Chapter 1: The Jump
I’m writing this now with a certain amount of urgency. Something of importance has happened, something which, given the right circumstances, will greatly benefit us both. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I can’t rightly sell you this idea if you have no notion what it is.
Where should I start? Logically I should probably start at the beginning but any good writer knows you need to start a little way into the story, so that (you) the reader feels they need to push further into the narrative.
So I’ll start with the jump.
I was sitting in a little café in a small town on the south coast of France quite close to St Tropez. Quite unusual for me, you might be saying to yourself, and you’d be right. But the opportunity came up — some old friends (or rather a couple that I used to know) invited me to stay and, after ascertaining that it would be completely gratis, I took the plunge. They had said they’d be happy to have me for a few days and so far I’d been there two weeks — but all of that is tangential. I just needed to tell you enough to set up the location. South of France, living it up, near St Tropez. Café. Got it? Good.
Anyway, there I was, resting contentedly, watching the pigeons and the Boules players on the square when a man sat down on the vacant chair opposite mine. He did so suddenly and heavily, like someone unexpected sitting down suddenly and heavily. I jumped. Straight into the air, as if I’d been fired from a cannon. My coffee spilt across the table, very nearly drowning the book that was sitting by my elbow. The man spoke.
‘I wish you wouldn’t jump about so much Pete. Sit back down, I’ve got to talk to you.’
You might think that my reaction had been a bit a bit over the top, a bit too energetic but you’d be wrong. The fact is, and the reason my response was so lively — and justifiably so — was because I had not seen this particular man for a good ten years, and that had been on a completely different continent. What I’m getting at here is that when I sat down for my after-breakfast coffee, Jonesy (his surname is Jones) was the last man I expected to see.
‘Well? Close your mouth. It’s me. James? Jonesy? Come on, mate.’
I stammered for a moment before reaching out to shake his hand, spilling the remainder of my coffee as I did so.
‘Jonesy, yes of course. What are you doing here? I haven’t heard from you in years.’
He looked at me for a while and I got the distinct impression that he was weighing me up.
‘Never mind that. I’m here with the fiancée, we’re taking a little vacation before the wedding.’
‘Yes, yes. I know, I know, you’re happy for me: blah, blah and all that. I’ve heard it before. You’re a writer now? Is that true?’
This all seemed a bit rushed, there not being much of the small-talk which usually takes place on such occasions. A bit odd but I told him that, yes, indeed, I did dabble a bit; even though I don’t get published nearly as much as I should. In fact I was just about to mention that I mostly scraped by on the generosity of friends — the lot of the starving artist — when he interrupted me once again.
‘Excellent. Well, Pete, well I’ve got something I need to show you. Meet me at the little restaurant around the corner at, let’s say, six-ish? Good? Good. Okay. Got to run. I’m being taken to the market or something. See you later.’
With that he was gone. It took me a few minutes to process what had happened and, even then, when I tried to get back to my reading, I found I just couldn’t get into it — and not only because the pages were soaked in coffee — I couldn’t concentrate.
Chapter 2: Jonesy
At six-twenty that evening I was sitting at a small table outside a quiet little restaurant on the edge of a deep canal, sipping on a weak scotch and soda. The afternoon light was glinting off the waves of passing boats and I, in that moment of serenity, had just decided that I must have been mad to have agreed to meet with Jonesy. The thing seemed ludicrous. That he was in the south of France was strange enough. That he wanted my help in some clandestine project was even more bizarre. I began to think that maybe I had hallucinated the whole affair. It was fitting, therefore, that just at that moment I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up to see Jonesy standing next to me.
‘Get up. We don’t have a huge amount of time,’ he said, and dragged me towards the long wooden bar that lurked in the darkness of the restaurant interior. I studied the rows of bottles while Jonesy ordered two drinks.
‘Merci, Marcel,’ he said, handing me a glass of something short.
‘So I guess you know why I wanted to talk to you?’
I shook my head.
‘No? Use your head man. Look, it doesn’t matter. You’re a writer and I’ve got something I’d like you to take a look at. Obviously I couldn’t give it to anyone with any real influence but there seems little risk in showing you. You see there’s a lot in it that I’m not sure of.’
I was about to say something cutting in reply when he waved me into silence and went on.
‘You remember our days back in Australia? A lot of good times there. For me at least. I never did know about you…
I started to say something but he cut me off.
