Published by ACE - £7.99
ISBN 0 9526287 59
In'tor-fas, n. - a surface
or plane forming a common boundary between two parts:
a point of communication as between disciples: the surface of
seperation between phases.
Harry lowered the book he was reading onto his
chest and wondered for the umpteenth time why he had never taken
back the key from his ex-housemate. Then the sharper part of his
awareness focussed on the fact that Patrick was looking sheepish.
"Hi man," he replied smiling.
"Just thought I'd drop round." Patrick
flopped into the chair that was far too low for someone of his height.
Patrick wanted something and the game would
be to find out what it was before he asked. It went without saying
that a woman was involved. Not only that, but he was on his way
to see her. That could be the only explanation for him being dressed
in a Next suit in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.
"That's cool. Thought you'd died, or emigrated,
or something." Harry stretched out on the bed and looked him
"You're funny, just ain't been moving in the
same places," he said defiantly, daring Harry to challenge
"There is some Red Stripe or Brew." It
wasn't necessary to say where. Patrick got up and strolled out.
Closing his eyes against the afternoon sun. Harry
relaxed in his recumbent position and reflected on the relationship
with his best friend. They had grown up together, laughed together,
cried together and he had nursed Patrick through some very bad times.
Despite Patrick's many winning ways, he had a character defect,
a gene missing or some chronic psychological disorder that always
caused him to suffer pain at the hands of women. Pain that had him
writhing like a man set upon by a swarm of wasps.
Patrick was fully cognisant in all areas except
one. When the boys had a girlfriend or a woman, he had the woman.
He would be madly, passionately, and totally in love with the
woman. He would devote all his time, energy and money to the
woman. From the time they had discovered that girls could actually
be fun to be with, he had been like that. In short, he was what
most women called, ‘sweet'. But in the end he always got his ass
It was always Harry who picked up the pieces, convinced
him that there would be another ‘angel' round the corner, and she
would be even better than the one lost - eventually making him laugh
Patrick came running up the stairs and bounced
back into the room with two cans. He handed one to Harry then sat,
placing his can on the table. Harry sat up, leaned forward, exchanged
cans and smiled.
Patrick gave a noncommittal shrug.
Harry pulled the ring and a jet of foaming beer
hit him between the eyes, ran down his face, onto his chest and
downwards onto his pyjama trousers.
Patrick threw his hands into the air, looked at
the ceiling and said, "Dear Lord, sweet Jesus. You see how
a man can be so unrighteous, so backsliding and ungodly. So trapped
in the wicked ways of the world, that he would think that me,
his good friend, would give him a shakeup can of beer. Thank
you Lord, thank you for punishing him." He then fell on the
Harry glared at Patrick convulsing on the floor
and started to laugh also. Not at his friend's prank, nor at what
he was contemplating as retaliation. But in relief that Patrick
was getting back on form. After all, it wasn't that clever, you
can't expect a body to be really switched on at half past three
on a Sunday.
Patrick's little jollity had shed a lot of light
on the state of play. He had now recovered from her. She
didn't just burn his ass, he was damn near incinerated. Now, four
months later he was starting to crack jokes. Obviously the new
woman. But this wasn't Patrick's style. His style was to just
happen to turn up with a new woman on his arm. One that wore an
expensive dress and matching jewellery, that he had bought her.
So, where is she? What's the problem?
"You finished examining my plush pile carpet?"
Harry tried to sound angry.
"You should've seen your face." He was
still rolling around on the floor.
"Witty, very witty. You wanna get me a towel?"
Patrick got up, went to the bathroom, came back
with a hand towel. He had stopped laughing but tears were still
running down his cheeks. Harry busied himself, changing into a tracksuit
bottom, stripping the sheets and wiping beer off the wall. Patrick
looked pensive, then forced himself to relax. He sat back and said
very casually, "Want to go on a foursome on Thursday?"
"Well, look, there is this girl and, well,
we're going out for an Italian and she wants to bring her sister...
Well, you can make it a foursome."
"What's she like?"
"Her sister? Well, she's..."
"No." Harry expectantly leant over the
"Oh! She is brilliant! I mean the biz, man.
I tell you she is terrific, wait till you see her. She is beautiful,
I don't mean pretty, I mean beautiful, and she's..."
"Let's start with her name." Harry yawned.
Harry had a feeling of deja vu plus. She
had only been described as ‘very nice' and ‘great', yet he had only
known her for a couple of weeks before he moved out and they set
up home. Now in his eyes this Clare was all these things, yet he
wasn't flashing her about. What was the problem?
