Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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18.

“Hobby farming isn’t very punk rock,” said Pat.

“You know what he does?” asked Wally, the spike of resentment coming right to the end of his tongue. “He rents the place to schools so the kiddies can come and pet the animals. All this from the man who fronted a band that once opened for Iggy Pop.”

“Did you open for Iggy Pop?”

“We did,” he said, cigarette returning to his lips. “In Belgium. Greatest beer in the world.”

“I never got that far,” said Pat.

“Those beers are so thick, it’s like eating a sandwich,” he said.

The waitress came out with two coffees balanced on a tray. She set the espresso down in front of Pat. Wally tapped the table hard with a pointed finger.

“Here,” he said to her.

“Sorry.” She swapped the coffees over and returned to the restaurant.

“Water?” Wally called to her over his shoulder. “You know what really shits me?” he said, flicking his cigarette butt at the gutter. “I don’t really have a problem, per se. It’s just my health.

“It’s not like I’m going crazy; it’s not like I’m drinking-and-driving or bashing my wife or anything. I just like drinking and my body has decided it’s had enough.”

“Is there any medication you can take to control the psoriasis?”

“When I went to the doctor with my club foot, he took some blood tests.”

“What is it?”

“Diabetes, type two. From years of eating junk and drinking too much piss.”

“Shit,” said Pat, relieved. “Is that all?”

“All?” said Wally. “That and three needles a day for the rest of my fucking life?”

“Tell me about it,” Pat said, thinking of his medication.

“Are you diabetic?” asked Wally.

“No, but I understand what that’s like,” Pat replied. Wally narrowed his eyes, as if squinting would help him see more clearly. “Are you going to A.A?”

“Every day. Working in the pub on the week end’s driving me crazy.”

“I can imagine,” said Pat. “Where do you go to A.A?”

“Out in Brighton. Less chance of anyone recognising me.”

“Long way to drive every day.”

“Better than going to the Salvation Army,” he said. “Have you seen that place? Full of fucking deros and office workers. Worst of the worst.”

Wally ground his cigarette into the ashtray and reached for the espresso. He took a sip and clicked his tongue against the bitterness. “I’ve had stronger pisses than that,” he said.

“Are you exercising?”

“I’ve seen you go out,” Wally said. “Jogging?”

“You could come with me, if you liked.”

“Come on, your legs are about a meter longer than mine.” The espresso cup clinked into the saucer. “I fucking hate exercise.”

“It’ll stop you smoking. The nicotine pumping through your blood makes you feel sick. If you start running, it’ll help.”

“That’s what the doc says. Help my circulation. He wants me to quit smoking. One thing at a time, I say.” Wally reached for his cigarettes and Pat snatched them off the table. Wally slowly retracted his hand, folding it over the other. “Johnny doesn’t know about any of this.”

“You don’t think he can tell?” asked Pat.

“I don’t want him to know.”

“How come?”

“He’ll think it’s a load of bullshit. You know what he’s like. And all my money’s tied up in his business.”

“Why?”

“Cause otherwise I would have spent it all. After the ‘greatest hits’ package, we each got a big royalty payout and that’s what I bought into The Re:Public with. Mum thought it was a good idea.”

“Did you tell your mum? About the drinking?”

“Dad had psoriasis, too. When he was drinking, it got really bad. They had to amputate his toes. Mum knows. She never says anything about it, though. It reminds her of Dad, in the worst way.”

Tears started into Wally’s eyes. Pat panicked and turned to face the street. “Shit,” said Wally, tilting his head back and blinking, as if he had something caught in his eye.

“You know,” said Pat, still looking at the window of the clothing boutique across the street, “I know exactly how you’re feeling.”

“You do?” asked Wally. Pat gave him a single nod, as if that was as much admittance as he could manage.

“You came down into the bar the other day. I thought you’d figured it out.”

“Is that why you’re back?”

“It is.”

“How are you going, working in the pub?” Wally had picked up his lighter and was absently looking around the table for his cigarettes. Pat handed them back. He quickly lit up, politely turning his head and blowing the smoke to one side. “It’s driving me nuts.”

“I’m okay,” said Pat. “In the UK, I ended up in hospital. It helped me figure out that I really don’t want to die.”

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