‘What you don’t know, what I guess only a few people knew is at the time I kept a journal. Obviously the fact had to be kept a bit quiet, but there it is. I had this diary and, what with the up-coming wedding, I was reading through it again — at night when Caroline was sleeping — and I thought to myself: this is pretty good stuff. I was going to send it off to a friend for safe keeping, but then I thought: why shouldn’t I try to get it published? I enjoyed reading it. I’m pretty sure others would too. So that’s where you come in.’
He stopped for a second, looked around the restaurant as if seeing it for the first time, and gestured for two more drinks.
‘So here’s what you do. I give you the journal, you read it over and you tell me what you think. Okay?’
I nodded dumbly. There wasn’t anything much I could say.
‘Excellent. Well here it is,’ he said and handed me a thick, leather bound diary. It was the kind you see in period pieces; thick and heavy, with each page filled with dense, spider-like writing.
‘Only the first of them of course, but there you are. It’s just a taste, so you can tell me what you think. I used to call it The Drunk Diary, but you can see if it needs a new name.’
Chapter 3: The Drunk Diary
With that he was gone; leaving me with this ‘journal’ and the bill. I flicked the thing open to a random page and started reading:
Okay, so went out, don’t remember much but everyone deserves a second chance. Was pretty cordial. At Kelly’s. Sang something on a rose, was brilliant. I don’t think we faired too bad, arm really hurts…
And on, and on, and on. It seemed to be exactly what I had dreaded: the alcohol soaked ramblings of a narcissist. I closed the thing, paid and made my way out.
As it happened I couldn’t sleep that night. My trusty couch had developed hard, biting bars and screws where previously there had only been luxurious, downy, comfort. If I hadn’t known better, I would have suspected that my hosts had tampered with the thing while I was out. I turned on the lamp and fumbled for the first thing I could reach. It was the damn diary. Well, I thought, if I can’t sleep I might as well see how laughable Jonesy’s life had really been. I began to read. Then I kept on reading. Right through the night. In fact I was still reading when the sun came up and was only interrupted when Nancy and John clunked downstairs for breakfast and glared pointedly at me from the kitchen table. I went out to the café.
I realised there that I needed to write to you. The journal. That journal! A bit slow to start, a bit obscene in parts, maybe slightly misogynistic, but utterly, utterly, un-put-down-able. It has everything the modern audience wants: Sex, alcohol, young people, mistaken identities… the whole package. To think that it was all written by that utter prick Jonesy and based on his life to boot, well, it’s incomprehensible.
To the crux of the issue: Jonesy doesn’t deserve to have such a goldmine in his possession. I know that it was an utter fluke that he managed to cobble the such a set of stories together. He’s successful, getting married; he has an enviable life. You know who does deserve to have written something like this? Me. A few fucking overlooked short stories and articles, well that’s not enough for a writer of my calibre. Pompous, vain, utterly without humour: that’s how they described me in those creative writing classes. I don’t deserve that. I deserve to have written something that will sell. Like this thing. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going take it, rip it off, publish it under my name and win the acclaim I so, so deserve. It might be considered a bit risky, but damn won’t that just create more buzz?
Now I’ll need your opinion if I’m going to pull this off, so I’ve transcribed into this letter an excerpt — one of the less racy stories from the very beginning of the journal. You can let me know what you think. Will it work? Will it sell?
I think it will.
Of course you’ll be needing a bit of background first (you can’t be too mysterious in your writing or the audience gets lost and wanders off to watch TV). I met Jonesy during my time as an undergraduate at Sydney University. We both lived on campus in a living facility filled mostly with international students. He was generally well regarded and was constantly surrounded by friends. I, meanwhile (I don’t want to sound bitter), was generally overlooked; I think that most people, the girls especially, were threatened by my intellect. He lived with two roommates, a girl and a guy. I lived alone across the corridor.
So, without any further preamble, I present to you the first in a long string of stories I intend to appropriate: The Wager.
N.B. I’ve added just a few asides, but only when absolutely necessary [these will be in bracketed and in italics] the rest is as I found it, minus a few cuts and the fixing of the more egregious grammatical errors.
Chapter 4: The Wager
As I’ve said before, when I’ve had a good night, I have to write about it. An interesting night like this one just calls out to be recorded. Hmm. This table is a bit wobbly. Oh well. So what was I writing about? A yes, the events of tonight. Well a fair bit went down, not that I mind, but, you know. I could use some food actually. Some pizza or something would go down a treat.
