Over half term back at home, I receive a small package in the post.
‘Someone’s got nice handwriting,’ says mum.
Opening it, three recognisable letters fall out. There’s a message attached. “Thought you might like these back.” And a photo, of a tanned smiling Venus, under an umbrella, honey hair to her shoulders, in a pair of loose fitting black trousers, gathered at the ankle above high heels, bare brown midriff and plunge black top under a short red jacket, standing by a suitcase outside “The Acropolis Taverna.” On the wall, the clock reads nine o’ clock.
What to make of it?
After re-reading my letters, cringing, I rip and hurl them into the wastepaper basket. The photo I pop onto the windowsill; propped up. For now.
Back at Walnut Avenue, listening to some Beatles, the phone goes.
“…nothing to get hung about…”
‘Robert! Alors! At last.’
I’m caught. The picture of Venus on the windowsill mocks me as I tune in to the Femme Fatale.
‘Ze sing ees, I’ve got two tickets to see “A Chorus Line” in London and I was wondering…’
I mean obviously it’s a really stupid idea. Though Clive the Barbarian doesn’t agree. Find myself turning away from the window, instead saying, ‘I don’t have anywhere to stay.’
‘We’ve a small apartement in Chelsea. My ‘usband uses eet when ‘e flies back at –‘ow you say? - ungodly hours.’
‘Where’s he now?’
‘Brussels. For anozer week.’
Hmm. Clive’s grunting in my ear. ‘Where shall I meet you?’
She giggles down the phone.
I spend the journey down to London with my armpits leaking. Am I immoral? Is there such a thing? Or is the Femme Fatale? Or are we just being consenting adults. Primordial. Back to nature. And what will it be like? Am I frightened or excited? Or both?
The Railway Tavern in Drury Lane’s smoky, noisy, busy with commuter types and office sorts in suits, others in paint spattered overalls, women with brassy hair, raucous laughs. Theatregoers. I’m in my denims, a collarless shirt, a pair of trainers.
The Femme Fatale has hair scraped back in a bun. ‘Robert, ‘ow thrilling.’ She wears dark tights under a tartan skirt, high heels, a taut turtleneck sweater over melons.
‘What are you drinking?’ I have to lean in to her ear to make myself heard in the hubbub.
We sip G and T’s, then leave for the theatre.
‘Do you know anyzing about eet?’ she asks, taking my arm.
‘Only that it’s about an audition for dancers.’
‘I love eet. “Singular Sensation”…well, I won’t spoil it for you.’ Is it the thought of “A Chorus Line” that has my heart hammering and my sweat glands leaking? Or the bed in the flat that’s waiting in Chelsea?
The foyer is crowded. We hit the bar and I order further drinks for the interval.
Later we’re on the Tube. I’m full of the spectacle that “A Chorus Line” has been. “…Can’t forget, won’t regret, what I did for love…”
‘That’s possibly the best musical I’ve ever seen. Just goes to show, a simple idea, brilliantly performed makes for a special experience.’
‘Ze night ees yet young,’ breathes the Femme Fatale leaning in. ‘I’m looking forward to a tours de force myself.’
The flat’s in a modern block with a lift to the fifth floor. The front room has a view of London lights over rooftops. Smells fusty. ‘Ze bedroom’s in ‘ere,’ she says, eyelids fluttering, pulling me towards a door. It’s got wallpaper with big flowers. The bed has some kind of slinky material.
Too late to stop now. No strings sex. Honest. Straightforward. No regrets. Consenting adults. It’s not what taking the mushrooms suggested to me, but Clive seems set on it. And so does she. Why not?
The role of Sex God beckons once more for Clive.
The Femme Fatale’s undressing. She’s not as slim as I’d first thought and not in bra and panties, but in a corset thing that must be holding bulges in. And stockings. A belt. Who’s the Sex God? And then, before I’ve time to pull at my shirt, she’s all over me. It’s like an unprovoked attack. She’s screwing her mouth over mine, and her hands are clawing at the zip on my trousers. Moaning. A wild cat.
I’m a mouse. Need to assert myself a bit. I’m the Sex God here. Right?
Wrong. I’m squashed, pummeled. Clawed. Eventually I manage to pull away, enough to get my breath. There’s a madness in her eyes. Am I expected to tame this tiger? Clive seems up for it at least.
I pull off my shoes and socks. And she’s over me again, burying me in her chest, gripping my shirt forcing me to lift my arms, move away from gorging. I’m pinned to the bed; she’s rubbing Clive. He doesn’t need any help at the moment thank you.
I manage to grab another breather. Take off trousers, hopping round as Clive beats like a drum against my boxers. Let me out.
