Tobermory was brooding. He looked neither happy nor well. His gaze was fixed into the distance while his fingers fiddled with a toothpick absentmindedly. Even Sebastian had noticed that he lacked his usually furtiveness.
“Are you okay old goat?” The whimsical half hearted nature of Sebastian’s enquiry was not lost on Tobermory.
Tobermory removed his stare from the non-descript goings on of the street in the window and looked his friend squarely in the eye ” I’m Dandy; Swell; On top of the world; Never felt better. Oh if this isn’t heaven what is”.
“Enough I get it, something’s up – I can see you’ve lost that light in your eye; the Tobermory ju de vivre, something has upset your waters”Said Sebastian, apparently refusing to take the matter with the seriousness Tobermory would have liked but not expected.
“Good of you to notice, one sometimes thinks that you observe only the food placed in front of you, the girls you’re sleeping with and the girls you want to sleep with”. Sebastian, clearly a little taken aback at his friend’s frosty analysis of his character, felt obliged defend himself.
“That’s not fair, I’m pretty well up on the Baltic crises that’s-a-brewing; if you thought that would be the last you’d be hearing of the Russo Georgian crises and the South Ossetian independence movement then you’d be wrong. I know that West Ham are well set for another season free from European aspirations as well as relegation worries…” . Tobermory looked away in resignation, conceding that his intended point was well missed. Sebastian sensing as much, turned triumphantly back to the topic at hand ‘… AND I can see something or someone’s stolen your mojo”
“Alright then….” Began Tobermory, but before he could finish, a man wearing a giant sign proclaiming
“CHINESE BANQUET 5£ ALL YOU CAN EAT ====} THIS WAY” shuffled past the window of the pub, catching Sebastian’s attention.
“He should really take the sign off, or at least conceal the directions it instructs when he’s on the move’. Tobermory turned around forgetting momentarily his worries and ill health to see the source of Sebastian’s interest. “The Banquet his attire speaks of, unless a portable banquet, which I think we can safely rule out, can’t be That Way at every turn and step on his off-duty journey”. Tobermory turned back and returned to introspection. Sebastian was truly a useless confidante. He continued, oblivious to the expression that told of malignant disinterest in the plight of potential Chinese buffet customers as well as the apparent lack of professionalism among sign wearers’ nowadays, plastered across Tobermory’s face. “Somebody could get sorely disappointed if they follow his clothes instruction – who knows where they could end up”. Due to the lack of anything else to think about Tobermory considered this and imagined that at worst they would end up no further than walking distance from their intended target.
“You do know that you have the attention span of humming bird don’t you?”
“My step mother always said a sieve” Sebastian stopped to correct himself. “No, a broken siv with giant holes” – Tobermory remained silent but inwardly adjusted his opinion of Sebastian’s step mother whom he’d never previously held in much esteem. “She isn’t usually much of a wit but on the topic of my mental deficiencies she has always excelled herself with out of character lucidity”. Sebastian, far from taking offence at his Stepmothers soliloquies on the subject of his character had always found them reassuring; they were one of the few signs of hope as far as he was concerned that his farther hadn’t married an utter moron. “Is a humming bird an improvement on a broken sieve? If so; thank you. If not I will inform my step mother; she will surely be pleased to have found a superior analogy.”
Tobermory’s eyes glazed over as his usual placidity overtook him. “Where do you want to go for sustenance tonight?”
Sebastian thought for moment, observed his surroundings; a North London Pub.
“When in Rome…”
Tobermory reached for the slightly tatty menu that was slotted between the salt and pepper shakers on the table where they were sitting “Thai food it is then”.
A week later and Tobermory and Sebastian were sitting together again, though this time Tobermory’s troubles had manifested themselves even more in his physical appearance than the previous week.
What the devil is troubling you?” asked Sebastian with a conviction that took Tobermory by surprise. “On reflection, it may surprise you but I do sometimes reflect you know. I think I may have behaved a little insensitively the other week, what with your problems and my sign bearer tangent. So tell me – you are my friend after all, I care. What’s troubling you.”
“If you keep with that sort of tone you, won’t be my friend for much longer but as a one-off sentiment suppose I can let it pass”
“Agreed; a sentence like ‘I am your friend – I care’ should never be uttered aloud in any society pertaining to be civilised” “But before we lose sight of the issue – you are clearly unwell; now that I look closely you look awfully pale and jaded… and god; the bags around your eye” Tobermory had wanted concern but a full breakdown of the physical deformities his troubles had caused were not the medicine he sought and it induced about an uncharacteristic outburst.
