12 November 2006

Pride and Partiality - Chapter Two : A big surprise

Bennet had always intended to visit Binglay, though to the last always assuring his partner that he should not go anywhere near Netherfield. Until the evening after the visit was paid, no one residing at Longhorn had knowledge of it. It was then disclosed in the following manner.

All of the occupants gathered together in the living room, with Colin and Craig, flicking through some pornographic magazines while the other three young men read quietly. On a chaise longue in one corner of the room, Queenie sipped discretely at a bottle of gin through a straw, while lip-synching to a dub version of Madonna’s latest single. It was an evening like any other evening in the apartment, in other words.

Bennet, observing that Joe had paused to stretch, suddenly addressed him.

“It is only the shallow people who do not judge by appearances, Joseph, so you might take the trouble to iron a shirt before you wear it. However, it must be said that colour suits you, and one might expect that Binglay will like it.”

“Binglay?” said Joe, arching an eyebrow. “Binglay, Binglay… that name does ring a bell… who is he again?”

“Only our newest neighbour, not to mention the most eligible man in the neighbourhood, who we are not to know, just as we are not in a way to know what he likes others to wear,” said Queenie resentfully. “Combat fatigues or a leather harness might be to his taste for all any of us might guess, but we are not to know since-”

“We are sure to meet him in one of the bars, Queenie,” Joe interrupted, for he had tired of this interminable argument and already regretted raising the subject. “In any event, your friend promised to introduce him-”

“Dickie Long is not my friend, he is an acquaintance with whom I engage in social dalliances on occasion, and he will do nothing to assist us in this matter for I suspect that he has every intention of having his own wicked way with Binglay. I’ll have you know that I wouldn’t trust that hoary hypocrite to put the lid back on a tub of Vaseline!”

“Well, I am glad to find that you do not depend on him serving you… in this matter, at any rate,” said Bennett pointedly.

Queenie deigned not to make any reply.

A fleeting silence descended on the living room. It was, as one might imagine, a living room decorated with impeccable taste, fitted with all of the standard Ikea easy-clean and quick-to-assemble furnishings that one comes to expect in a fabulous inner-city gay shagpad. It was given a makeover each season.

No longer able to concentrate on the melody and unable to continue holding her tongue, Queenie sucked what remained of her gin. Her ability to swallow was legendary, and it was no time at all before the straw had slipped down the back of her throat. She looked across to the drinks cabinet on the other side of the room. It seemed a desperate distance, and that annoyed her to the extent that she began to look for an excuse to scold one of the girls. She adjusted herself into a more comfortable position, farting indiscreetly as she did so.

“Was that you, Colin? Again? For Heaven’s sake, don’t keep banging away like Paris Hilton on a Viagra binge! Have a little compassion on the rest of us, why don’t you? You tear at my nerves like a stubbly trucker ravaging a ringed finger up and down some unlubed-”

“I’ve often said that Colin has no discretion in his farts,” said Bennett. “He times them ill.”

“That wasn’t me, not this time!” replied Colin fretfully. “Besides, I do not fart for my own amusement, I’ll have you know! Queenie, I warned you last night that Thai food doesn’t agree with me, but you insisted that red curry was made with special chilli that wasn’t spicy. And then afterwards, as you heard, I had a date with that friend of Craig’s who said he’d explain why he had a dark red hanky in the back left-hand pocket of his jeans, and-

“Are you planning to go out, Joe?” said Dylan, cutting him off.

“Yes, on Saturday.”

Queenie gave a little cry of dismay.

“Saturday! Oh, don’t mention Saturday to me! Ivana Hardman and Sue Narmi are determined to get their hands on Binglay this weekend. They’ll have sucked the poor fellow dry by then! You know what they’re like, they’re ruthless once they’ve got a target in their tights. They’ll do anything! They’re prepared to trawl every darkroom in the city from dusk until dawn, if that’s what it takes.”

“Isn’t that what those two normally do at the weekend?” Joe quipped.

“Yes, but they’ll have to keep their eyes open, won’t they?” Queenie remarked. “All is lost, I say! Quite lost… lost… where was I again?”

Binglay!” said everyone at once.

“Oh, why must you keep reminding me?” said Queenie distractedly. “I’m quite certain that Richard Long does not come back from Brighton until late Sunday, so it will be impossible for him to be of any use to us, since he won’t have met Binglay before the weekend is practically finished!”

“Then, my dear, you may get one over on your friend Richard for a change, if you’ll excuse the expression,” said Bennett, “by… ahem… introducing Binglay to him.”

Queenie hurled an empty gin bottle across the room.

“Impossible, Bennett!” she declared. “You know perfectly well that is impossible, when I do not know him myself! How can you be so teasing?”

“With practice, my dear, which has also helped me to dodge those flying gin bottles over the years,” said Bennett calmly. “I admire your right-hand technique, of course, not to mention your discernment in this matter of Binglay; it is true that a few days acquaintance is certainly very little, and one cannot know a man in that time.”

Queenie no longer listened. She was looking quizzically at Dylan who was absorbed in the book he was reading.