Okay, I’m back now. It turns out we didn’t have any pizza but I did empty the fridge. I have it all in a bowl. Bit of a mess. [An aside: James tends to go on like this for quite a while at the start of these entries and I’ve chosen to cut out some of the more superfluous of his ramblings. It does become a little more coherent when he realises what it is he’s actually trying to do.]
So, the Wager. God I feel better after food. Might as well get a coffee while I’m at it. [Further paragraphs cut.]
It went like this. I was standing at the dining room table opposite Tom, with Angela watching us from the couch. The room was actually quite clean, it looked like only the most minor of cyclones had ravaged it. Tom and I were playing a lively game of Beer Pong, something which always stimulates a rather intense discussion.
‘That was a fucking elbow!’
Tom of course, always trying to call me out for a missed shot. Like I said: an animated conversation. But still something wasn’t quite right. I don’t know if it was the conversation or Angela’s bored glare but I felt the need to shake things up. First though, I set myself, steadied my arm and took aim across the table. The little orange table-tennis ball rose up in a graceful arc and landed with a satisfying ‘plunk’ in Tom’s beer. I grinned. Tom drank. I smiled some more. Angela glared.
‘Alright I think we need to make a wager,’ I said.
This was Angela, I had piqued her interest. Or maybe not, it’s almost always impossible to tell.
‘Who the fuck uses the word wager anymore? Do you mean a bet? Because if you meant a bet why didn’t you just fucking say a bet?’ Tom said. Quite calmly for him, I thought.
‘Because wager just sounds better, it has a touch of class. Anyway shut up and drink.’
‘Well you’re starting to sound like that prick from across the way.’
‘Calm down, mate. A wager’s a wager. It’s always fun to spice things up with a little bit of gambling. Variety and all that. Life’s too boring without risks.’
Tom grunted in reluctant agreement before launching the ball, in turn, at the cups at my end of the table. The damn thing hit the jutting rim of the cups, drove upwards into the air and returned to settle, with a splash, into my beer. I picked up the cup, careful to fish out the ball before I drank.
‘What we need is something a little daring, something we haven’t done before,’ I said.
‘Sure. And I like the bet idea.’
‘Yeah, but what are you going to bet? You two assholes have nothing to bet.’
Angela was sitting forward now. It’s always nice to get people involved.
‘Okay I’ve got an idea,’ Tom said.
‘That’s a first.’
‘Shut the hell up. How about we bet the big room.’
‘Hey, Yeah! And that means that you’ve got to let me play too,’ Angela said. She was in rare form, I could even see the faint glimmer of a smile playing across her lips.
I’ll explain. The big room is mine. It’s the best of the lot: windows overlooking the courtyard, a bed that can fit two almost comfortably, even a wardrobe. As close to Arcadia as can be hoped for in this booze-soaked complex. I lay claim to it because I happened to have been the first person to move in. It’s been a point of contention ever since.
‘Like hell. Why would I bet that?’
‘Three reasons. Firstly, because if you don’t we’ll keep on at you about it for fucking ever. Secondly, because it’s the only fucking thing we have worth fighting over and thirdly because… because… Ange help me out here,’ Tom said.
‘You’ll play him for it.’
‘Yes! Thirdly, you’ll do it if I beat you in this game of Beer Pong.’
I looked at the table. I was winning by one cup. I only needed to sink two more and the game was mine. It seemed a fair risk.
‘Fine but if I win, here and now, you both,’ I fixed my gaze on Angela, ‘you both stop hassling me about it forever. The big room becomes mine legitimately.’
Angela glowered at Tom. Tom eyeballed Angela. Angela nodded, almost imperceptibly.
I threw. I hit. Tom drank.
From there the intensity was turned up to eleven. There is usually a fair bit riding on these games in terms of bragging rights, personal honour, and the-such, but just then the stakes had never been higher. Angela came forward to umpire the match. Tom eyed up the ball, he prepared his stance, took a deep breath in, and let fly, straight and true. I tried to match him but missed; grace under pressure has never been my strong suit. It was now two cups to one. All I needed was to sink one to win the game but he was closing in. I could feel the prickling of sweat on my forehead. My throw went straight down the middle. The ball flew for the final cup, cleared the rim and — completely shattering my confidence — shot straight back out. It had bounced off the back of the cup. Tom picked the ball straight out of the air and landed it right on the mark. I sent it back and again he looked down the table at me.