“Yeah I get it I’m not looking my best” Tobermory was rattled and it rattled Sebastian to see his usually placid friend rattled so. “If you had my troubles you wouldn’t look like a Greek goddess either”. Sebastian had never seen his unflappable friend lose his composure before.
“Spit it out then” said Sebastian thinking it best to be blunt; Tobermory’s disdain for the wetness of tact was well known. “What or who has shaken your cage? Because something clearly has”.
“It’s my new house”
“Eh?” Sebastian had looked around said house when Tobermory had wanted a second opinion; the price and the desperation of the owners to sell had given him the feeling there was something too good to be true about the whole transaction. Sebastian remembered giving his unwavering approval. He had even mocked Tobermory for his paranoia after Tobermory had his friend in the police run a background check on the neighbours and neighbourhood. As it transpired, there was a very good reason why the former residents of number 56 Turnbill Lane had wanted to leave; it was just that Tobermory hadn’t the imagination to foresee it.
“Well not specifically the house itself – its still spacious and well located, but to what and whom is in the proximity of it”
“Ahh the neighbours! Exclaimed Sebastian with glee; he thought he understood. “Anti social, playing loud music till obscene hours in the morning do they…?. Tricky” Sebastian’s sarcasm was tangible; he knew this type of situation well. He had been on the other side of the fence as the anti-social neighbour for the duration of his adult life. As a consequence he knew inside out and back to front the machinations of The Environmental Health Department’s procedure which Tobermory would need to embark upon. “Okay, the first thing you should do is buy a video camera and gather together a dossier of irrefutable evidence. Meanwhile, you should befriend the other neighbours who will undoubtedly feel the same as you do. Then – and only then – when you have sufficient evidence call the Environmental Health Department of the local council.” Visibly buoyed that for once he was in the apparently position of being able to give practical advice on a domestic matter, Sebastian drew on his cigarette and continued unabated by Tobermory’s passivity, basking wistfully in the nostalgic memory of his multiple altercations with the EHD. “They have no mercy and possess all the party spirit of Mary Whitehouse – they will be on your side….trust me”. Tobermory waited patiently while Sebastian continued with his useless but sincere advice. “It’ll take about two months but you’ll either get them to stop or get them evicted” Sebastian had only experience of the latter but presumed that the former must occur occasionally.
It was then that Sebastian was hit with a bout of morality. “I can’t say I wont be more than a little disappointed in you, should you choose the course of action I am advocating”. Tobermory was non-plussed; he knew it was irrelevant but was partially enjoying the vigour Sebastian was showing in his response to the ills he was suffering, even if they were imaginary. “Can’t you just befriend the offenders and join in?”. Sebastian reasoned that if it had upset Tobermory this much then it must be seriously good party. Sebastian paused to contemplate the illusionary party he had conjured in his mind.
“Are you finished?” Tobermory asked with vim belying the physical fatigue and mental numbness he was feeling.
“What? Sorry.” Sebastian had drifted off into a happy trance in contemplation of the non-existent party.
“I’m afraid you have got the nature of the beast all wrong” rained Tobermory upon Sebastian’s parade.
“How so?” Sebastian’s was confused, the delusion of the riotous neighbours holding parties of astonishing magnitude had been all but fixed in his mind.
“A 24hr disco containing nothing but crystal meth heads competing for the world record of biggest noise violation would be like play-dough compared to what I’m suffering” Sebastian appeared to re-enact the scene Tobermory had depicted but clearly could not comprehend.
“Are you familiar with Down’s syndrome?”
“Er, yeah” This threw Sebastian; how were noisy neighbours and riotous parties in anyway connected to Down’s Syndrome?
“Yes I know what a trampoline is” Sebastian exclaimed indignantly, but was still none the wiser to his friend’s problem.
“Well can you imagine a Down’s kid and a trampoline in proximity to one another and the inevitable outcome – Down’s kid on trampoline bouncily gaily, having arguably the time of his life.” Sebastian was about to interject but Tobermory continued before he could start. “Now consider the sound emitted by such a situation”
Sebastian tried to but it was beyond him – it was not his field.
“And this kid really loves his trampoline and he has unlimited access to it day and night” Tobermory took a second to inhale on his cigarette as Sebastian frowned attempting to picture the scene.