The Femme Fatale now reclines on the bed. The Naked Ape comes face to face with Modern Cosmopolitan Older Woman. I hurry to take off the contraptions she wears. All fingers and thumbs I struggle with belt and stockings, but the corset thing’s impossible. It’s got a clasp down under. I have to scrabble round her Love Tunnel to undo it. ‘’Urry up.’ I’m not sure how impressed she’s being with my part as Sex God. ‘Merde! Let me.’
It eventually comes off and she spills out, naked; cigar butt nipples, wrinkled rim, melons less firm than I’d imagined. I don’t have any time to dwell on them because she’s already pulling me down again, and she’s releasing Clive. The beast from within. ‘You naughtee boy,’ she pants.
If I don’t assert myself, and soon, Clive’s going to explode.
But I’m powerless; she’s already spread her legs and grabbed Clive by the scruff of the neck, no messing, into her Love Tunnel. ‘Oooh!’ It’s a cavern. She growls like a caged lion and pulls me in hard against cave walls. Clive’s out without his umbrella. Singing in the Rain; and I’m pumping horizontal press-ups. Too late to stop now. ‘Oh!’
And she’s not stopping. ‘’Arder!’ She’s pulling me in and grinding against me, and she doesn’t care that Clive’s become a spent force. In and out, in and out. It’s like some kind of grotesque series of exercises. And I’m useless at all that army stuff. Time for a breather. Be a selfish bastard. That should stop her groaning.
But she’s having none of it. She’s going to rub Clive down ready for another attempt. Really? Her hand and mouth are frantic. Is this what all Sex Gods have to go through? No strings. Heathen.
And what’s more amazing is that Clive’s already looking more perky. Like a snake uncoiling. OK then.
Come on Sex God.
‘Oh Robert! You naughtee naughtee boy.’
I’m roused again at five to find Clive under attack once more. ‘Wake up, Robert!’ Oh fuck. Not again. On the hour for the past six I’ve been woken to the same thing. ‘Wake up.’ The Femme Fatale’s insatiable. Or is it just that I’m useless at it? I mean, she’s exhausted every position in French history but keeps coming back for more. Clive’s on the ropes.
She’s on top of me again, swaying like some sort of ageing wobbling limbo dancer, Clive close to buckling. Her melons have got bigger if anything, more water than honeydew, but now when they swing over me, I’m not interested. I’ve OD’d. Please let this be over soon.
I never want the part of Sex God again.
I creep out at first light. My mouth feels as if it’s done a few rounds with Frank Bruno, and Clive is KO’d, bruised and battered from ten rounds in the Love Tunnel. I’ve a headache; feel like shit. My own fault for being a selfish bastard. Listening to Clive.
But I think too of the Mouse in Brussels. No wonder he looked so tired and beaten down. I’ve probably done him a favour. He might not need to perform for a week or so. Lucky fucker.
I begin the long walk to the station. Clive’s out cold.
I pull my coat round. No. I can’t act this role.
The Beatles – Strawberry Fields Forever.
My first Beatles track…I know my brother is horrified there isn’t more. Obviously I do like The Beatles; think “Revolver’ is an excellent LP, and a remarkable transition from those pop hits like “Help!” and “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” And of course, “Sgt Peppers” is, in my humble opinion, the biggest game-changing album of all time. My caveat is not to argue that they were great, but that in my teenage years I simply preferred The Beach Boys. There. I’ve said it!
Still, “Strawberry Fields” stands out for me as THE psychedelic landmark song. A proper trip down memory lane….
Cast from “A Chorus Line.” - What I Did For Love.
Which remains for me the best musical I’ve seen. The concept’s simple and Marvin Hamlisch’s music is fab. I was first introduced to it by my colleague Phil, with whom I collaborated on several home-grown musicals back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Again, an illustration of how music can influence life and help make new friends. Without him I wouldn’t have engaged so much with the modern musical, or been exposed to jazz fusion. I also learned a lot about teaching observing him, and the expert way he dealt with things. A smile, a joke, a passion that no one could doubt. The way forward that I tried oh so hard to emulate.
About the Author: Richard Parsons
I’ve been fascinated with writing since I was a youngster; creative writing in English lessons was my favourite part of school life along with swapping music with mates or playing sport.
When I decided to quit teaching after many happy years, I applied for and won a scholarship to do a Masters at Plymouth Uni in Creative Writing. Drama was really the main string to my bow, but I soon became hooked on the idea of crafting short stories, and, eventually, the longer form of narrative. After graduating with a distinction, I cut my teeth writing for women’s magazines, but this was never in my own “voice” and was always formulaic. “Given Circumstances” is the real me.
Hope you enjoy it!