‘Here it is Jonesy.’
He turned and walked down the corridor.
I looked over at Angela, who shrugged. Then, with a yell, Tom came galloping back into the room and, with a straight overhand bowl, let fly. The ball hit the table at speed, bouncing erratically off the wall and ceiling before finally making its home, with a heart-shattering plonk, in my cup. Like Napoleon at Waterloo, I was defeated. Both Tom and Angela’s faces broke into smiles so wide it looked like the tops of their heads were at risk of falling off.
‘God Tom I could almost kiss you — I won’t — but I almost could.’
‘Well that’s something at least,’ Tom said.
I nodded to them both.
‘Fine, it’s decided. We wager the big room. But on what? It has to be something interesting.’
‘Something fucking epic.’
‘And it has to be something any one of us can win, so that we all have a chance at the prize.’
‘It’s a fucking good prize,’ Tom agreed.
Angela, interrupting this gripping back-and-forth, said: ‘I’ve got an idea. Hear me out.’ She obviously had something special on her mind, and, knowing her, I should have been more wary, but ideas were flowing and I was happy to be going along for the ride.
‘I think we’ve got to try for the Breakfast of Champions,’ she said.
Tom and I groaned in unison.
‘Look, you two have shot me down before, but I’m sure that it can work.’
‘How could it possibly work?’
‘Very simply. All we have to do is each go out tonight and try to pick up a stranger,’
Tom looked like he was about to interrupt but Angela waved an imperious hand at him.
‘Then, in the morning, we all have breakfast together and decide and meet our respective dates. Obviously if you can’t find someone to sleep with, you’re disqualified; so we judge who scored the most attractive, interesting date.’
‘Why would we do that? You have all the fucking advantages. You’re a girl; trying to pick up for you isn’t a challenge, it’ll be like you’re playing tennis with the net down,’ Tom said. I admit I could see the validity of his point.
‘No I’ll be playing golf from the Woman’s Tee, or whatever it’s called — I don’t know, I don’t play golf. Listen, we all know that if I bring someone home the two of you are going to judge the guy pretty harshly, while you know I’ll be fair about whoever each of you manage to convince to make the biggest mistakes of their lives.’
‘I think I follow that,’ I said.
‘It’ll have to involve lots of drinking,’ Tom said.
‘And, hopefully, sex.’
‘It’ll probably be entertaining.’
We had our wager. Well not so much a wager anymore, but still something amusing. And that’s what counts. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when I sit down, on nights like this, and don’t have anything to write. I can’t abide dullness. Sure, I run the risk of losing my room, but I think it’ll be worth it.
And, of course, I’ll cheat if I need to.
Chapter 5: The Breakfast of Champions
Today I’m having to break the rule by which this journal is written, the rule which is built into its very name. I’m sober. Well, not entirely sober, because I have a hell of a hangover, but far more so than normal. There’s too much to write.
This morning was the Breakfast of Champions, an event that the three of us have already decided must become a regular occurrence in our lives.
The first thing that happened was this: after sneaking out into the living room, I tip-toed my way over to Angela’s door. I knocked softly, and was about to move on when out came Tom.
‘Wait what?’ I asked.
‘Did I what?’
‘Well that’s dirty pool.’
‘What are you fucking talking about mate?’
‘You’re in A.’s room.’
I thought I was being pretty clear at this point. He looked at me for a moment in confusion. Then his crusty eyes widened and he started chuckling softly.
‘No mate. Fuck no. Here let me put something on.’
He closed the door on me. I heard some rustling and a soft voice. I took the opportunity to pad over to the fridge. Tom came out wearing nothing but a Kenyan Kikoy wrapped around his waist. I handed him a beer.
‘Wait, we need to get Angela.’
Tom wandered down the hall, weaving a little as he went. I took a sip of beer. It felt like I’d swallowed a handful of razorblades. I heard a banging followed by some muffled swearing. Tom returned followed by a dishevelled looking Angela wrapped in a loose white blanket
‘So is it happening?’ Angela asked. She was grinning wildly.
‘Yeah,’ said Tom, ‘you ready to hand over the big room?’