“I could attempt to reproduce for you the sound, though my imitation would be both offensive and inadequate – basically it’s a combination clapping, yelping and squeaking of the trampoline which, endured for a sufficient period would bring Guantanamo Bay prisoners to their knees in half the time white noise, water boarding or Metallica ever could”.
Sebastian didn’t know what to say. Tobermory was a lefty to the bone and his current tone was the wrong side of borderline acceptable; complaining about special needs was a taboo that even Tories shied away from – it was off the political spectrum. Tobermory was undoubtedly aware of this and so Sebastian kept his thoughts to himself and as a consequence was for once lost for words.
“From sunrise to sunset clapping and yelping” Tobermory shivered at the thought
“You know when you get a melody stuck in your head and it won’t leave even when it’s awful”
“Yeah – I inexplicably had “Why does it always rain on me” for nearly six months Sebastian recalled the torment and embarrassment it caused him with dismay. Travis, in spite of what their 4 songs at Live 8 might suggest were about as cool as cargo pants at that time.
“Yeah well I have that the clapping and the yelping, it echoes in my head almost constantly, I can hear it now”. For Tobermory, who was a Concert Pianist by trade and music aesthete it must be especially grueling, thought Sebastian.
“Doesn’t he… Don’t they go to school?” Sebastian enquired for no particular purpose – if the Kid went to school then Tobermory wouldn’t be in this terrible condition and they wouldn’t be sat having this conversation.
“Home-schooled – and by all accounts that apparently involves nothing but trampoline practice” Tobermory explained with obvious bitterness and a shake of the head. “Oh and the beast’s a boy by the way” Sebastian frowned at his friends terminology “I’m sorry I’m just at the end of my tether”
Sebastian thought for a moment “You looked around the house, THREE TIMES, if it was really so loud and annoying how did we not notice it, once maybe you were unlucky but THREE times… surely you would have noticed something” T smiled ruefully.
“He has dinner at exactly 6pm every day, you can set your watch by it” Sebastian didn’t care for watches but he knew what his friend meant. “Luck had nothing to do with it”
“Clever”. Now that he mentioned it, Sebastian did recall being bustled out of said house rather abruptly on account of what had seemed at the time an innocent need for the former owners to keep a dinner appointment in Guildford. In retrospect their motive was obviously more sinister.
“Machiavellian cuntishness is how I’d describe it”
“Can’t you just play music and drown him out?” Sebastian suggested knowing full well the answer as he spoke
“I told you, its all through the day, exactly the hours when I sleep – you know I’m nocturnal” Tobermory had had a inexplicable phobia of ear plugs since childhood and Sebastian knew as much so didn’t bother to suggest it. “I’ve barely slept in nearly 2 weeks” That explains your diabolical appearance thought Sebastian ” I had to sleep on Jo’s couch the other week when I wanted to be fresh, or not entirely numbed with sleep deprivation for a job interview”.
“Why don’t you just try to talk to the them and explain the problem” The stupidity of Sebastian’s suggestion caused Tobermory’s eyes to bulge in their sockets..
“And tell them what? ‘Excuse me but your retarded kid’s only real pleasure irritates me, could you please take it away from him’? Explain to me how you would broach that subject. You know – with tact and decency….” Tobermory had run the scenario through his head a hundred times – it was impossible, Sebastian did so at that moment, albeit in less detail and came to the same conclusion.
“Have you spoken to the other neighbours, surely they must be allies”
“They are deaf and senile” The elderly man next door had had to adjust his hearing aid just to allow Tobermory to introduce himself when he had called round. Tobermory had realised then that he was in it alone.
“Oh” Sebastian was beginning to understand the depth of his friend’s problem.
“Its still a nice place and a good location, you should just try to get used to it” Sebastian remembered a recent article he’d read on the Guardian website about experiments which had shown that if you wear glasses that turn everything you see upside down then after 48 hours you start to see the world the right way again.
This struck Tobermory as perfectly ridiculous “Come to my house tomorrow afternoon and you will understand”
Sebastian came the next day, heard the clapping, yelping and creaking and immediately understood the gravity of Tobermory’s plight.
A few days later Tobermory and Sebastian met again, and again Tobermory’s appearance had deteriorated still further. Gaunt, pale and with a look of solitude about him which in another time might have spoken of a long battle with scurvy, rough seas and the Kraken, Tobermory greeted his friend. Any doctor would have justly assumed him a crack-head by appearance but Sebastian knew that it was neither crack nor the perils of high seas – merely the unfortunate clash of trampolines and special needs with his friend’s unusual sleeping habits that lay at the root of his ills.
