Chapter Three - Home Support

© Stephen March, May 1995

Arriving home mentally and emotionally exhausted, wet and generally 'unchuffed', Arthur decided to have a bath. After a long soak interrupted by short bouts of sleeping, Arthur felt somewhat refreshed. He decided that he was sufficiently fortified to 'phone Bob. A short, succinct call ensured that Bob was sufficiently intrigued to come round that evening, and would do the decent thing and bring sufficient quantities of pizza, (and electric lemonade), to fortify the conversation. For the rest of the afternoon Arthur 'pottered', discovering innumerable things to do and then pleasantly passing the time by finding inscrutable reasons why he shouldn't do them.

That evening Bob came round and in between mouthfuls of pizza and beer, Arthur told his sorry tale, to Bob's increasing enjoyment. Arthur ended by saying 'so I'm up the creek without a paddle.'

Bob thought for a moment and then replied 'No I don't think that's entirely the case. In my opinion you're up the creek without a paddle, in a leaking boat, surrounded by sharks, heading for the rapids and there are vultures circling overhead.' Then Bob laughed; for a long time.

Arthur mumbled 'Thanks a lot, you've been a tower of strength'.

'OK, OK, I know it's serious, but you must admit, it's a funny story.'

'You know', said Arthur, 'that's what I like about you Bob.'

'What ?', queried Bob.

'Absolutely nothing'. Then it was Arthurs turn to laugh.

Bob stood up, 'Let's go for a game of squash'.

'You can't be serious. We've just eaten a hundredweight of pizza each, quaffed several beers, ' Please have you're passports ready as you're about to enter coronary country'.

'Come on Arthur don't wimp out. It's just what you need, get the andrenalin flowing, stop you feeling sorry for yourself.'

Twenty minutes later they found themselves in the local sports centre, luckily there was a court available and within minutes they were knocking-up. For all Bob's stated aversion to things physical, when he played, he played well. When he perpetrated a game of squash, as he termed it, he put 100 % effort into it. Some people are just naturally fit, they can be overweight and still have surprising reserves of stamina. Arthur fully expected to be given a run for his money, or witness a coronary, one or the other.

As they played Arthur found himself hitting the ball harder and harder, not to any tactical advantage but it certainly released the andrenalin. Eventually, winning the game became secondary to hitting the ball really well. By the end of the 40 minute session Arthur had got off a few really sweet shots and Bob was winning 3 games to 2. They showered, reviewing the game and previous games and it was with a start that Arthur remembered the events of the day, they had been totally sublimated by the frenetic activity. The went to the bar and Bob ordered two pints of fresh orange and lemonade.

'I'll have the same' said Arthur.

They found seats and took that first long magical gulp that your body has been crying out for since halfway through the second game.

'That fairly hits the spot', remarked Bob.

'Not so much hits it, as mugs it, steals it's car and torches it's house', added Arthur.


They talked more seriously than before over the events of the day, but there seemed little that could be done apart from seeking alternative employment. Bob promised to look out for any jobs in his organisation, they arranged to do something over the weekend, unless they got better offers elsewhere. They left the sportscentre and headed their separate ways home.

On his way home, during a period of quiet introspection, (encouraged by the fact that at any second your physical existence is likely to be curtailed by one of several gangs of bored youths. When Arthur was young, being bored resulted in sitting around sighing and looking listless, now it appears a 5 second gap in t.v. programming is regarded as sufficient provocation for wall to wall mayhem - you can't stop progress.), it occured to Arthur to call Kate. Arthur had narrowly avoided having a 'serious' relationship with Kate several times over the past few years. They had a somewhat confused and confusing 'will they won't they, do they don't they' relationship. At one point Kate had got seriously miffed when Arthur had very obviously distanced himself from her after a period of increasing closeness. Words had been exchanged, (for knives, handgrenades etc.), and accusations had flown, things like - emotional cripple, jovial delinquent, commitophobe and from Arthur's side of the trenches - walking man-trap, scenes 'r' us saleswoman of the year etc. All of the accusations were various shades of truthful, but the relationship had been strong enough to survive and after a 'cooling off ' period they'd seen each other again. The incident had made Arthur think seriously though, about 'the future 'n' stuff'. Most of Arthurs contemporaries were married, some with kids, it didn't seem too horrendous, once you got acclimatised. Arthur had arrived at the conclusion that the marriage/family type activity was like the ageing process - you hope it's never going to happen to you, but when it does you find it's relatively painless. In fact Arthur was currently evaluating his options with regard to his future mode of living. He was incredibly disquieted by the knowledge that the recipe for loneliness starts and ends with, 'Take one person'.

These feelings were, however, new and taking some adjusting to. Would Kate be willing to marry him ? Would she be a good person to spend the rest of your life with ? Would anybody ? How can you tell ? Is marriage a matter of magic, or just determined pragmatism ? Arthur was mulling over thoughts such as these in a quiet corner of his mind and they were producing a sense of gentle, almost subliminal, unease. The kind of creeping unease that advances softly, gently, irreversibly - like the lapping of the incoming tide. Arthur pushed these thoughts aside, yes he would phone Kate when he got home and see if she was free on Saturday - or at least affordably cheap.

Arthur let his sports bag drop on the floor as he entered his house and continued walking into the living room without breaking stride. He picked up the phone and dialled Kate's number from memory, the phone rang for quite a while until a somewhat confused voice answered.

'Hi Kate, it's Arthur have I called at a bad time?'

'Oh Hi Arthur', replied Kate her voice growing noticedly warmer, 'long time no hear. Sorry about the delay answering, but I was in the bath. I'm standing here dripping on the carpet'.

'Wish you were here', mumbled Arthur in a voice he imagined to be rich with innuendo.

'Have you got a cold Arthur, you sound stuffed up I can barely make out what you're saying'.

Arthur nearly bit through the telephone cable and tried again. 'Never mind that Kate I was just phoning to see if you were free over the weekend and fancied doing something, eating something, watching something or cuddling something - not necessarily in that order'.

'Yes sure Arthur, I'm sure we can do one or more of those, Saturday night OK ?'

'Yes, perfect, great. Shall I pick you up around eight ?'

'Arthur, you haven't got a car'.

'Right that's settled then, you pick me up, around eight o'clock then ?'

'Yes, eight's fine, see you then, bye'.

Arthur put the phone down feeling quite warm inside, his relationship with Kate was such that there was still a chance that any advance might be rebuffed, so coming away with a date still felt like an achievement. Arthur celebrated by doing a lap of honour around the sofa, but not without stopping.

'Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh', exclaimed Arthur, 'Life is not entirely without it's attractions'.

Chapter Four