As I mentioned in my blog yesterday (about the review on Hayefield Manor… Kitty Kat’s Book Review Blog) here is this week’s episode of Queer Tango Episode 16: Close Enough For Jazz. I hope you enjoy and it makes you smile!
Episode 16: Close Enough For Jazz
George wasn’t exactly a graceful man. He wasn’t a suave, talented showman like Andy; he wasn’t great with a screwdriver like Stan, and don’t ask him to remove chewing gum from anything because it made his stomach turn.
If he was being glum, which he was as he stood at the bar in the Bee and Turnip, then he would say that he wasn’t able to acquire goods like Ricky or change a tyre like Colin and just don’t ask him to ride a bike as far as Lanie could or run a big business like Squishy… He ran the fish shop alright and fried food was his passion. It had paid his bills and his sister’s for a good few years but if he was going to show Diane he was a potential husband then he needed enough money to feed her boys and pay towards a house. He doubted she’d want to live above a fish shop no matter how much she loved him.
‘What maketh you so glum, dear friend?’ Ruby—Andy—chimed from behind him. ‘Or are you pining over me?’
George turned, tried not to gaze longingly at the shapely legs, ample chest, perfect bum and twinkling blue eyes smiling back at him. ‘It was dark and I was hammered.’
Ruby—ugh—Andy sashayed up to him and leaned onto the bar, drumming her—ugh again—his nails on the bar. ‘Keep telling yourself that. So, did the show make you so grumpy or is your buxom babe holding out on you?’
‘Her eldest is a lazy pain in my fryer.’ George sipped on his pint. ‘And Diane is getting annoyed I’m not leapfrogging down the aisle with her.’
Andy flicked his hand through his hair. ‘Why don’t you want to again?’
‘Because I’m not enough for her,’ George muttered then leaned onto his fist. ‘You never met her husband. The guy was a veteran, a honest to goodness upright man who loved his kids.’
‘Didn’t Diane say she had to drag him back from the pub?’ Andy cocked his head and gave him the ‘Ruby smile’ which always made him shivery. ‘With every respect to him, Georgey-boy, he was a man and as imperfect as the rest of us.’
‘That’s easy for you to say, you manage to be a man and a woman better than most of us can manage one gender,’ George waved him off.
‘It’s not a classical music exam where every note must be perfect but a free fluid exchange of spontaneous notes that sound just as wonderful strung together.’ Andy’s gaze drifted to the side of the stage where Paulette was charming Janis’ mother with a song. Like Andy, the woman looked wonderful as a bloke. Plimsole was kind of bloke people saw in some old fashioned film with musical numbers and dancing.
‘You’ll be reciting poetry next,’ George grunted and sipped his pint again. Unlike Plimsole, he wasn’t that kind of bloke. He’d be lucky to manage a few steps in time without knocking the leading lady over.
‘Oh, you are so in your blue space, George,’ Andy said and tapped the bar. ‘Tammy, please could you fill this man with alcohol.’
‘Depends if it’s on tab again,’ Tammy yelled back from chatting over the bar to an old guy.
Paulette turned and smiled at Andy who stilled then smiled back and George swore that someone would start playing the ruddy violin for the silver-screen magic of it.
‘Push off and stop getting your hair spray all over my beer,’ George fixed his gaze on Tammy who poured him his usual and took his empty off him as Andy sashayed his skinny backside over to Paulette.
‘What, did Diane kick you out or something?’ Tammy said as she chomped on a Snickers and served three other customers.
‘I don’t live with her, so no.’ He thumbed Andy’s way. ‘Ruby thinks I shouldn’t try playing her classical music but movements of notes and whatever he was going on about.’
‘Don’t look at me,’ Tammy rolled her eyes. ‘That drivel works because we’re too busy admiring him.’
‘He’s clever… he reads books and stuff… you know he has something like eight A-Levels but he never wanted to do anything other than work for his dad.’ George took his fresh pint. ‘That’s why she’s smitten with him, he’s got the looks and he takes her to galleries and all that.’
‘They’re arty people,’ Tammy said and nodded. ‘You aren’t arty.’
‘No, but Diane likes blues and jazz. She wanted to go and see some saxophone player but couldn’t afford the fee… like she just wants to sit there and listen to someone honking on a horn.’ He glanced over at Andy and Paulette who were cuddled up in a corner giggling away. ‘I don’t know a trumpet from a drumstick.’