“Surely… precious, are you really… why, at last! You sly little vixen! I’ve been encouraging you these past seven months, and there you are reading up on the subject yourself!”

“W-w-what do you mean?” said Dylan, looking up at once.

“Don’t be shy about it, darling! No one will think any less of you! I saw what that book’s about! A little grass… and a few magic mushrooms, is that what you’re thinking of? Not a bad way to start, although I personally would recommend jumping in at the deep end with a shot of-”

“N-n-no!” Dylan spluttered. “It’s a novel called The Magic Mountain written by a German author called Grass, Gunter Grass… you know, he wrote The Tin Drum…”

Queenie looked quite crestfallen.

“Never mind, my dear,” said Bennett, bringing the conversation around. “Let’s return to the matter at hand. Given that someone is bound to present Richard Long to this Binglay fellow if we do not venture to do so, best to do it yourself. Dickie will certainly consider it an act of kindness on your part, and if you decline to touch such a delicate matter, I will have to take it upon myself to introduce him myself...”

Everyone in the room had stopped what they were doing. This had the unfortunate consequence of allowing the nasal whining of Madonna to fill the room, repeating the words ‘time goes by, so slowly… time goes by, so slowly… time goes by…”

“What nonsense you talk!” was all that Queenie had to say, reaching across to kick at the stereo in the mistaken belief that the CD was skipping. It stopped, much to everyone’s relief.

“What can be the meaning of that remark?” cried Bennett. “Mitchell, what do you think of all this? As a young man of deep penetrating reflection, who reads a great many books, I am sure that you have an opinion to share?”

Mitchell was always eager to speak and began at once

“She’s obsessed, that’s what it is!” he said. “I mean, she starts with a reference to Einstein’s theory of relativity, to help uneducated listeners to understand that when you are ‘hung up’, which means ‘infatuated with someone’, that time seems to pass with less velocity-”

“You misunderstand, Mitchell!”

“No, really, I’m quite sure that she-”

“Mitchell, please! I’m referring to my partner’s emphatic exclamation about talking nonsense!”

Mitchell wished to say something very sensible on this subject, but knew not how.

“Well, Queenie?” said Bennett. “Explain yourself! Do you consider the forms of introduction to be nonsense?”

“Don’t talk to me about forms!” Queenie retorted. “You know I can’t stand paperwork! Mitchell… talk nonsense to him.”

“While our learned friend is adjusting his ideas,” said Bennett, “let us return to Binglay-”

“Binglay! Binglay! Binglay! I am sick and tired of hearing about Binglay!” cried Queenie in exasperation.

“Why didn’t you tell me so before?” said Bennett at once. “If I had known this morning, I certainly would not have called on him. That is most unlucky, but as I have actually paid the visit, we cannot escape the acquaintance.”

The astonishment that his words produced was just what Bennett wished. At once, Colin and Craig flung their magazines to the furthest corner of the room; Mitchell dropped a book heavily on his lap, and even Joe and Dylan lowered their volumes coyly. When the first tumult of surprise was over, Queenie began to declare that this was what she had expected all the while.

“How good it was of you, my dear Bennett! But I knew I should persuade you at last. I was sure that you loved your girls too well to neglect such an acquaintance. Well, how pleased I am! And it was such a good joke too, that you should have gone this morning and never said a word about it until now!”

“Now, Colin, I expect you may fart as much as you like,” said Bennett, leaving the room, fatigued with the raptures of his partner.

“What an excellent friend you have, girls!” said Queenie, when the door was shut. “I do not know how you will ever make him amends for his kindness, or me either, for that matter. At our time of life, it is not so pleasant, I can tell you, to be making new acquaintance every day; but for your sakes, we would do almost anything. Craig, do be a darling and fetch me another little bottle of Gordon’s gin to celebrate. Yes, that litre bottle will do nicely… Thank you, sweetie! Why, though you are the youngest, I dare say that Binglay will try to get his hands on you at the weekend! I hope you’re ready for it, that’s all I’m saying; I haven’t breathed a word of this to Bennett, but he was at the Instantly Fabulous gym yesterday and if the rumours are anything to go by, he’s so well hung that he’d make Richard Long’s tackle look like a Chinese chipolata that’s been sitting in the sun!”

“Oh, fabulous!” said Craig.

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that!” said Queenie stoutly. “I’m aware that you consider yourself open to most things, sweetie, but at your age there is a lot to discover, and there are things in that world that are positively dangerous, that require… well, years and years and years of practice to deal with… before you manage to get everything to fit in, I mean!”

“I am not afraid!” said Craig, before adding cryptically. “Remember that although I am the youngest, I’m the tallest!”

The rest of the evening was spent in conjecture, with some of those gathered turning over their innermost thoughts quietly, flicking at the pages of their books, while others kicked and squealed with excitement. Was Binglay the man that rumours made him out to be? Was it possible to establish this with any degree of certainty without first hand knowledge of the matter? Was this intriguing stranger likely to return Bennett’s visit, and if so when?

Some of those gathered even went so far as to wonder whether it was really appropriate to entertain such high expectations, not to mention such shameless fantasies, about a man no one had seen or spoken with. But it was a thought too unpleasant to entertain for very long.

No comments: