Story by Big M
Foodge had gone home to change into his best suit, freshly polished brogues, white socks, and the black Fedora that Sandshoe had sent him. He always wore white socks with black shoes, because he thought it made him look like a jazz musician, since he’d seen Dave Brubeck in a movie, but, everyone at the Arms reckoned he just looked like a dickhead. He’d propped himself on a stool at the Gentleman’s Bar, with the form guide from the Lewisham Gazette. He was hoping to make a motza on the Big Race. “Hey, Mr Merv, what exactly is a ‘scratching’?”
Merv was flat out, he’d bought a palette of South Sea Islands Sham-Pain from his Fijian contact, and now he was struggling to get them cold. “Not, now, mate, ask someone else, I’m as busy as a Catholic priest at a Sunday school picnic.”
Foodge looked around. O’Hoo was still in the same Chesterfield from this morning, with form guide and mobile phone in hand. Didn’t want to ask him. Granny was giving the new Turk’s head a last flick around. Didn’t want to stir anything else up with her. Hedgie and the Bowling Ladies were in the Ladies Lounge watching the lead up to the Cup on a portable Black and White telly that Merv had borrowed from next door. Just then the back door opened and Big M strolled in. “Ah, Big M, what brings you here?”
“What train?” Foodge had to ask.
“I caught the Sleeper from Newcastle, bound for Melbourne, but woke up here.” Big M looked like he’d been asleep, but he usually did. “Mr Merv.”
Merv slid a glass canoe across the filthy bar. “Small matter of a tab, M!”
“Oh, yes, next visit.”
“You on leave, Big M?” The question seemed to come out of nowhere, but could have been the narrator.
“No, I’ve been suspended for hanging around with shady characters.” Big M looked squarely at Foodge. This wasn’t entirely true, Big M had been seen urinating on someone’s prize roses, so had been charged with exposing himself.
“How is you dear lady wife?” Foodge suddenly remembered to enquire after one of his many guardians.
“Still struggling to get those stains outta the towels.”
Foodge went white. To change the subject. “What do you know about horse races?”
“A little bloke sits on a horse and flogs him with a whip, aside from that f*&^all.” Big M had knocked back a canoe, and motioned for another. Why, what’s going on?”
“You know, the Big Race.” Foodge mumbled as crammed a complementary ‘race day’ sausage roll into his gaping maw. “Need help with placing a bet.”
“Ask Mr Merv.” Big M nodded to Merv.
“Too feckin’ busy mate.” Merv tipped another bag of ice over a tub full of bottles.
“What about O’Hoo, he’s a veteran gambler.”
The place went completely quiet, except for O’Hoo yelling down the phone. “Scratched like a syphilitic cock…bastards!” Big M is usually pretty ignorant, but picked up that there’d been a falling out between the two best mates.
“What about Granny?” There was a low titter of laughter. Big M looked around. “What the hell have you done, Foodge?”
“Well…er…um, Mr O’Hoo severely breached a confidence.”
“A confidence about what?” Big M glanced across to Hedgie who, almost imperceptibly, shook his head.
“Um…er.” Foodge motioned towards Granny.
“You are bloody joking, not in a Green Moon. That’s me, I’ve had it with you! I’ve gotta go, train to catch.” Big M crammed a couple of sausage rolls in his jacket pocket and took off through the back door.
Foodge suddenly felt very uncomfortable in the region of the wedding flute. He had also suffered from a late scratching!