think you could best me in a storytelling challenge.”
“Undoubtedly, this would be an opportunity to enjoy your eloquence.”
“Ooh, the flattery. Is that a little wavering in the confidence of the challenge?”
“No, no, it is simply the fact that I have enjoyed your tales and thought of a way to encourage such talent.”
“Well, well, then I shall try not to disappoint but this will be a different type of story, for all varieties of stories need to be heard.”
Neither James nor I said anything as we waited for Martha to begin.
"Don't you think the ages of life are in attitude? We, being of our mature years, truth be told, are reflective, perhaps content. The young are traditionally full of belief and certainty. Several years ago, Leo and Bea were at a point of grasping towards a new stage in their life. There it is: the title of the story is Grasping at the Shadow, in this story the shadow Leo and Bea will reach out for is the next stage in their life. The question remains will they be left with nothing lying in a ditch of dirty water like the poor hound in Aesop’s fable..
"As you may have guessed both Leo and Bea are locals in this pub but at the beginning of this story only Bea was from this area. This story begins with a simply fabulous relationship. Leo used to come into town on a Friday, to join with the party atmosphere a Friday brings to the office-bound folks, from those days when workers were office-bound. Well, it is just you, James, who are still in the business but even you don't get that Friday-party feeling. They have even stopped playing party music on the radio - had you noticed?
"Typically, the two of them would not stay long at the Friday party. They would move quickly via a take away to a bedroom adventure. Bea once told me, at about the time of this story, that sex with Leo was an adventure. Always an exploration of sensual touch. A curiosity of carnality. She was the focus of his attention, which had not been her previous experience. Remember that, simply being present, truly present in a mindfulness-yogic way is half a step from success. If success is what you are after. Sorry, let me get back to the story.
"The remainder of the weekend consisted of lazy mornings in bed, with a good deal more of that, and a film, or a dinner party, always Bea's friends as Leo was not from here. Or maybe a trip to the seaside. Around that time at a dinner party Leo told me what he loved about Bea was her practicality and her confidence in her body because.... At that point in the conversation he got a little tongue tied as he tried to think of an example that was not too revealing, not that he had to worry about that because Bea was quite revealing in her mid-week drinks we used to enjoy. He settled on the trip to the seaside. Bea had not bothered with the complicated wrapped towel dance to change into her swimsuit, a two piece: bikini top with hightop bottoms that curved deliciously about her arse cheeks. He was a few glasses of red down at that point so appreciating Bea's arse was to be expected. Indeed I agree with him on the delectability of her arse, but that was not his point. I am as side tracked as he was. His point was she simply changed on the beach. And, he pointed out, she was right to. If any one were to have had an eyeful all they would have was a sight of skin. There was nothing sexually inviting about her changing at the beach. He liked her attitude.
"Like today's fable, there is usually an external event to bring the story to a crisis. For the dog it was a plank spanning a pond. For Leo and Bea it was a broken condom. The plank brought an image of a dog with a juicy bone. The broken condom brought an image of blissful parenthood, a new shared adventure. Both parties in both stories released what was firmly gripped in their mouths greedily. As Bea put it to me at the time: what could possibly go wrong?
"We can look across at their table any minute now with a smile one of them will go fetch their boy from football club. The other will stay here for a while before wandering back to his or her home, for indeed they did end up in the metaphorical dirty ditch water. It has taken several years and numerous distracting, and somewhat saucy encounters to get them to the point of being able to be civil in each other’s company. I assure you I have numerous more tales of their salacious encounters they have shared with me saved up for future storytelling challenges. And, as everyone knows, the best way to fix a broken heart is to get it fluttering again. A little postscript to the story that perhaps should also be added to Aesop's fable: once the dog got over its shock of losing its meal and falling in the pond, it swam to the other side, and was last seen chasing a rabbit across the green and verdant pastures that is the landscape of all good fables."
"A wonderful tale, the type that would go down fabulously in a collection of short stories."
I was flabbergasted at my utterance, practically admitting I was recording their words in this notebook. I hurriedly finished my beer in one gulp and added.
"Well, that is me for the day. Are you staying for another?"
I nearly did not hear their reply, which was they were staying for a while.
"Well, I will see you again next Tuesday. It has been a pleasure."