‘No-fucking-way, that baby’s mine.’
I smiled in what I hoped was a quietly confident manner, inwardly hoping that I had done enough to seal my chances of winning.
‘So should we get this thing going? Bring everyone out for the judging?’
‘What about the whole breakfast thing?’
‘There’s beer in the fridge.’
In the end Angela and I cooked while Tom watched with his feet on the table, complaining about his hangover. No one else had yet to emerge from the rooms. When breakfast was ready we smiled to each other, nodded, and went back to our rooms to collect our dates.
Cara was sitting upright on my bed, looking through my journals. She was wearing one of my buttoned-down shirts and looked, I have to say, stunning.
‘What is this stuff? I never picked you for someone with a diary.’
‘That? That’s none of your business.’ I said, grabbing the journal.
‘Now get dressed and all that stuff. We need to make you as spectacular as possible, in the way that only you know how.’
Cara nodded and, with a friendly glare in my direction, grabbed her back-pack and traipsed off to the bathroom.
So what had happened? Well the three of us, after a few more games of beer pong, had gone out to a bar on the corner that was always packed with university students, with the intention of fulfilling the wager. I had made my way to the bar to get a few drinks. Angela had seen some friends and had gone to say hello and Tom had disappeared as soon as we walked through the door. That was the situation when, after having finished a quick beer I found myself elbow to elbow with the most beautiful girl. She was tall, immaculately dressed and had more curves than the Amazon river. She turned to me with a bright, white smile and I felt my heart break. Suddenly all thought of the Breakfast had disappeared. I tried to think of something to say. I had to keep her smiling at me.
‘Hi,’ I said.
‘I’ve seen you around haven’t I?’ She asked.
I smiled a winning smile. The beer had done it’s work and suddenly I felt my composure retuning. But damn if this wasn’t a girl to rattle your soul. I began to speak softly and quickly. Her name was Hailey, and she was incredibly intelligent as well as breathtakingly gorgeous. We talked about books and alcohol, movies and sex. She told me jokes of outstanding, wonderful filthiness. I was just about to buy us a couple more drinks when I felt a hand on my shoulder and saw Tom at my shoulder, beaming with undeserved confidence.
‘So you’ve met Jonesy?’
‘Yes, and you are?’
‘I am the most wonderful, spectacular, interesting, and handsome man you are ever going to meet. Tom in short. Would you like to dance?’ And with that Tom pulled Hailey out onto the dance floor. He twirled her, spun her and sidestepped around her as she laughed. I bit my lip. She was having the time of her life. I knew that I wouldn’t see her again that night. If I have one failing — and I’ll only admit to one — it’s that I’ve never been able to dance, not even a shuffle. I ordered another beer and drank it quickly.
Suddenly the thought of the Breakfast returned to me. Knowing then that I would have to pull out all the stops in order to beat a Tom-Hailey combination, I decided it was time to cheat. I stepped into the back courtyard of the bar and called up a girl I had met at the gym a few weeks earlier and with whom (after she had shot me down a few times) I had struck up a tentative friendship. Cara. I had had to lay it on pretty thick; I told her about the breakfast, about how I was going to lose my one true asset, how I would be forever in her debt, how I would buy her alcohol and make her breakfast. She didn’t care about any of that. In desperation I tried to appeal to her better nature, describing the humiliation I would face if I was unsuccessful in bringing home a date. That made her laugh. In the end she agreed to come over because the breakfast promised to be pretty entertaining. I agreed. She arrived at the bar an hour later and we had a few more drinks. Then we wandered back to the apartment and stayed up until dawn drinking red wine and watching Casablanca on repeat.
Cara burst back into the room radiating beauty in a loose fitting summer dress.
‘Wow,’ I said. When the situation calls for it I can be pretty eloquent.
‘Thanks. Okay let’s do this.’
She took my arm and we walked back into the living room to where a bloke sat on the couch, looking around with an amiable, expression.
‘Oh hey!’ he said, getting up shake hands. ‘Nice to meet you! I’m John. Nice day isn’t it?’
We nodded. He sat back down, still smiling.
He was, of course, handsome; tall, muscular and such— I hadn’t expected anything less of Angela — but he did seem to strike as being a bit on the dim side. I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew that Cara would outshine him easily.
Really then my main worry was Tom. I really wanted to keep my room.
