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Authors: Bill Naughton

Alfie

BOOK: Alfie
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Alfie

B
ILL
 N
AUGHTON

BOOK ONE

Money is everything

‘Alfie,’ she said, ‘are you starting all over again?’

It was Siddie, my regular Thursday night bint, a married woman of twenty-nine, so she said, but she could be thirty-two or -three, or even thirty-five topweight, and quite a fair bit of grumble, clean as a nut, a trifle on the leggy side for my fancy, with muscles on her calves, but she’s got this beautiful chest, and she’s a handsome dresser, and a good speaker. In fact, a woman you can take anywhere, so what more do you want for three or maybe four vodka-and-tomato juices once a week, and every other round she stands her corner into the bargain, slipping the money to me under the table.

‘What about it if I am?’ I said.

Know what, she’s only putting the idea into my mind, hoping it’ll take root. I mean I’ve no idea of starting anything until I hear her mention it. We’d had it off on the back seat, see, stripped down a bit for the job, and when we’ve done I get out to water the old geranium 
against the offside rear wheel (I’ve been pinting it, see) and generally unjangle myself, and then I put on my jacket and slip in front into the driver’s seat, not forgetting to give her a last cuddle just to show I done it all out of love, and not lust, when blow me down if she ain’t inciting me all over again. Well, in for a penny in for a pound, I say, so I’ve took out my big white handkerchief and folded it carefully over my left lapel. I was wearing a navy-blue lightweight suit, in a material called Tonik, made by Dormeuil, and I didn’t want it spoiling. I don’t care whether a bird uses Max Factor Mattfilm or Outdoor Girl from Woolworth’s, if she starts purring up against your lapel, it won’t look the better for it.

‘Suppose the police were to come along,’ she said. They never come round there and she knows it – she’s only putting that bit in to stir up excitement.

‘Let ’em come,’ I said, ‘the doors is locked and the windows all steamed up. It’s like an igloo in here.’ It was too. We were parked in this quiet little hidden away spot near the Thames at Blackfriars in this Consul de luxe 375, and Fords have never improved on that model, but they did steam up easy. ‘’Ere, pull this rug over you, Siddie,’ I said, ‘just to be on the safe side.’

‘Mind you don’t ladder my stocking with your ring,’ she said.

‘Steady up,’ I tell her, ‘I ain’t no contortionist.’ It’s not my joints I’m thinking of, it’s my jacket. I don’t want it messing up. I know I should have took it off, but it’s too late now. You break your clutch at a time like that and you can spoil the whole thing for yourself, if you’re 
sensitive, like I am. She starts this jockeying about. I must say she’s got a handsome chest – I never knew a bird with such clavicles or whatever you call them. And talk about a cleavage! – it’s like the Rotherhithe Tunnel. She’s Jayne Mansfield on the surface and Mick McManus underneath.

Now just as I’m manoeuvring a particular dodgy spot (she’s got no mercy this Siddie), I suddenly hear this great loud blast in my ear.

‘What’s up, Alfie?’ she cries out.

‘Get your bloody great knee offa the steering-wheel,’ I yell at her.

‘I can’t!’ she cries. ‘I can’t move! I’m stuck!’ That’s the worst of these women with muscular legs, they go so far then they can’t get back. I think they must have over-developed cartilages or something. Anyway I give her knee a good belt with my hand and knock it off, and the horn stops.

‘I got the cramp in my thigh,’ she said. ‘Sorry.’

‘I’ve told you before to be careful where you’re putting your leg, Siddie,’ I said. I open the door and get out and kind of shake and air myself. I do hate that sticky feeling you get when there’s an interruption.

‘I was only trying to be helpful,’ she said.

‘I can help myself,’ I said. ‘’Ere, what time did your old man say he’d be waiting for you at the station at Purley?’

‘Oh, never mind him.’

‘That’s just who I am going to mind,’ I said. The way these birds talk about their husbands these days. ‘Never 
spoil a good thing. That’s something you women can’t get into your nuts. Come on now, enough’s as good as a feast.’

I was sorry I’d let her get me started. It’s pure greed really. I think it must come from all those years you were longing for it and they wouldn’t let you have any. And now you can’t bear to let an opportunity go by.

