Dennis is a case alright. Big, thick-set, yellow hair thinning on top now he’s hitting forty. I’ve known him for years; first when his exasperated mum hauled him into the Centre hoping to get him fixed and him trailing behind with a wicked grin tweaking his mouth in which was stuffed the Mars Bar he’d half-inched from our shop. Dennis was a LAD. Any smarter and he’d have been real trouble but, his style cramped by what his dad had referred to as ‘defective head-gear’ before clearing off to leave his mum with it all, he was limited to shouting, kicking, and swearing when life didn’t give up its treasures on demand. The shouting would come in handy later, it turned out. Anyway once, when we’d been talking about him moving on to a college course, he suddenly remarked that we could have tea together, him and me, and beamed brightly like a puppy that suddenly found a way to get the treat out of the keep-your-dog-entertained-all-day dog toy. I kept a blank face while I processed this. I know him, he could do disingenuous and, never mind I’m old enough to be his gran, we also have a professional relationship. So I thanked him politely and said no because we worked together. Dennis nodded, seemed to consider it in a mature and reflective manner, then offered his next best shot – could he have sex with me then? Naturally, I got him out of my office and up the stairs to the activities room faster than a rat up a drain with a flue brush behind it but I’ve dined out on his cheek ever since. Now he’s in a band. It’s a punk band so what’s it matter that no-one can play a note or sing? They make the loudest noise you ever heard, screech incoherent lyrics at their microphones and somehow get return gigs at places where people should know better. Someone even did a documentary about them and the clips feature pained pieces to camera about the band’s ‘enthusiasm’ (read ‘ear-splitting racket’) and relaxed approach (nobody knows if they’ll all turn up) so now they have a fan club. I saw Dennis back at the Centre the other week and he didn’t remember me. He was with his mum and Jennifer, the current object of his desire whose own mum was facing their recent engagement with more resilience than I think I could have mustered. Dennis gave me one of his face-cracking grins as I passed, displaying a gap where two of his front teeth were supposed to be. He’d fallen over the drums and fetched up under the amp rig to loud cheers from the audience who either thought it was part of the act or had been consuming the same cheap hooch Dennis had thrown down his neck before going on. He said something incomprehensible while his mum inspected the far wall and Jennifer crept further up under his arm in solicitous ownership.

©suzanne conboy-hill 2010

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