‘I know chicken ones,’ Tammy said with a grin. ‘Hey, Paulette, whose that jazz player who is in town?’
‘Giles French,’ Paulette called back and Andy squealed and waved his hands like it was fabulous. ‘Sells out two years in advance,’ she said then the pair of them went back to giggling to each other.
‘That help?’ Tammy asked.
‘No.’ George downed his pint. Giles whatever his name was could probably look good in a frock too. ‘How did Colin get you interested?’
Tammy let out a naughty chuckle. ‘He staggered up to me, plastered, and asked me if I fancied it.’
‘Maybe I should try that instead. Worked for you.’ He sipped his pint again but he doubted he could pull that off either. Diane was a lady.
‘I wouldn’t, I gave him a knuckle sandwich.’ Tammy snorted and finished off her snickers. ‘Didn’t I, Trace?’
Tracy looked over from serving several customers, chomping her Nicorette and texting one-handed. ‘What’s that, Tam?’
‘My Colin got a knuckle sandwich when he tried it on, didn’t he?’ Tammy turned and raised her voice so the entire bar could hear—their conversations were as entertaining as the acts to most of the punters.
‘That he did, Tam,’ Tracy said with a grin then slapped the bar with her ring laden hand. ‘But the dumb clot went and tried it again the next night.’
Tammy nodded and the punters all chuckled. ‘So I gave him another one-two.’
George winced. ‘Diane carries scissors.’
‘Then her Colin goes and tries it again and again, every single night until she gives in.’ Tracy grinned, showing her gold cap tooth. ‘He says that she knocked him off his feet alright.’
Cue laughter from the punters.
‘Was Ricky any better?’ George peered through his fingers.
‘He picked my cuffs for me so we was good.’ Tracy served eight customers without pausing for breath. ‘I couldn’t resist him in them joggers anyway.’
‘Cuffs?’ George could pick the best fish from the market.
‘Handcuffs,’ Tammy said, chomping on some kind of sweet that stank of sherbet. ‘She loves him more than Nicorette, she does.’
‘Aye, but I ain’t sure you loves Colin as much as Snickers,’ Tracy yelled back then cheered as some punter in the corner missed the dart board with his throw and impaled someone’s coat to the woodwork. ‘That ain’t too far off for you, Bill.’
‘I’d suggest dancing—’ Paulette said in her soft voice and leaned around George smelling of something flowery. ‘—But that might be a bit hazardous.’
Andy wrapped his hand around her arm and leaned in. ‘Yes, Janis is still limping after her roll-over-the-chair move.’
‘Well, it worked. Ceri didn’t go back to Trevor.’ Paulette pecked him on the cheek and wiped off her lipstick.
‘Janis didn’t need to dance,’ Tracy said mid-chew. ‘Ceri loves her rotten.’
‘I know that but dancing badly helped Janis to exude her talents in front of friends and her fiancé.’ Paulette handed Andy his favourite tall sweet bubbly drink that George could never remember the name of. ‘Displaying feathers is one of the fun parts.’
Andy fanned himself and sipped on his drink. ‘It is… it really is.’
‘And you’ve shown her your feathers, so stop scowling,’ Tammy said and poked George in the shoulder across the bar. ‘It was called an indecent proportion if I remember right, weren’t it, Trace?’
‘It was. My Ricky had a chuckle everytime he drove past the shop.’ Tracy winked at George.
‘And, you are there for her children,’ Andy said, tucked under Paulette’s arm with delight on his face. ‘That is even more important.’
‘How did your dad take being told he was gonna be a grandad?’ George muttered trying not to show that he did feel uplifted by the conversation and Ruby’s—ugh—Andy’s long eyelashes.
Andy placed his hand to his chest as he gazed at Paulette. ‘He was beyond moved, he even forgot he’d put a teabag in his cup and put another in.’
They laughed between themselves like the loved up kids they were.
‘Mum congratulated me, more so because I’d managed to snaffle Andy from under everyone’s noses,’ Paulette said then rolled her eyes but she could roll her eyes all she liked, everyone knew she was as smitten as him.
‘You did. You snaffled me fair and square… Ruby too.’ Andy pecked her on the lips with that smitten loved up way that George fought against the urge to stick his fingers down his throat in protest.