Well, once Siddie sees there’s nothing further going she gets out of the car and starts tidying herself up. I didn’t look too closely at her because I find that dressing lark can set me off again. I mean they can say what they want about the female form divine and all that sort of caper, but if you ask me I reckon three parts of the charm of a woman is her clothes. Silk petticoats, suspenders being fastened over a nice thigh, nice black lacy bras, and things like that interest me much more than a great big woman would, stretched out naked on a bed. I know this might sound kinky, but I believe it’s dead normal.

‘You soon changed your tune,’ she said.

‘That horn put me off,’ I said, ‘if you want to know.’

I must admit I do hate a din at a time like that. She begins to pull her stockings and straightens the back seams, and I had to admit that her legs looked real good. Then she took the white handkerchief out of my lapel.

‘Don’t forget your napkin,’ she said. I took it from her and rolled it up and started doing my toilet. I’ve got my own little system. First I wet it and wipe all the lipstick off my face. It’s surprising how clean you can get yourself with a bit of spit and a white handkerchief.

‘Know what I thought, Alfie,’ she said, ‘when I first saw you put your handkerchief over your shoulder?’

‘What did you think?’

‘I thought you were going to take out your fiddle and play it,’ she said.

‘Well I did – didn’t I?’ I said. ‘I come from a musical family.’ I find with women it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it. And if I get one of my comical strokes I can make most women laugh. The fact is, women don’t expect you to be funny – all they want to know is, do you want them to laugh. They’ll bleeding laugh. You’ve only to look at these Palladium comedians to know that. Then I take her bikini briefs out of my pocket and throw them to her. ‘Mind you don’t catch cold!’ I shout.

Next I start going over my suit very carefully with this handkerchief, after I’ve got all the lipstick off my face. I could hear Siddie laughing away to herself and I thought:
she’ll go home happy
. It struck me that I’d done her old man a real good turn, although I’d have a job making him see it. It’s a funny thing, but you won’t get one husband in ten feels any thanks to the wife’s fancy man for the happiness he brings to the marriage.

She’d been dead glum when I met her and I’d listened to all her problems and then got her laughing. Here, now that’s a good tip for any man: if you want to
make
a married woman, the first thing to do is to get her laughing. You’d be surprised how many of them are in need of a good laugh. It don’t strike the husbands. Except the ones who think they’re comedians. A woman told me she once went paralysed down one side of her 
face forcing herself to laugh at her old man’s jokes what she’d heard two million times. Yes, you make a married woman laugh and you’re halfway there with her. Course it don’t work with a single bird. It’ll set you off on the wrong foot. You get one of them laughing and you don’t get nothing else.

When I’d wiped my face and my suit down with the hanky I roll it up into a little ball and polish my shoes with it, then throw it away. That costs me two bob a time, but I find it’s well worth it in the long run, the explanations it saves. And it’s more hygienic.

‘All right now, Siddie?’ I said.

‘I’m all right,’ she said. ‘What about you?’

‘I’ll do,’ I say, stretching myself out a bit and getting my jacket sitting properly. ‘Now what about next Thursday?’

‘Same place, same time, suits me.’

‘Right,’ I say, ‘back into the car and I’ll run you to Clapham Junction.’

She puts her arm round me under my jacket and presses her finger on my backbone and runs it down inside the back of my trousers and at the same time gives me a kiss.

‘Do you really love me, Alfie?’ she said. That finger on the bone works if a bloke’s in that mood but if he ain’t in it he couldn’t care no more than fly-in-the-air. I’ve yet to meet the woman who don’t ask me that after it’s all over.

‘Course I do.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Certain to positive.’

‘I’ve got a feeling you don’t – not in your heart.’

‘All right then, I don’t. I can’t win any way with you.’ I got the torch and shone it carefully around inside the car just to make sure everything was all right. I’m very tidy in my habits. ‘Now get back in the car, darling, we don’t want to keep your poor husband waiting at Purley.’

‘He won’t mind,’ she said, ‘he’s used to it.’

If there’s one thing puts me off marriage it’s married women.

‘Know what, Siddie,’ I said as we drove off, ‘I think we should change our rendezvous, just in case he chances to follow you.’