You could imagine my joy, therefore, when out he came from his room, not with Haley, but with an unknown blonde gripping him tightly from behind.
‘But wwwhhhhyyy? Pllllllleeeeaaaasssseee Tommy, let’s go back to bed. And snuggle. And watch Gossip Girl. Oh heya everyone!’
I smiled. John waved. Cara rolled her eyes. I pulled Tom to the side.
‘What happened to Hailey?’
‘Hailey! The girl you were dancing with last night…’
‘Oh her. No. She ditched me almost straight away. She was a looker though eh?’
I stopped myself from swearing at him.
‘So what happened?’
‘Well I struck out at the pub and was walking home through campus— thought I’d lost for sure— when out of nowhere this girl grabbed my hand and pulling me into some house-party to have shots. I thought fuck-it and here we are.’
‘Well at least we know you aren’t going to win.’
‘Says who? She’s pretty hot… You should have seen some of the things she did to me last night.’
‘I’m glad I didn’t. And it’s not based on what they let you do to them mate.’
‘Well it fucking well should be.’
We turned back to the others. Angela was deep in conversation with Cara, they were both grinning widely. I decided that it was best not to get involved and walked over to where Tom’s girl (whose name turned out to be Maddie) was trying to engage John in conversation.
‘Sooooo I’m going to become an instagram influencer. Like, what else is there to do. I’ve got nearly 1000 followers. They say 10,000 is where you really get some traction.’
‘Awesome!’ John said, and beamed. The conversation lagged.
In the end I gave up and called everyone to breakfast.
We sat huddled together at the small kitchen table. By this point the eggs were cold and the bacon a little dry but no-one seemed to notice. The beer was cold and, by now, not too rough. Conversation flowed and I took pleasure in watching the interactions of old and new friends. This might just work, I thought.
Which is when everything started to fall apart.
‘So guys, who’s winning this breakfast thingy. I, like, so think that it’s me!’ Maddie said. She had a mouthful of eggs and was looking around the room with wide blue eyes.
The conversation stopped. We all looked up except for John, who kept on with his eggs and bacon. Slowly, Angela turned to Tom.
‘You told her?’ she said. She could have frozen something that is not easily frozen with her stare. I’ve been on the receiving end of that look before and I didn’t envy him.
‘What the hell mate?’ I asked.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Cara smirking at me.
‘I had to, come on. And I was a bit drunk. It’s not like it changes anything.’
I looked over at Angela questioningly. She shrugged.
‘Hey, like, why are you guys being so mean to Tommy? He found me, his soulmate, and I’m hot, so obvs he should win this breakfast thing.’
‘What breakfast thing?’ said Cara. Her feigned incomprehension was an artwork.
‘The breakfast that these three organised to see who could come home with the hottest person. Which is so obviously me, so you can back up, bitch!’
Cara’s eyebrows jumped. She had, at times, a quick temper.
‘Excuse-me? I will break you in two, you idiotic little princess.’
Maddie turned to Tom. Tom turned to his eggs.
‘What you’re not going to defend me? I thought we had something real!’
The eggs remained fascinating.
Feeling that she wasn’t going to get any support from Tom, Maddie stood up, wobbling slightly on her stiletto heels. She took hold of her plastic chair and, with great effort, raised it, grunting as she did, and threw it against the kitchen wall. It fell to the ground with a thud. No-one moved. Then to the amazement of everyone, she leaned over to John, pulled him to her, and pressed her lips against his. John seemed to wake up from his reverie.
‘Well Tommy? How does that feel! Come on Johnny, let’s go babe.’
She stood and, taking John by the hand, led him out of the apartment. John smiled and waved as they left. I looked over to see how Angela was taking this. She shrugged again. Cara tried to suppress a giggle. The giggle escaped from between her hands and had soon turned into full, hysterical, laughter. We all started laughing then, our bodies shuddering, tears flowing down our cheeks. Tom fell off his chair and writhed bodily on the carpet.
‘Better than I could have imagined,’ said Angela, wiping away a tear, as we slowly came back to our senses.
‘Okay then. With that,’ said Cara, standing up ‘I think I’m off. This has been very fun. Thanks Angela, Thanks Tom… Better luck next time mate.’
She bent down and gave me a kiss on the cheek. My heart took this opportunity to leap into my throat. When she was gone I turned to Tom, who was getting back into his chair. My smile widened.