‘I can’t get her pregnant… she’s been through…’ George started sweating and lowered his head. ‘You know… women’s stuff.’ He sighed. ‘And her eldest his hopeless. He falls asleep every single shift. Diane doesn’t know where he goes all night but it’s not to see a girl.’
‘A boy?’ Andy perked up.
‘Not by the huge poster on his bedroom wall, no.’ George quite liked the poster even if Diane had been in the process of removing it and lecturing her boy about respecting ladies and that respect wasn’t objectifying naked, incredibly sexy women who had a look in their eyes that gave the right kind of impression… and he might have gotten a bit distracted by the poster.
‘So binary.’ Andy nestled into Paulette’s shoulder.
‘I finished the tiling,’ Stan said, popping his head through from the back. ‘You alright if I shoot off. Missus wants me to pick up supplies on the way home.’
Tammy turned to him. ‘You have to deal with Hedges’ son, don’t you?’
Stan nodded then gave a glazed over look. ‘Why, did he break something?’
‘No, but George is having issues with Diane’s kid. Any advice… or haven’t you told Hedges you want to fire him?’ Tammy chewed on the remaining stick from whatever the sherbet sweet she’d been eating.
‘Gaynor wants me to hold off until she’s had the baby.’ He smiled at George. ‘Boy is a hard worker, don’t get me wrong. He tries so hard but he just can’t figure out that if you don’t get a good fit, you chamfer off the screwhead and then I got to drill it out.’
George nodded but he had no idea what chamfering was or why a drill was needed for a screw. ‘Must be… er… hard.’
‘Yeah.’ Stan smiled over at Tracy tapping a tune on the beer pump. ‘Maybe they could both head out with Ricky instead.’
Tracy ‘tringed’ her pencil along the pumps with a snort. ‘Ricky doesn’t need to be drilling any screwheads out… they make too much noise.’ She grinned at George. ‘Maybe Diane’s boy would be suited as he’s up all night.’
George hmphed knowing he sounded like his mother. ‘He’d have to move his lazy backside off the couch first.’
Diane on the other hand would rather her son be camped on the couch than rooting through her handbag for yet another tenner as she saw to Glynnis’ hair.
‘Hasn’t he paid you yet?’ she asked and wagged her scissors at him. ‘And what are those trousers?’ She stared at Glynnis in the mirror. ‘I buy him properly fitted jeans and he goes and shrinks them until it looks like he’s wearing leggings.’
‘Mu-u-um,’ he groaned then wagged a tenner in victory.
‘Have you eaten today… or washed?’ She muttered back trying not to show that she was worried about him. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked ready to sleep where he stood.
‘Yeah.’ He kissed her on the cheek and slouched out.
‘You wait until yours is that age, you’ll be coming to work for a break,’ Diane mumbled at Gaynor who was in the process of bleaching Mavis’ hair within an inch of its life… even when Mavis was already white and had wanted a cut and blow dry… ah well.
‘When my kid is that age, I’ll remind them Stan had hair before we had them.’ Gaynor smirked to herself and fussed at Mavis’ hair.
‘I remember Trevor at that age,’ Glynnis said with a grimace. ‘Got caught cheating at the chess club and was ejected.’
‘Can you cheat at chess?’ Mavis asked and shot a panicked look in the mirror as Gaynor started removing the foils.
‘Yes, he tried to bribe the referee… or whatever he was,’ Glynnis said and rolled her eyes. ‘He didn’t want to have to move his own pieces.’
‘This is why I’m glad mine never had any brains.’ Diane held up her hands when the customers stared at her. ‘He’s not academic, I’m happy with that… he’s artistic… or used to be before he turned into a teenager.’
‘Stan said that he’s not doing very well at work,’ Gaynor said as she dragged Mavis and the chair over the sink and soaked her. ‘What you staring at me for, I can’t touch bleach, I’m pregnant.’
Mavis raised her eyebrows. ‘Bleach?’
‘If your head had the decency to go a nice white then fine, but it looks like bird poo.’ Gaynor squirted shampoo on her head and motioned to Lanie’s niece who washed hair for them part-time. ‘Anyway, Stan says that he falls asleep or something.’
‘George has been so wonderful with them.’ And Diane was thrilled they both had a small job just like her late husband would have wanted them to. He’d believed in hard work. ‘I just worry that they are handful and George has enjoyed being a bachelor—’
‘Although he really raising his sister’s kids and paying her bills,’ Glynnis added.
