OF FRIENDS AND BASEMENTS
Written as requested by my old friend Steve, and in shared memory of our dearly departed friend Andrew -“Good friendships are hard to find, hard to lose, and impossible to forget…”
It is the end of the school week and King has that Friday Feeling. This week he passed a Kung-Fu grading and is now just three belts away from black. He has been aching all over all week and is looking forward to letting off some steam. He meets is best friend Lurch after their History class – Mrs Smith had separated them for laughing too much during a ‘Hitler’s Germany’ lecture.
Finding Prewecki between lessons they briefly discus their plans for the evening – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. King hands Lurch his bank card for him to draw money out during the lunch break. Lurch obliges and drifts away to class, his near seven foot frame trying its best to fade into the crowd.
After a long day learning very little; consisting of a Religious Studies class teaching the importance of contraception – where King had to read out the part of a male whose condom had ‘slipped off’ during a particularly messy encounter- and this time getting separated from Ty ‘Dickey Bow Winters‘ Summers for laughing too much, followed by a mind-numbing Geography lesson on Fjords – where Mr ‘Terminator’ Thomas had clocked up a new record for the number of times he says ‘right’ in a single lesson, a woodwork lesson spent shaping wooden plectrums with an industrial sander, concluding in the afternoon with an English lesson taught by the lovely Miss Prosser – who had recently admitted to crying while reading one of his poems, and not because it was bunk – They have finished reading ‘Of Mice and Men’ and are watching the movie as a treat, after which King heads straight to Lurch’s house.
Upon his arrival Lurch’s mother – Elaine – gives King a polite lecture about leaving his half finished cigarettes on the upstairs windowsill – he apologises; taking the blame on behalf of Lurch once again. Lurch is cooking tea as an apology for accidentally closing a door in King’s face today, and lending him a pair of shorts that turned completely transparent when coming into contact with the smallest molecule of water, a flaw that King discovered when he was preparing to dive from a great height at the local swimming pool.
They scoff their food while watching Byker Grove– Nicola has fallen pregnant, Geoff keeps saying ‘you’re not coming in, now go away’, and there’s this odd spiritual cult thingy going on. After the grove they admire the delectable Katy Hill on Blue Peter, who is learning to ride a show horse and looks particularly fetching in the riding boots that she made earlier.
Elaine bids farewell to the boys. She is reluctantly attending a school reunion tonight, is not planning on drinking, and shouldn’t be too late. After Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the duo collects and carries the hi-fi equipment from the bedroom – where someone has left half a cigarette on the windowsill – to the basement where they will be staying for the rest of the night.
The neighbors, Vera and Marina, are enjoying the last few rays of the sun in their garden; the boys sit and chat with them for a while, until the gnats develop a taste for teenagers. Playing on the nearby field are three inseparable dogs that the boys call ‘The Friendly’s’. Each dog represents one of them (King, Lurch and Prewecki). Their canine attitude appears no different from the boys at all; never worried that time would come to an end.
As the older, shorter, and more dashing of the two – but mainly because the local shop keepers know how old Lurch is – King heads to the off license. The licensee is convinced that King is a London businessman who only comes home for weekends; his startlingly convincing cockney accent adds to the authenticity of his cover.
After purchasing 12 bottles of ‘K‘ cider and a bottle of Kiwi & Lemon ‘MD 20/20‘ he heads back to base where Prewecki has just arrived on his 50cc bike – that conked out and had to push most of the way. He is stood with his usual messy hair, stocky build, and wide open smile, dressed in full green combat gear having just come from Territorial Army – though that never made a difference to his dress code.
He has a flagon of Stone Housecider in one hand, and is smoking something large and round with the other. He thrusts a ten pound note at Lurch and demands to purchase some chocolate puddings to feed his healthy addiction (Lurch’s mother works in catering and hospitality).
Inside the basement the boys knock back a few drinks and play some games of pool; ‘winner stays on’. King and Prewecki each get a break while Lurch demonstrates how to ruthlessly humiliate opponents. Therapy?’s ‘Troublegum‘ album is blasting through the speakers.
After Therapy? they put on a Rock Anthems compilation to which King and Lurch execute a well choreographed rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody– complete with pool cue guitars and Prewecki playing air drums – followed by an equally well crafted performance of Black Betty.
Too tipsy to hit the ball in a straight line anymore – and with King fed up of being beaten by Lurch for the 8th game in a row – the boys take their positions around the pool table for a game of cards; beginning, as always, with ‘Switch’ and then – after King loses that game for the 8th time because of the other two conspiring – a game of ‘Bluff’ where the trio make futile and fruitless efforts stare each other out with poker faces.
Far too drunk to keep straight faces any longer they abandon the card games and sing badly. Prewecki is particularly entertaining company – the joker in the pack – always with a twinkle in his eye and a spring in his step. He is on top form tonight and making the others pay. Lurch is sat at the head of the table, doubling over and begging his own breath-sapping laughter to stop; beating his chest and rocking back and forth like a hyperventilating Tyrannosaurus.
King is sat at the right of the table with tears streaming down his eyes and shoulders bobbing up and down like a pneumatic drill. Prewecki won’t be staying over tonight because he has obstacle course training in the morning. No-one will be receiving a surprise attack with a pillow, and the improvised bed time story – that the boys take turns at telling a chapter – will not involve blowing each other up, becoming immortal, taking over the universe, or contain a never-ending string of epilogues. Prewecki wants to listen to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘ before he makes his excuses and leaves. It is already past midnight; he is quite soused, and has to push his motorbike home.
A ‘thud’ sounds from above, someone is shuffling about. King and Lurch rush upstairs – Lurch grabbing ‘Slugger’ the baseball bat. They find Elaine – uncharacteristically tipsy from the school reunion, but still as dignified as ever. Lurch helps his mum to bed and removes her contact lenses – which would have been easy had she not started to fall asleep.
With Elaine sound asleep the duo looks inside the drinks cabinet at potential ingredients for the ‘end of night cocktail’. Normally they have to carefully negotiate their way across the room, avoiding the creaky floorboards – thank goodness for school reunions.
They pour a dozen shots from random and unidentifiable bottles into a half pint glass – adding a chocolate orange liquor for flavour which turns the murky contents an even blacker shade of noir. They have managed to stain the pool table with a permanent white ring on this occasion, agreeing that they may have gone a little overboard this time.
Strolling over to the nearby park illuminated by the prominent lunar landscape they sip their poison with a brave teaspoon and engage in conversations about life, the universe, their hopes, fears, dreams, and aspirations, moving on to music, movies, Star Trek, and breasts. After flailing a white flag of defeat they pour away the remaining ‘alco-stupid’ cocktail – rendering a considerable patch of earth uninhabitable for any future plant life.
Lurch has found an audio tape recording of a camping trip with friends from when he was an infant. Back at the basement he plays the tape and reminisces about his youth in Germany and the military bases that his father was stationed at. King complements the storytelling by adding his own tales of life in far away South America.
The hours pass un-noticed and as the dawn sun starts to rear its fiery head between two hills King finds the side that the room doesn’t spin on and absorbs the dreamy music of Enigma; “close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax”.
Saturday nights are always a more crowded affair; teenage parties at far away flats with old and new faces. As wild as these parties are it is always the Friday nights that King, Lurch, and Prewecki will recall most fondly. For this inseparable trio who by chance had unexpectedly clicked in an inexplicable way, it is the quality not the quantity that matters the most; being able to sit together, never saying a word and walking away feeling that they’ve had the best conversation.