‘Follow me!’ said Siddie, ‘why it would never even occur to that husband of mine that any other man would want to take me out.’

‘That’s the mistake all you married women make,’ I said. ‘You think just because your husbands was clot enough to marry you, they don’t see nothing. Where d’you tell him you was going?’

‘I said I was going to the pictures with Olive.’

‘What pictures?’

‘Oh just the pictures.’

‘Nah, never be vague like that, Siddie. That plants suspicion.’

It’s no wonder there’s all these broken homes and marriages on the rocks and divorce about in these days, with women so careless. It distresses me it do. I don’t know what it is about love that goes to a woman’s head but it seems they lose all sense of responsibility once 
they start having a little affair. I offered her a Polo mint. ‘Here, suck one of these, Siddie,’ I said, ‘so he don’t smell your breath.’

‘I don’t care if he does smell it,’ she said.

I can’t stand it when a woman talks like that – no consideration for other people’s feelings. ‘Now don’t be like that, Siddie,’ I said, ‘be human. You and me are having a good time ain’t we? Now why should we hurt that poor geezer. He ain’t doing us no harm. Why can’t you keep him happy in his ignorance.’

‘All right, all right,’ she said.

‘That’s better,’ I said. ‘You go home and amuse him. Be
nice
to him – understand me?’

‘Why the hell should
I
amuse him? Let him amuse himself.’

‘Ain’t you got no heart, Siddie?’

‘You want to see everybody happy, don’t you?’ she said.

‘I don’t believe in making anybody unhappy or making an enemy,’ I told her. You could be crossing the Sahara desert and he’d be just the geezer you’d run into, if you see what I mean. ‘I don’t see why the husband shouldn’t have a good time as well.’

‘So long as you don’t have to give it to him,’ she said.

‘I would,’ I said, ‘if I were built that way.’ And I meant it. After all, that’s what we’re here for in this life, to help one another. I mean so long as it ain’t too inconvenient. ‘You don’t want always to think of yourself, gal.’

‘What about the firm’s dance?’

‘What about it?’

‘Well, aren’t you coming? I’ve got you a ticket.’

‘Won’t your old man be there?’

‘Course he’ll be there,’ she said, ‘but he’s not to know who you are. We could have a dance together and then I could introduce you. I’d like you to meet.’

Siddie, you don’t know it, I thought, but you’re on the way out. I’d seen it coming for some time – sooner or later they must get you to meet the old man. Once I’ve met the husband, it seems to put me right off the wife. I mean he could be dying in his bed but if I haven’t seen him I won’t think of him, will I? But once you meet and talk, like as not he’ll turn out a real good sport. I don’t know why but his sort usually are. Touches my heart, if you see what I mean. As I’m having it off with her I can’t help thinking of him, hanging up his drip-dry shirt, or going through these garden catalogues, or taking the dog for a walk, or arguing in the pub about Chelsea or cricket or something. I don’t know how it is but you seem to get a lot of his sort with Chelsea supporters. They like growing roses too, if they’ve got a garden.

I drew to a halt beside Clapham Junction Station. ‘Right, gal,’ I said, ‘here you are.’

‘Aren’t you seeing me to the platform?’

‘Better take no chances, we might be seen.’

‘What about the dance?’

‘I’ll ring you at work.’

‘It’s not always convenient at work.’

‘Then I’ll ring you at home on Monday night – that’s when he goes to visit his Mum, ain’t it?’

‘You can ring me any time you like at home. I don’t let him answer if I’m in.’

‘I’ll ring you on Monday when he’s at his Mum’s,’ I said. ‘Now good night.’

‘Good night, Alfie,’ she said.

‘Now don’t forget, be nice to him. And don’t wear that tight skirt next week.’

‘No I won’t,’ she shouted back, ‘I’ll wear my
skin-tight
slacks.’

I watched her running off into the station. There won’t be any next week, I thought. Once a married woman gets too hot on, that’s the time to cool off. They get you into trouble and it’s not worth it. Her poor bloody husband, I thought. On the other hand, what the eye don’t see, as they say, the heart agrees.

BOOK: Alfie
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