“The situation has not improved then” Sebastian guessed, like a man looking at a cross-word clue with of the 13 of the 14 letters of “stupid question” in place.
Tobermory was too fatigued to mock the obviousness of his friend’s question. “Its still awful yes”. He looked down forlornly “I haven’t adapted, learnt to ignore or acquiesce – I live in a very modern hell”. Tobermory wore the face of broken man. As he replaced his pint after taking a feeble sip, Sebastian noticed that his friend’s hand trembled; it appeared he barely had the strength to nourish himself.
“Is it not discriminatory how Down’s Syndrome or any other form of special needs is almost absent in literature except for the occasional mention of the odd dwarf or freak show” said Sebastian in a doomed effort to make conversation.
“I’d never thought nor cared before, and I don’t now” Tobermory had neither the strength nor will to engage with his friend. He looked down, looked at his pint, where he lingered for a moment while considering whether it was worth the effort to have another sip before deciding against and reaching for his cigarettes instead.
Sebastian watched in dismay. His friend, previously so sharp of mind and swift of action was reduced to actually requiring time to contemplate basic bodily actions.
Sebastian resolved at that moment to do everything he could to help end his friend’s plight and rectify this crisis, as much for selfish reasons as for compassionate. Sebastian was indifferent at best to most people he met, was bored by the majority of people’s conversation and was definitely unwilling to spend any time finding a new best friend if he could help it.
“You need to play hardball”
“’Hardball?’ – what are you, John Madden now – who the fuck says hardball”
“Whatever – play tough, you know what I mean”
“Okay Madden” The amusement Tobermory derived from his friend’s unseemly foray into American business English lexicon temporarily lifted his spirits “What do you suggest?”
“Get rid of the trampoline” Sebastian had clearly forgotten all his previous misgivings about the ethics of the problem.
Tobermory stared blankly at Sebastian.
“You heard me – get rid of the trampoline. Break it, steal it… I don’t know – burn it – just get rid of it” Sebastian paused to light his cigarettes and then continued. “Trampolines cost a lot of money, they are not easy to come by, you knock it out of operation, and it’ll earn you respite for a while at least – maybe even forever”
“I’m not burning a special needs kid’s Trampoline!”
“I’m not suggesting YOU do it.” Sebastian looked at his friend for recognition of his insinuation. Tobermory, gaunt and slow of mind did not comprehend.
“Get someone else to do it” Sebastian looked his friend, his blue eyes darkening.
“What?!” Tobermory considered this for moment “I don’t know anyone who would be willing to steal or commit arson upon payment”, Tobermory thought some more – “and I doubt you do either, we are frightfully middle class you know – small time weed dealers, ten a penny – professional thieves and arsonists, no”
“I know people” Sebastian looked at Tobermory with a look that was meant to convey authority but would only have inspired skepticism and mockery had anyone with all their mental faculties in tact been in attendance. Nobody with these characteristics however was present.
“Jesus”. Tobermory’s contemptuous exclamation hid his interest in Sebastian’s plan; the appalling standard of living he was currently experiencing had significantly dulled his analytical prowess and he was currently suggestible to any plan that would rid him of the clapping, squeaking and yelping, no matter how obviously stupid.
“I understand your hypothesis however your K dealer is a, errr… shady character, no?”
Sebastian’s K dealer was indeed a shady character. He had met Oggy stumbling home along Holloway Road at 5am. Oggy had followed him off the N91 night-bus, rightly assuming that he was a middle class university student, wrongly assuming that he had any possessions worth stealing. He had shadowed him for 5 minutes before asserting that the coast was clear and attempted to mug him. Sebastian had no money on his person and a phone that was worth less than nothing which he gladly offered up with a laugh to the would-be mugger before him. Oggy had ruefully laughed at his victims jovial spirit and at the feeble contents of his pockets and Sebastian with a naïve fearlessness that comes from being off your face offered his hand to Oggy and initiated conversation. Oggy, quite taken aback at the friendliness this man whom he had just tried to rob was showing him reciprocated and it soon transpired that they could be of use to each other; Sebastian lived in Oggy’s neighborhood, enjoyed K and Oggy sold K. That was how they met and became ‘friends’, it was also how Sebastian knew that Oggy was a shady character and had more strings to his criminal bow than merely the distribution of horse tranquilizer.