"So this Clare is a bit nice is she?"
"Nice?! Nice?! What's'matter with you?! Did
I say she was nice? She is..."
"Ya, but why do you want me to be with you,
surely her sister..."
"Look, Clare's sister doesn't like me."
Harry gave him a cutting glance. "Why not?
You are a likeable chap. Pour beer over people, mess up a man's
bed, lucky to be alive, but still likeable."
"Clare is white."
"Clare's sister doesn't like her going out
with a black guy and ..."
"Hasn't she met you yet?"
"And she won't 'til Thursday?"
Harry sat on the bed opposite his friend; leaning
forwards he placed both of his elbows on his knees then folded his
"Look mate," he said. "We went through
this crap when we were at school. If white people don't like black
people going out with other white people, that's tough! You are
going out with Clare, not the sister. If the sister don't like it,
tell her to fuck off."
"It's not that simple."
"It's quite simple, watch me. Fuck Off!
You can practise if you like, just say ‘Fuck Off'."
"Look. this is serious..."
"I agree. Telling someone to fuck off is serious."
"Will you stop fucking about!"
"Right emphasis, wrong words," Harry
"Will you listen to me," Patrick screamed.
"It's not that simple, because we're getting married!"
So this is what it feels like to be told that
your mother has been run over by a speeding train. Or that a Jumbo
has crashed into your house. I should have seen it coming. Just
like the beer, I should have seen it coming; ‘the biz', ‘terrific',
‘beautiful'. The writing was on the wall.
"Excuse me Patrick, while I get my chin off
the floor... why don't we start at the beginning, the very beginning."
"In the beginning, God created Heaven and
"Now will you stop fucking about?"
Patrick sat back in his chair, his face taking
on a wistful expression. "Well, I hired out one of our latest
photocopiers to this estate agent in Chelsea and a couple of days
later they phoned up saying they couldn't use it. Nothing wrong
with it, the instructions were too complicated, but this model is
a sophisticated bit of kit, it can..."
"Never mind the bleedin' machine, get on with
Patrick now hugged his knees and smiled off into
space. "Well, when I got there Clare was all by herself and
all the phones were going. So I sat down and answered some of the
calls, taking messages - good customer relations. I didn't get a
chance to show her how to use it, we were that busy." Patrick
smiled at the memory.
"Anyway, one of the partners and some of the
staff came in. There had been some kind of emergency and they were
really pleased that I helped out. So this partner said that after
I got the copier going he would buy me lunch."
Despite the years they had known each other. Harry
still found some of Patrick's habits extremely irritating; like
his fixation on drawing out and generally getting maximum mileage
from any tale he had to relate.
Patrick continued. "Clare hadn't been to lunch
so the partner - a nice guy - said to buy us lunch and put it on
her expenses. We just went to this little bistro and... I don't
know, we talked... we made a date, it kinda went on from there."
"How long ago was this?"
"'Bout four weeks."
God give me strength! "You're
having a laugh, ain't ya?!"
"No." Patrick looked sombre. "We
went to see Starlight Express," he explained.
"You're kidding? I heard that if you started
queuing for tickets when you were born, you would get to the box
office when you were about fifty."
"Yeah, but she's got contacts."
"Turbo terrific, you've got to check it out."
True to form Patrick had done things as he always
did them. He didn't ‘chat up' girls. He met them, spoke to them,
then fell in love. Still, zero to marriage in four weeks was going
some, even for him.
"She's a secretary?" He might as well
get all the relevant details.
"What? No man! She is a negotiator, that's
a cool job. I tell you man, when you meet her, you're gonna like
They had different tastes in women. Harry pulled
"Look Harry, I know you think this is on the
rebound and that we are moving too fast, but when you see her you'll
know that it isn't and that we aren't. I mean, she has got pure,
Harry knew from numerous experiences not to try
to dissuade Patrick from any venture. Doing that simply strengthened
his resolve. He also knew that Patrick tended to be somewhat overgenerous
in his description of women. One thing was now clear. Patrick didn't
want him to run interference. He wanted him to ride shotgun. The
plan of action was now simple: go along to this meal, check out
the lay of the land, then slowly but surely shut down this amour.
It was simply a matter of making him see sense. It needed to be
handled very carefully - Patrick wasn't dumb.
"So you've met this beautiful woman. Given
her a serious seeing-to and now you are going to get married?"
Harry said as naturally as he could.
