Frank was looking forward to a wee break in Florida. A fortnight in the sun would wash away the winter blues with their cauld squalls and icy rain; a break from the eternal gloom and gale force winds. This winter’s day was like any other Scottish winter’s day – it was pissing down. They waited in the departure lounge for over an hour only to be informed that their flight was delayed by two hours. Sandy suggested they go grab a coffee, but Frank opted for a drink.
“Ah could murder a pint.”
“I fancy a drink too. We are on holiday aren’t we?”
Frank was on his second pint – he was taking it easy – when he got the surprise of his life. His old oppo walked into the bar and he nearly choked on his beer. Jamie Carr, the man who saved his life, his comrade, his blood brother.
“Jamie fucking Carr! How the fuck are you?”
“It’s been a while Frank – you’ve gained a few pounds ain’t cha?”
“Aye well I huvnae been yomping across Salisbury Plain in the pourin’ rain haulin’ a fucking Bergen oan my back for a wee while. Hey, remember Rannoch Moor when we got ambushed by them geese?”
“Yeah, you shat yourself.”
“So did you!”
“You put the wind right up me – I thought you was havin’ kittens!”
“Those were the days, eh? In auld D Squadron.”
“If I’da known how many jocks were gonna be in that unit I’da signed up with the Girl Guides.”
“What are you doing these days Jamie?”
“I’m still with the firm Frank.”
Frank paused for a moment as if he had something to say which was stuck in his throat; like his words were evading his mouth. He did not want Jamie to know he sold stationary – albeit on a massive scale – it seemed pointless next to what Jamie was doing. He somehow felt smaller now than when he had entered the bar. He suddenly remembered Sandy who stood at his side patently.
“Jamie, let me introduce my wife Sandy.”
“Pull the other one Frank – I already met your wife, remember?”
Jamie smiled that dazzling smile and Frank groaned internally – why are you doing this to me? He knew it was that sick army humour, but he was the sucker in this joke and knowing Sandy she would not see the funny side.
“What does he mean Frank? What the fuck is going on? What does he mean I’m not your wife?”
Sandy was livid; Jamie’s words got right inside her head and she wanted to know who this other wife was! Jamie was already on his way out the door – trying not to laugh out loud.
“Jamie, come back!”
“Who is she Frank?”
“It’s a joke darlin’ He’s only yanking yer chain sweetheart.”
“And why would he do that?”
“Cause he’s a tosser darling – a bona fide dirty wee cockney tosser.”
“I thought he was your friend?”
“He’s much more than that.”
“Then why would he lie?”
“For a laugh – to see me squirm.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“I swear to you...”
“After what happened with Maureen...”
“Nothing happened with Maureen.”
“I saw with my own eyes...”
“Nothing happened! She took her top off – there was no contact. I was as surprised as you.”
“And now this! What do I make of this!”
“It’s a joke – a sick bloody joke, but it’s a joke.”
“I don’t believe you.”
She didn’t believe him. She would not believe him all through the holiday and all the way through Christmas. His protestations of innocence just made her believe him less. She eventually stopped asking him and Frank thought the issue was forgotten, but she never forgot, not after the Maureen incident. She would carry her suspicions to the grave. A drunken neighbour who removed her top at a party and an army chum who played a practical joke was all it took to bend Sandy out of shape for the rest of her life.
Of course Jamie was blissfully unaware of the havoc he had sown behind him; all he remembered was a cracking gag he pulled on an old comrade.
“You should have seen Franco’s face. He looked like the bottom was falling out of his world! I just turned and walked away and his missus is going ‘Who is she Frank? Who is she?’ I got him good, the sly old fucker. I got him good.”