Arriving home from work at midday, I found Tori’s husband Ricardo in my bathroom, taking apart the pipes behind the sink.
“The plumber’s here,” my wife Polly reported.
“Plumber?” I replied helplessly.
“I thought that you’d called him… to install the urinal?”
My wife’s lover, Callum, had wanted to hold his seventeenth birthday party in my apartment, but I had objected to this on the grounds that the last time we had been subjected to one of his parties, many of the partygoers had tired of queuing outside our single, beleaguered bathroom and they had appropriated the communal garden for a cesspit. To this day, no amount of petunias can wholly conceal the smell. When acquainted with my doubts, Callum had brightly suggested that we should fit a urinal into our bathroom to accommodate the demand. The next day he had appeared at my apartment and presented me with an entire urinal, which I could only imagine that he had unscrewed from the bathroom of his favourite McDonald’s. Outwitted, I had miserably promised to have his urinal installed, if adding darkly that this would involve completely restructuring the plumbing of the tenement.
“But this man is not a plumber…” I said to Polly.
Polly stared at me in alarm. “But when he turned up here, I thought…”
I was finally on top of things. “He did not speak any English and so you thought that he was the plumber, you took him to our bathroom, and you presented him with the urinal.” I imagined Ricardo regarding the urinal with an expression of total defeat, before reluctantly starting work on the bathroom pipes.
He is thirty seven and thirty seven years is a long time. He might have been a plumber at some point in his life.
We stared at Ricardo as he began to affix the first of the brackets to the wall. “This is Tori’s husband,” I told Polly.
It was a small bathroom and Callum’s urinal would make it a lot smaller. A fatuous idea flitted merrily through my head like a butterfly that Callum was so tender a gentleman that he could not envision the prospect of the ladies ever using the toilet, hence the lack of any provision for the female partygoers, but I batted this butterfly away. If I was not mistaken, Callum was pleased by the thought of leaving the girls with no toilet. I then appreciated that if I finally sanctioned Callum’s party, the more gruesome of his female friends would continue to use our garden as a cesspit.
Polly brought me back to the situation at hand. “He cannot speak any English. What…? [she raised her voice as Ricardo started hammering] WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”
“I’LL CALL PABLO.”
“MAYBE YOU SHOULD CALL TORI?”
Ricardo had stopped hammering and he had produced a spirit level. There is not one of these articles in my apartment and I uneasily registered the fact that Ricardo apparently carries one around with him.
“She can’t speak any Portuguese. I think that they only communicate subliminally – through body language.”
“Can Pablo speak Portuguese?”
“He can speak Spanish. Portuguese is just Spanish with a few spelling mistakes.”
Half an hour later, Pablo had materialised splendidly in my kitchen. He had never visited my apartment before, and I think that he was keen to investigate my home and what he had been told about my wife. If we lived in a world without Facebook, Pablo would still maintain a database of files on all his friends.
Pablo regarded Polly with a merry eye. “So this is your wife, eh? My God!”
“Ricardo is this way…” I told him briskly. “And please get a quote for my urinal.”
Pablo was venturing into the bathroom. “Make sure that it is secured properly to the wall,” I called after him. I could imagine the unpleasantness if it dropped off whilst people were using it.
Pablo and Ricardo were consulting for a long time. At one point, Ricardo started to jabber indignantly, as if listing all the wrongs done against him, and then everything became very hushed and he was sobbing in loud wet barks, sounding rather like a sea-lion. Pablo trooped out to report that, “Tori has left him… for a fifteen year old boy. He says that his heart is broken and that if he meets the boy he will cut his throat – from ear to ear like with a pig.”
“Is that a real possibility?” Faced with this, I was mildly shocked to realise that I knew virtually nothing about Ricardo.
“It is not beyond the realms of possibility.”
I called Tori’s apartment but the phone just rang endlessly as if it was at the bottom of the sea. “Where does the boy live?” I asked Pablo. “Somebody must know. Does Ricardo? Or Polly?”
Oddly enough, Polly had heard of the boy and she knew where he lived. Last year, they had performed in the same school play – the boy, who was very comely, had been cast as Oliver, whilst Polly had been the matron of a workhouse. They had actually rehearsed the workhouse scenes in the garden of the boy’s home, but this had ended after the repeated strains of “Food Glorious Food” had proved too much for one of the neighbours and he had shot himself.