"Actually, I haven't given her a seeing-to
as you call it. I love her! Do you know what love is?" Patrick
Harry adopted a calm impassive expression. "Let
me get this straight. So as to clarify the situation - leaving me
in no doubt of what you have implied... You haven't fucked her yet?!"
"This is no quick blagging, wham bam type
of woman. That's not my style anyway, I'm not you."
"Nice crocks." Harry said looking down
at Patrick's shoes.
"What? Oh yeah..."
"Hundred and sixty."
"Expensive! Did you try them on before you
"Don't be stupid, nobody buys a pair of shoes
without trying them on."
"Don't they?" Harry asked, grinning.
"Funny! Clare isn't a pair of shoes, so stop
taking the piss. Don't judge me by your standards."
Harry leaned sideways onto the sideboard and draped
an arm over it. He then crossed his legs and concentrated on the
floor. He was trying unsuccessfully to suppress a smile. "Why
haven't you slept with Clare yet?"
"We decided to wait till after we were married,"
Patrick answered as if that was a half-way reasonable explanation.
"How old is Clare?" Harry was still trying
not to laugh.
"Twenty-seven and still a virgin. World record,
"She's not a fucking virgin!" Patrick
Harry now rested his head on the headboard and
fixed his gaze on the ceiling. "Not a virgin, you say. Now
I can fully appreciate a woman who has hung on till Mr Right and
marriage comes along, saying no. However, someone who isn't a virgin
can't pull a stunt like that. That's what I call taking the piss."
"She isn't taking the piss! I said we
decided to wait."
Harry began to giggle. "You should remember
who the fuck you're talking to. I read that as meaning you tried
it on, she said wait! That to me is more than a little bit iffy.
I mean, if you're getting married anyway and she isn't a virgin,
what's there to wait for?"
"Look, it's very difficult to explain, she's..."
"Got a dose?" Harry helpfully suggested.
Patrick had Harry pinned to the bed with one hand
around his throat and the other a clenched fist waving in his face.
He had dived from his chair. All six-foot odd of him cleared the
coffee table and landed on Harry, before Harry realised he had moved.
"You're supposed to be my friend and all you
can do is take the piss!" Patrick said through clenched teeth.
Patrick was always sensitive about his women
- more so now, apparently. "Would you be so kind as to
get off me - please?" Harry gasped.
Patrick stood up but remained menacingly over Harry.
"You don't take anything or anyone seriously, all you do is
make jokes. I was going to ask you to be Best Man but now you can
"I accept. Now where were we before you turned
"The offer is withdrawn. All you do is take
the piss! Do you know why you do that? Because you don't have any
feelings." Patrick was still enraged.
Harry sat up massaging this neck. "I think
that I read somewhere that people in love get really touchy and
have tantrums. But my mother told me never to let men jump on me
in bed. So let this be the first and the last time you try to force
your affections on me."
They both started to laugh.
Harry became serious. "What's the complication
in you taking Clare to bed?"
"There isn't any complication."
"Let me put it this way; what's stopping you
getting into her knickers?"
Patrick shook his head, sighed then turned and
walked around the table and sat down. "I'm not being sensitive.
Don't say things like I'm trying to get into her knickers, because
it's not like that. Sure I wouldn't mind but she says she wants
to wait. For her I would wait a long time."
"I've got that so far but what I'm asking
is why does she want to wait?"
"As I said it's a bit complex and she hasn't
fully explained it to me. But from what I can make out, her sister
has been telling her lots of shit about black men and..."
"Big willies or woman beating?"
Patrick gave Harry a long hard stare then said
slowly. "I am trying to explain something that is very difficult
to explain and also very important to me, and you're still joking.
Please Harry, will you be serious? This is really important!"
"Obviously it's ‘big willies', and I can see
why you are going along with this no sex bit - putting off the day
"Fuck it! I am going! You are some friend,
you know that?"
In a consoling tone Harry said. "Look man,
don't worry about it. Size doesn't matter."
Patrick fixed him with another threatening stare.
Harry relented. "All right, all right, I'll
Patrick looked unconvinced.
"I will... really." Harry said solemnly.
"Her sister sort of said that black guys only
check white women 'cos it raises our self-esteem and then we dump
"And Clare believes this?!" Harry asked
"Of course not!"
"But still she wants to wait till you're married
so that you don't dump her?"
"I wouldn't exactly put it like that."
"How would you put it, exactly?"
Patrick shrugged. "Not like that."