“And I would wager a lot of money that he knows someone who could sort your problem quick sharp” Sebastian paused then added imploringly “He’s from South London”. Tobermory smiled inwardly at his friend’s apparent belief that by clarifying that he was from South London would give him some kind of crime credentials, like a qualification on a CV.
Nevertheless, Tobermory was desperate and as idiotic as this plan was, it was the only one currently available. Tobermory could not go on living like he was living.
He leaned back on his chair and sighed. “Fuck it, lets do it”
“That’s the spirit” A broad grin ran across Sebastian’s face. “Got anything important to do tomorrow?”
“Nothing important, why?”
“Fancy a K binge tonight – tranquilize your troubles”. Sebastian laughed at the killing of two birds with one Ketamine dealer “I need a pretext to meet my man”
“Why not” Tobermory reasoned that while he knew Sebastian needed no pretext for K it maybe exactly what he required.
And with that Sebastian left the table to call Oggy, the South London K dealer. The call was brief and in less than a minute Sebastian was back at his chair. “He says he’ll be here in an hour” Tobermory exhaled rapidly in surprise at the apparent efficiency of Oggy. “When he says an hour naturally he means two minimum”.
“I see”. Tobermory was already beginning to regret the course of action they were embarking upon.
Oggy arrived, slightly earlier than expected, but half an hour after they’d arranged. Those in the mood for clichés might have observed he looked like a fish out of water and when he arrived and Sebastian greeted him like old friends, they certainly made an odd couple. The more observant of those that weren’t observing might have guessed that an exchange of some sort was about to take place. No one was paying attention though as Sebastian ordered their drinks and they seated themselves at a spare table for four near the back of the Pub by the gents.
From where Tobermory was sat, they weren’t sitting all together because Oggy didn’t like meeting new people if he could help it, they were exchanging empty pleasantries common to such acquaintances and ever present in meetings such as this. Tobermory couldn’t lip read but he guessed it was probably something like
Hey man, what have you been up to? Go out last night?
Yeah, it was alright, I’m suffering for it now though…
Nods smiling and grimacing –
Oggy pushes air through his lips and leans back to gesture
Truth was that Sebastian felt pretty good, his hangover hadn’t hit, he was still drunk, which was why he felt capable of pursuing this course of action. Tobermory’s guesswork was all but accurate save a few minor embellishments.
After a little more small talk they subtly but not undetectably exchanged money and wrap. Oggy then knecked his coke; one of the quirks about many of those who deal in class As is that they often don’t drink – it’s bad for you. Tobermory watched as Oggy got up to say his goodbyes, but then Sebastian gestured for him to stay a moment. At this point Tobermory looked away, he couldn’t watch.
Two minutes later he had to look, everyone else was. Oggy had stood up so fast he’d knocked his chair over.
You fucking cunt, you’re lucky I don’t cut you right here blud – Turning he walked and slammed through the exit.
Sebastian sat, looked around kind of gormlessly, shrugged and took a sip of drink. Gradually after a few moments everyone else in the pub got back to what they were doing. Except Tobermory who gestured for Sebastian to go for a cig. They met outside and smoked for a while. Eventually Tobemory spoke.
He’s not going to steal the trampoline
But you got the K though.
Hmm that’s something
They finished their cigarettes and went back to their drinks.
It hadn’t been the suggestion of stealing that had offended Oggy, obviously. He had been quite enthusiastic about the possibility of such a theft initially. Smiling he’d asked why on earth. Sebastian told him. Unfortunately for Tobermory, Oggy had a older brother with downs syndrome. This brother lived with Oggy and he shared caring duties with his single mother. He also knew how much his brother loved bouncing on trampolines. If he’d a garden he would have loved to have bought one for his brother. Sebastian never found out why Oggy had flown into such a rage that day. He would always put it down to an admirable ability on Oggy’s part, to empathise with the passions of downs children.
Sebastian went away for a while. When he came back Tobermory was rejuvenated. It had been only two weeks, he’d expected much worse.
You look well
Yes I do
How’s the house?
What do you mean gone?
Gone…. It’s not mine any more
You sold it, how?
Well it’s a long story
It wasn’t a long story. He told it thus.
Rented it temporarily to some Australians I found on Gumtree. Then showed people around it at 6 every day, within days I had an offer at the asking price . They had the money and rushed through the deal I presume to get it through before I realised what how undervalued the flat was. Worked out very nicely. I’m renting near Angel. My new neighbours don’t have a trampoline.
Tobermory went outside for a cigarette.
Dedicated to anyone who bothered to finish reading this.