Stanley’s wife told him to refuse the fourth glass of wine. He’d already put down a whole pint of beer before they sat down to the meal.
If I’ve already had too much, my dear, he replied amiably, I might as well go the whole hog; and his glass was refilled.
As we made our way into the lounge for coffee, two more glasses later, she told me, he isn’t used to it, that’s the trouble. I couldn’t vouch for the truth or otherwise of that, nor did I know quite how seriously to take her running commentary. They had a name locally for her telling him what to do, and for him complying in a sort of ironic, but friendly way. From what I’d seen they were a well matched couple, who snipped ineffectively and without real danger, like a pair of well worn and sloppy scissors.
He didn’t disgrace himself that evening, though he accepted yet two more glasses of wine while we sipped our coffees. She told us, more than once, that it was drink talking; and perhaps it was. If it was, the drink told us, without oaths or vulgarity, and with smiles that grew wider as the night wore on, the tale of forty and more years of involvement with the local sports scene, recalling more than a score of football grounds, and perhaps twice as many players of local and amateur status.
The smiles got wider, and turned into grins, and the waving hands became sweeping arms. At one point an arching parlour palm looked in danger of tipping, but that was as out of control as it got. You could tell he was genuinely excited. It was only when we left that you could see without doubt how really drunk Stanley was. He moon-walked down the drive, and climbing into the back seat of my car, made me think of a man in a diving suit entering a de-compression chamber.
You were very abstemious last night, my wife said to me the next morning. I’d been slow to drain my first two glasses, thus avoiding the top-ups as new bottles of wine were opened. I’d given in altogether before we got to the sweets, and then refused the offer of a night-cap whisky.
Stanley is a nice man, and becomes an amiable drunk. He can afford to get that way in company. It’s like sex, I think: embarrassing to be seen excited like that, even by people who know you well, perhaps especially by them. I try to keep my drinking solitary these days too.
Brindley Hallam Dennis
Brindley Hallam Dennis writes short stories. He lives on the edge of England with sight of elsewhere.
bhdandme.wordpress.com Looking at sculpture
Image by Ben Coode-Adams watercolour on paper 2017 framed W43.5xH34.5cms Private collection
Katy Darby, Cent literary editor and runs Liar’s League
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