"OK, never mind, let's just say that due to
some of the things her sister has said, Clare is a little concerned
about premarital sex with you, OK?" Patrick nodded. "And
you don't mind waiting to prove her sister wrong?"
"Something like that."
"How long do you have to wait?"
"We're getting married the end of May."
"We are talking of May next year, of course?"
"No, this May."
Harry slowly shook his head then said. "Correct
me if I'm wrong Patrick. But I do believe that we are in April,
the middle of April to be precise. And my 200 IQ computer-like brain
concludes that we are talking of you being married in six weeks
time. Am I accurate in this analysis?"
"I am fucking serious. Are you getting married
in six weeks' time?"
"I know it sounds too soon, but we love each
"Sounds too soon? It is too
"We want to get married now, why wait?"
Harry knew that it was pointless pursuing this
any further; Patrick's mind was made up and it would stay that way
until something unpleasant happened. "Tell me about this big
"She isn't her big sister. She's twenty-four
and a right bitch from what I hear. From the moment Clare told her
about me she has been bending her ear."
"This garrulous little sister got a name?"
"Emma. She hasn't met me yet, but she sounds
as if she hates me."
"Tell me more."
"I could tell she had started because Clare
started asking, in a roundabout way, some really dumb questions.
Like: did I ever get so angry that I hit a girl and did I have any
children or ever gotten a girl pregnant and lots of stupidness like
"You mean you felt the force of this unseen,
unmet sister... I am being serious."
"Are there any more like her?"
Patrick looked very uncomfortable. "She's
got an elder sister but she is married and lives abroad."
Patrick was hiding something. "Where?"
"Married to a white South African by any chance?"
"I think so."
Harry clasped his hands behind his head and lay
on the bed. "This story gets better by the minute. Clare has
a little sister who ain't happy about her being with you because
you're black. She also has a big sister who is married to a South
African and actually lives there. Can the situation get any worse?
Can we discover any more intrigue? Let us find out, shall we, children?
What've her parents got to say for themselves?"
"I haven't met them yet."
"Are you fucking drunk?!" Harry
sat bolt upright "You can't get married to someone in six weeks
time when you haven't met her parents. If I had a daughter and some
guy just turned up and said he wanted to marry her in six weeks,
I'd tell him to go jump! Do they know that you are black?"
"Clare hasn't told them yet." Patrick
"Hasn't she? Well they are in for one hell
of a shock, aren't they? And an even bigger one when she tells them
it's in six weeks' time. That's why she is doing it, isn't it? Not
giving them time to react and protest. If I were getting married
I would be fucking annoyed, I mean, ultra irate, if the girl was
ashamed to introduce me to her parents."
"Calm down will you. It's not like that. I
said it was complicated, didn't I? True, Clare isn't sure how her
parents are going to take it but we are going to see them on Saturday.
They know about me but they don't know I am black. That's why I'll
meet Emma on Thursday."
"Do they know that Clare is getting married
"No, we will tell them on Saturday."
"Patrick, you won't like this but it's got
to be said. I think Clare is sneaky. What she is doing is this:
on Thursday, Emma will meet you. You have to show her that you may
be black but you don't bite the heads off babies. Hopefully she
will like you, then on Saturday when you meet the parents, Clare
will have Emma as an ally instead of an enemy. Is that right?"
"So, asshole, why do you have to prove
that you are all right?"
"All future sons-in-law have to prove they
"Don't be obtuse, you know what I mean. And
I know what you want me to do. You want me to help impress her.
Show her that we know how to eat with knives and forks. Which wine
to order with which dishes and generally entertain her with witty
and stimulating conversation. That's what you want me to do, isn't
it?... Isn't it?!"
"That's what they call friendship."
"No, that's what they call prostitution!"
"Harry, Harry, you are taking this too seriously,
it's not like that. You've been out with white girls. Their families
always get a bit tense. It takes time for them to check you out."
"Yeah, but that was when I was in my teens.
I remember I always had to try so hard to show that I wasn't really
that different. I remember I always felt a right prat!"
"It's not the parents that are the problem,
it's the sister. She don't know me from Adam, yet she don't like
me. All I am gonna say is: ‘This is me.' If she don't like me, she
don't like me. We're still getting married!"
"OK, I'll buy that, but why haven't you met
her parents before? That's the most important part, isn't it?"
"Yes, but it's Emma I've to sort out, she
is the hassle. I am sure Clare hasn't told me the full story, but
this Emma must have some weird ideas about black people."
Harry became thoughtful. "Talking of black
people, have you told your mother and sister yet?"
