Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – A Novel

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25.

Sally was also staying in the backpackers, and she preceded Pat up the stairs. He watched the steady swing of her denim-wrapped hips as the little light from the fire-escape clung to the brim of the big white hat she carried in her hand. He tried to formulate what to say to her about Stevie, but found nothing.

“Sally -” he began as she put a hand on the balustrade at the first floor. She turned, her eyelids drooping from the combination of a late night, hard work and a few drinks.

“Huh?”

“Can I talk to you for a minute?”

She waited for him to make it to the landing. The pale ovular disc of her face made the ratchet in his guts crank that little bit tighter.

“I’m a bit worried about something,” he began, spreading his hands in front of him like he was playing an invisible piano-accordion. No notes were coming out.

“Johnny and me, we’re a bit worried about Stevie.” Things are so much easier when you’re angry, he thought to himself.

“He’s alright,” she said, waving his concern away. Which annoyed him.

“Well, he’s kinda not. He’s Johnny’s son and he’s a bit like a brother to me, and, we’re kinda protective of him.” Pat immediately regretted the second ‘kinda’. It made him sound tentative and apologetic.

“What do you think I’m going to do to him?”

“It’s what you’re not going to do that’s more at issue.”

“I don’t understand.” The elegant lilt of her English accent made him feel as if the conversation was moving beyond his control.

“We don’t want you to give him the impression you’re interested in him if you’re not interested in him,” Pat said finally, exasperated.

“Oh,” she said, making a show of understanding what he was getting at. “That’s what you wanted to say.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Of course not. I’ll be very sensitive to him. And to you, and his father.” She had put her hands behind her back and moved her head solemnly up and down as she spoke.

“Much appreciated,” he said, putting his hand on the balustrade and heading up towards his floor.

“I thought you were going to ask me something else,” she said as she walked away down the hall, the barb of suggestion catching in his ear.

 **

Pat lay in his bed. His eyes were open, reaching out into the dark. He had hours of night ahead of him, which made for a good sleep. The problem was, he wasn’t tired. He still hadn’t managed to fully process the excitement of the four idiots at The Punter’s Club and Sally seemed to have cut through the sexual paralysis brought on by the Xanax.

He lay on his back, shuffling recollections of the evening. Standing in the alley, running after the taxi, Johnny breaking up the ice in his drink with a frustrated stare. Wanting to tear holes in those four guys and settling for their IDs; Sally sitting on the bar, laughing. Barroom lights burnishing the blonde enamel of her hair.

He got up, pulled on a jumper and took up his towel. He softly pulled open the door to his room and stepped out onto the cold linoleum of the hallway, powdered with drifts of dim yellow light. He softly padded towards the stairwell, towel around his waist like a skirt as if he was heading for a shower.

The T.V. chattered idiotically into the empty common room at the other end of the building, light from the picture shimmering on the floor like a pool of radioactive water.

Pat walked past the illuminated kitchen and into the computer room, sitting down behind the desk. The computer was switched on; wallpaper of the Eiffel Tower leapt up when he wiggled the mouse. He clicked on the Internet Explorer icon and listened to the silence of the second floor, to be certain no one was walking around.

The computer sat on a desk towards the back of the small room, facing the doorway. Light from the screen bounced off the window behind him and scattered into grainy illumination along the junctures between wall and ceiling. Pat typed ‘First Time Videos’ directly into the address bar.

It was essentially a music video of various beautiful young women, between the ages of 20 to 30, masturbating. There was something about it that seemed personal, private and intimate. It made him feel less ashamed of himself.

He sensed what was probably the beginning of an erection, but felt like the stirring of hope.

“Want a cup of tea?” Sally asked. She stood in the doorway, wearing pyjama pants and the singlet she had worked in, now obviously without a bra.

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