‘He has, I’ve seen them at his a lot,’ Mavis said in a small, pain-filled voice. ‘Is that meant to sting.’
‘I’ll wash it out of your eyes, Mrs Mustard.’ Lanie’s niece had an unsure smile on her face though.
‘And you’ve been helping him teach her kids too,’ Gaynor pointed out and pulled out a shaver from the draw as she turned to the long haired man reading a women’s health magazine.
‘We should have a parade to celebrate,’ Mavis said with a yelp as she dabbed the towel to her face.
‘We’re already having a parade, Mavis,’ Glynnis said with a chuckle.
‘Then we should have two… I like making bunting.’ Mavis peered through red puffy eyes.
‘Oh, are we interrupting?’ Ceri asked as she bustled into the salon with her girls and they marched in a line on the spot. ‘You said it would be okay to book in?’
‘What for?’ Gaynor said and chased her male customer over to the chair with her buzzing razor.
‘Wedding hair,’ Ceri said with a grin.
‘Hair for the wedding,’ her eldest, Sally, added.
‘What they said,’ Bailey, her youngest chimed and marched up to Mavis then back to the door. ‘I want to look pretty.’
‘I want to look pretty too,’ Sally said and marched after her.
Gaynor buzzed her razor when they strayed close.
‘I would like to look pretty,’ Ceri said with a bashful smile. ‘My mother would like to book in too but Janis and her mum aren’t sure what to do because they don’t want to see us before the ceremony.’
‘I’ll do their hair,’ Gaynor said, shaving a whole patch off the guy’s head.
Ceri and the girls stopped marching.
‘You can do Janis and her mother’s hair if you don’t do anything too drastic to them and you leave Janis’ beard.’ Diane held up her scissors. ‘I mean it or I’ll get Stan to shave your fringe off.’
Gaynor stilled the razor. ‘Loud and clear.’ She turned to Ceri. ‘I can pop around Janis’ house.’
‘Our house,’ Bailey said, peering around Sally at the razor and the poor man going from shoulder-length to a bald fade on the sides and back.
‘That too,’ Gaynor pulled out her scissors and snipped away as the guy looked at her with horror. ‘What? You look like someone left a mop in a bucket of sludge. She’ll like you better when you look good.’
He looked to Glynnis.
‘She’s right, dear. I have shoelaces with more volume.’ Glynnis smiled up at Diane.
‘I’m a musician,’ the guy muttered but Gaynor—moody or not—could snip anyone into shape and he did look fetching.
‘My late husband loved music,’ Diane said with a sad sigh. ‘We shared such a passion for it but he hated Giles French… preferred the more precise classical saxophone… but I used to tell him and the boys that other women wanted a bubble bath, I just wanted a swing seat and Giles on my patio.’
Ceri chuckled. ‘I’m not sure George would be happy with that.’
‘Well, if he could learn the saxophone to that level, I’d rather him.’ Diane shrugged not sure which one was the most outlandish dream. ‘But George and the boys… they don’t really get it.’
George was getting his hands cold and wet lugging fish into the Squishy canteen with Diane’s youngest. His name was actually Frank and his brother was Michael like normal kids from Bumblethorpe but they didn’t call themselves those names, oh no. So, young Kobe, was busy helping the canteen staff fill the freezer in his usual gregarious manner. George couldn’t complain much because he was the good kid.
‘George?’ Mary-Lou called from the canteen doorway. ‘Oh, good… I wanted to catch you.’
‘Hi, did Barney get the recipe I sent?’ he asked hoping that Mary-Lou wouldn’t say too much.
‘He did… your item is in… instalments are fine.’ She smiled at Frank. ‘How is your practice going?’
Frank took his baseball hat off, blushed and smiled so sweetly at her. ‘Really cool… but I might be later for practice this week ‘cause I need to work.’
Mary-Lou nodded. ‘Sure. You just head on over when you’re ready.’
George raised his eyebrows. ‘Practice?’
Frank shrugged. ‘Er… basketball… yeah… that.’ He held Mary-Lou’s gaze.
‘What else would Kobe be practising?’ Mary-Lou said with a wink. ‘Although, I doubted he needed much practice.’
George rolled his eyes. ‘Is your brother doing the same but overnight?’
