Sunday, 9 May 2010

Unexpected Behaviour.

When I got to Shirley's there was a lot of bustle; the preparations for the town hall party were being run from the bar.
There were about five crates on the jeep, two of rum and three of Scotch. She sent one of the men out to unload, then stopped and looked at me properly for the first time.
When our eyes met, she smiled, and I felt a stirring that had nothing to do with 'good turns' such as booze-hopping from the depot.
All at once she was busy again and I was left drifting. I couldn't leave it at that.
"Shirley? Anything else I can do for you?"
"We'll see. The dance is at eight."
"See you there then?"
She looked a little flustered. And not a little pleased.
"Yes. Now unless you've got any skill with bunting, lose yourself!"

Which I did.
I went back to my old hut by the airfield, the one with the plumbing for twenty and the peace and quiet.
Time to take myself in hand.
My demob sports jackets were in good shape; I chose the light fawn-coloured one, and pulled out a pair of gray-blue slacks.
Then to the showers. Ten minutes later, after a lukewarm hosing, I shaved. It didn't matter that I was strolling about naked. The big old Nissen Huts were deserted, apart from my Alsatian wandering about. Her name? Dog. A dog called Dog.
Anyway, I dressed and put on some sort of Italian cologne I'd traded off an Italian officer for cigarettes when we'd had a few POW trustees doing the cleaning back when I was trained.

I was definitely looking smarter than usual when, at a quarter to eight, I slung myself into the Jeep, jammed it into gear and set off for town.

As I passed Shirley's I stopped and went onto the veranda. It was open. Jack was behind the bar.
"The boss in?"
"Who, miss Shirley? No baas, she's gone to the dance."
"Okay Jack, thanks."
The town hall was only a couple of streets up in the square. As I turned off the engine, I could hear the sounds of laughter, music and conversation coming from the hall.
I went in.
The people were gathered in the middle of the dance floor, all clapping.
And in the middle was Shirley.
Dancing with Max Keiser. They were really cutting the rug.
As the tune ended, Keiser spotted me and grinned.
"Hello Billy."
The grin stayed just long enough to be a sneer, as I held his gaze. I heard myself saying,
"Hello Max. You're a little off course aren't you?"
"I don't think so."
He turned and looked at Shirley.
"I think I made what is called a happy landing."
"A happy landing is one you can walk away from...."
The grin vanished. The scar above the eye glowed under the lights. Then Shirley spoke up.
"So you two are old flying buddies? Come on. Let's have a drink and you can tell me all about it."
So she walked us over to the bar, one on each arm.

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