"Well, not yet. Not till we have sorted out
this Emma business. They won't be a problem."
"Sometimes I think you walk around with your
head up your ass. Where are you getting married?"
Patrick looked wounded by the criticism. "That's
all sorted out, a registry office near where she lives."
"Where is that?"
"Well, it's near where her parents live in
Berkshire. She's got a flat in Dulwich."
Harry couldn't believe his ears. "All sorted
out, is it? I don't see how anything can be sorted out till both
sets of parents are involved."
"Look man, it's all sussed. We've worked out
everything: hall, booze, money, catering, everything! They won't
have to do a thing."
"From my twenty-five years on this planet,
I might not have learned much, but the one thing I know is this:
parents love to get involved in their kids' weddings. You remember
Linus's, the two mothers fighting over who was going to do the curry
"Yeah." They both laughed.
"Now that we have mentioned it, may I be so
bold as to ask, who is doing your curry goat?"
Patrick looked at the picture on the left wall,
then found something compelling to examine six inches above Harry's
head. Then he turned his attention to a microscopic dot on the dresser
three feet to his right. "Wasn't planning on having any goat,"
Harry leaned across the table. "What I am
about to say is serious, it is not a joke... If you don't have goat,
ribs and some fried chicken at your wedding, not only will I not
be your Best Man, I won't be there."
"Dead serious. I've never heard of a Jamaican
wedding where there isn't goat. Your mother would die of shame.
Come to think of it, she probably wouldn't go either."
"Stop being silly. It's just that Clare said
that her family don't like spicy foods. I thought we wouldn't bother
with goat and stuff."
"They don't like spicy food? Shame ain't it,
they don't have to fucking eat it, do they? It's simple, no curry
goat and rice at Patrick Murphy's wedding - no Harry Wilson, get
"You're not joking are you?"
"Too fucking right."
"I know it's traditional, but I didn't think
anyone would mind. After all, there will be plenty of other food.
Do you really think people will mind?"
"I think you are turning into a right porkhead.
They won't mind - they'll cross the street when they see you coming,
won't ever talk to you again, treat you like you don't exist. Your
name will be dirt, but they won't mind."
"Come on, you're exaggerating."
"Has this bird erased your memory of black
people? No system, they might forgive. No jump up, they might forgive.
No punch, they..."
"We'll have punch."
"Real Jamaican Rum Punch or English
orange water punch?"
"I don't know how to make real rum punch."
"Your mother does. As I was saying, no real
rum punch they might, just might forgive. No goat, and your name
will be lower than a dog's arse."
"You are winding me up."
"No, just pointing out a few facts."
"I see. I'll think about it."
Harry now realised that somewhere along the line
he had become pro this marriage. This was silly, all things considered,
plus he hadn't even met Clare. This shift must have come about when
he learned that Emma had implied that his friend wasn't good enough
for her sister. He really had to distance himself and put a definite
stop to this wedding.
"OK, what do you want me to do on Thursday?"
"I don't want you to do anything, I don't
want you to impress her. It's just that I'll find it difficult to
handle both of them. Just turn up and simply chat, that will be
"Bullshit! You want me there to slap down
Emma if she gets out of order!"
"I don't want you to antagonise her, just
be your normal self."
"That's what I mean, give her a hard time
if she gets naughty."
"Harry, she is gonna be my sister-in-law.
Please don't start anything, all right?"
"All right, I will be the model of politeness
and civility. What's the dress?"
"Casual - you know a sports jacket and tie."
"You don't want to impress, just dress in
a sports jacket and tie," Harry laughed.
"It's a classy place we are going to, OK?"
"How many pounds classy?"
"Sixty should be enough."
"Sixty notes for spaghetti bolognese?! I could
live for a year on sixty pounds."
"Harry you are starting to fuck about again.
We'll pick them up in your car, then go for a pleasant evening,
"We will go in my car, will we? My twelve
miles per gallon Jaguar?"
"We can't go in my company van!" Patrick
"It's not a van, is it? It's an Estate car."
Harry pointed out the obvious. "But we won't argue, we'll go
in my car."
"Clare will be glad to hear that."
"You have told her about this?"
"It was kinda like her idea, I've told her
"Have you now? All good, I hope?"
"Good things? About you? You must be kidding?!
I'm going to see her now and tell her you'll come."
"The things I do for friends. Don't worry
mate, give me a bell later and arrange the time. I'll be dressed
smartly casual, and ready to ride shotgun."
"See you later."