Frank scuttled off, blushing as he went.
‘Kids,’ he muttered then glanced out into the shop. ‘Lanie is okay to deliver?’
‘She is.’ Mary-Lou winked at him. ‘Staff are sure excited about getting your food for lunch.’
George smiled. Fried food was his talent.
So, Diane was in her living room with her slippers on debating whether to go oven cook chips or a ready meal. It was a really difficult decision as you could imagine and she’d needed two slabs of rich chocolate to help.
‘You need to switch them on.’ Lanie yelled from her back garden. ‘We can’t see if you don’t.’
Diane raised her eyebrows. She was sure it had sounded like Lanie… ‘Hello?’
‘No, you need to… oof,’ Miriam grunted. ‘Watch the… ow.’
‘Sorry,’ Stan mumbled. ‘It slipped out of my hand… I got it.’
‘You just need some gum,’ Janis said with her usual deep tone. ‘Try it now.’
‘Wait, I need to adjust this…’ Hedges said.
Diane stared at her chocolate. Had she eaten too much again?
‘You need to keep your head still,’ Gaynor snapped at someone. ‘You know she thinks it’s scruffy.’
Diane wandered, clad in slippers and fluffy dressing gown to her patio doors then her heart melted like chocolate.
‘She’s in the window,’ Paulette muttered. ‘Mum, you need to move the light out of her eyes.’
Diane slid open the doors as George turned all clad in a suit with roses as Stan balanced on a ladder holding up string lights with Hedges’ son; Hedges’ husband tinkled out the strains of a beautiful jazz ballad; Janis and Ceri dragged over something on a stand, and Lanie and Miriam battled with a swing seat that Glynnis was throwing a velvet rug over and Tammy and Tracy sent a hose pipe up in the air so the lights shone through it like a fountain.
‘You’re not meant to come out here yet,’ George said with a sigh as Andy and Paulette slid into a gentle dance and her youngest stepped out from the side and put his dad’s old saxophone to his lips.
‘I…’ Diane put her hand over her chest as he tootled out a very decent attempt at a Giles number backed by Mary-Lou on a tenor.
‘I couldn’t get you tickets,’ George said, pulling his mouth to the side. ‘But I talked to the boys and they said you mentioned this instead.’
‘And the fact you’re much nicer,’ Gaynor said with a wink.
‘Michael showed me what he’s been doing,’ George whispered leading her over to the swing seat.
‘It’s Shaq,’ Michael yelled from around the corner of the house.
Diane rolled her eyes but then Michael slunk into view in fitted trousers and a tidy shirt over to Janis and Ceri as Hedges spread petals out on the floor.
Frank gave it some welly as he tooted out her favourite solo… with the help of Mary-Lou and Diane dabbed at her eyes with her bathrobe.
‘Michael has been hard at work,’ George said then waved at him.
‘I’m waiting for him to hit the top note first,’ Michael muttered at him.
They turned to Frank who scrunched up his face and parped it off-key which Mary-Lou offset with a harmony that made it sound even better than Giles.
Michael pulled the sheet off the stand and a beautiful painting of the boys, her and yes, George stared back at her in oils and splendour like she could be at an art gallery as Andy slid Paulette into a perfect finish to match Hedges’ husband and Agnes (on drums.)
‘I think my chocolate went to my head.’ Diane got up and dragged her boys into a hug and fussed over them then dragged George into a huge kiss then hugged each and every wonderful friend present. ‘Why did you go through all this trouble for?’
George fished out the ring from his pocket and held it up. ‘I’m showing my feathers.’
Frank sighed. ‘I nearly hit it… I did.’
‘You did great, kid,’ Mary-Lou said with a thumbs up.
Diane took the ring, slid it on, hugged everyone senseless again and turned to Frank who looked at her like only a child could, hoping for praise and love and she smiled. ‘You were far better than Giles.’
He pulled his mouth to the side.
George nodded to him. ‘I liked it.’
‘I love every bit of it, I love the portrait and you and everyone.’ They turned to the picture of them and Diane slid her arm around her boys.
‘But it wasn’t perfect,’ Frank said.
‘Neither is my nose on this,’ Michael muttered.
‘And the swing-seat is missing a bolt,’ Lanie mumbled.
‘I don’t mind.’ Diane grinned at them all. ‘It’s not perfect but it’s better because it’s close enough for jazz.’