‘Okay fine. You win Jonesy. Turns out my girl was a fucking nutcase,’ he said, listlessly pushing the food around on his plate.
‘Still wild in the sack though!’ He let out a short sharp burst of laughter and reached for his beer.
That was Tom out of the way. All that was left was to convince Angela that her good-looking idiot wasn’t up to snuff and I was off scot-free. I was just trying to think of a good line of argument when Angela stood up. There was a smile on her face which worried me, since it wasn’t in keeping with what I saw as her current position of defeat.
‘Well it’s time to call a winner I think,’ she said.
‘Yes, me. Right?’ I asked.
Angela shut me up with another wave of her hand. My heart fell, but I was ready to press my case no matter what she happened to pull out of her hat. (Hat. Ha!) [I think at this point Jones was thinking about the word he could have substituted for hat.]
‘So the way I saw it, the only way you two would admit that I had won is if I was able to pull off something that neither of you could even dream of. And watching you idiots making fools of yourselves at the bar, I saw my opportunity. So, without anything much further…’ Angela walked down the corridor to Tom’s room. I heard a soft knock and, a few seconds later, Angela reappeared followed by a sheepish but smiling Hailey. She was wearing the same dress she had been the night before.
Tom’s jaw hung loose. I hitched mine back up. She looked, if possible, even more spectacular in the light of day.
To each of these insightful questions Angela had merely nodded in the satisfaction of a job well done. There was nothing for it. No way of arguing our cases. She had won.
In turn we stood and raised our beers to Angela: the best of all of us.
We offered Hailey a drink (which she politely refused) and our congratulations (which she softly accepted) and sat ourselves down to go over the finer details of the night and morning.
‘So what I don’t understand is why in the world you two switched rooms,’ I said. Tom looked away.
‘Well we came home and were about to go into my bedroom when I heard what sounded like a troupe of baboons rutting. I opened the door and there was Tom sprawled out on the floor with that little psycho making sounds like you wouldn’t believe. So I did the decent thing and took his room. I didn’t want to delay any climaxes.’
‘Yea, sorry, was in a bit of a drunken haze at that point. May have gotten the wrong room.’
We kept talking for a while longer. I think that Hailey was a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, or put off by Tom and me. [That wouldn’t have been surprising]. She ended up leaving not that long after (though not before exchanging numbers with Angela). After that Tom went for a nap and Angela started to move her things into my room.
Not wanting to be a part of that process, I took my diary to the balcony. I wanted to get everything down exactly right before I forgot any more of it than I already had.
I can’t stay with you much longer, though; I’m tired and in desperate need of a shower and a few hours’ sleep. Before any of that, though, I’m going to interrupt Angela’s move and wake Tom up and we’ll play a quiet afternoon game of Beer-Pong. Only this time we’ll have something new to talk about.
Chapter 6: The Plan
And that’s the end of the story. The next few pages where mostly covered in drawings and a few nonsensical snippets of phrasing scrawled haphazardly across the page. I think after that incident Jonesy went on what was, even for him, a bit of a bender. Though, after a while, and without any sort of bridge, he goes straight back into recounting another incident which is, surprisingly, even more salacious and excessive than the one I’ve included in this letter.
What I have here then, and I believe that you will now corroborate this, is a goldmine of ideas and stories the likes of which could finally put me on good footing in the world of Short Fiction Writing. Therefore I expect a prompt reply from you letting me know your own your feelings on the matter and your opinion on how to best exploit this windfall.
Not being one to shy away from striking when the iron is hot, I plan to meet with Jonesy again this evening and somehow convince him to hand over to me the entirety of his collection of journals. I think that the best course of action will be to explain to him that the writing is truly terrible, really un-publishable, and then to remind him that he is getting married and that having such incriminating material in the house is best to be avoided. Then I’ll tell him that I can be trusted to hold on to the journals for a little while, so that he doesn’t have to be troubled with the pain of throwing away something which was once — quite obviously — an important part of his life. Look to the future, I’ll say, meanwhile carefully tucking the material away for myself.
I’ll write again when it’s done. I’ll probably be back in England at that point, wanting to put as much distance as possible between myself and Jonesy in preparation for the publishing of my chef-d’oeuvre. Again, and I can’t emphasise this enough, get back to me. Now is the time. All the best.
Your old pal,