I was eager to confront Tori about her new consort after all the years of entertainment which she has derived from my own wife. I went straight to the boy’s home, which turned out to be a high-bourgeois Wendy-house in Glenlockhart Glade: a curious mixture of cottage and castle which gleamed resplendently above a shining lake of pure lawn, with a small, ornamental deciduous forest stacked up grandly in the background as a smattering of licensed wilderness. The garden delighted one blandly, its piercing pinks and yellows were like shrieks in a tuneful note. Presumably the army of singing gnomes who tended these displays were around the back tossing pennies into a wishing well. I crashed through the front door, and found myself confronted with a skeletal looking woman, who was seated before the kitchen table sobbing into a glass of white wine. She had apparently just got home from the office, but with her busty blouse and tiny skirt, she looked rather like a wild schoolgirl, who had failed exam after exam and was still flirting with the gym teacher in her fifties.
She looked up at me spitefully and with determination, as if she had messed up with the last six people that she had encountered and she was not going to be caught out this time. “Get out of here!” she hissed, arching like a spitting cat. “I’m not having anybody else running about this house.”
She was drunk and I lurched her to her feet with a flourish like a ballroom dancer, before seizing her by the wrists and beginning to spin her round and round her kitchen. Ducking down to a low crouch, I rotated her in huge clear circles, whilst her eyes popped and her teeth chattered and she yelped with dismay. The release ebbed up like an orgasm, until I finally let her go and she crashed and staggered, arms flailing, with a crash of crockery and an avalanche of vegetables from an overhead cupboard, before she glanced off the washing machine and then stood unsteady for a while, stunned, the world as choppy as a knocked pint.
Upstairs, I followed a muffled sound of yelling to what I assumed was a bedroom door. When I entered, Tori and the boy were in the middle of an argument, and she appealed to me immediately for support.
“Biggy, you agree with me don’t you? I’ve told him that I love him and that I enjoying making love to him, but he wants me to sleep here at night. In this room! I’m sorry honey but this is unhygienic… this sort of thing is not acceptable to an adult.”
The boy was crying lustily and bright tears were zipping down his cheeks. “I can clean it up!”
“I’m sorry darling, but I just don’t think that you’re capable of it. You don’t know how to. If you slept at my flat…”
The boy’s crying got louder. “But that’s too far from my school….”
Tori turned to me with exasperation. “Biggy, I’m right aren’t I?”
I frowned. “On this particular question, I’m afraid that I can only agree with you. This bedroom looks like a hurricane has hit it. These coffee cups are filled with mould. There are far too many appliances plugged into that extension chord. And…” I peered with interest at the dirty laundry strewn across the floor, “the whole room smells kind of like semen.”
Tori accepted this as a vindication. “You see!” she shouted over the boy’s crying. “I was being reasonable.”
“But on the broader question of you leaving your husband for this boy, I’d venture that you were wrong.”
Tori looked up at me. “You’ve spoken with Ricardo?”
“Well, he can’t speak English.”
“Oh yes, I’d forgotten.”
“Tori, a woman has responsibilities. Your husband is wounded, Tori, badly wounded. We are adults and we may accept that there is nothing immoral about infidelity, but what you have done is unforgivably incompetent. If you reject a man who loves you, he must always be left with a little hope, even if it only emerges from a vague promise or an ambiguous way of putting something. It defuses the danger.”
It annoys me how Tori will airily change her mind over the most important of questions. “I should see how Ricardo is doing,” she agreed. “I only met this boy after he came up to me outside Tesco and asked me to buy a bottle of red wine for him. We ended up getting drunk and… well, that was three days ago, I think… I can’t remember half of it. Come to think of it, I don’t even know his name.”
I began to steer Tori towards the door, but to my amusement, the boy started to snarl and puff out his chest and grab at Tori. I lead him to the living room and, sitting down in an armchair, I bent him smartly over my knee, took off my shoe and began to administer a vicious spanking. His mother was then tottering at the door, screaming wild threats at me. Brandishing a phone, she screamed that she was about to call the police.
“I think that if I was you, I would call the police too,” I agreed, bringing down my shoe with a crack on her son’s buttocks.
“I’m doing it! I’m calling them!” she railed, waving the phone at me as if it was a live hand grenade.
“Biggy, leave him alone,” Tori scolded. “You’re hurting him.”
Outside the house, Tori and I heard a distant chorus of police sirens, Tori threw off her heels, and we ran through some little woods and then across a golf course to escape.