There was this one time with Dad.
I was six and Dad had to do some business, he said. Had to see a man about some fridges. We had a fridge, though the freezer compartment was all white and frosty and only had room enough for three ice lollies at a time. Dad told me not to tell Mum where we were going, so I guessed that’s what he was doing – buying a fridge big enough for a whole box of lollies.
We didn’t go into a shop, though, we went into a pub which was open even though it was still morning. It was dark inside and all red – red carpet and slippery seats and red tables. Even the ceiling was red. Me and Dad sat at at a table in front of a low stage. It was like the stage at school that we did Christmas plays on, but red again and without a silver paper star stuck to the wall behind.
A man brought me a bottle of cola with a straw and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps and Dad had a pint of beer. I was sucking on my straw, my tongue sore from the crisps, when music started. It wasn’t music you’d hear on he radio, but all slidey and drunk sounding. There was a rattle of beads and a lady appeared through a curtain and stood on the stage.
She was dressed in something like a black swimsuit, a sort of shiny material that reflected the light. I thought if she went to bed wearing that she’d slip around in the sheets and I was just thinking what fun that would be when she started to move.
It wasn’t really dancing, just a sort of swaying and not even really in time with the music, but her face looked kind of dreamy and even though the other men in the pub looked really bored, they were still watching her. Then the strap slipped off her shoulder.
I was going to say to Dad about it, but he was watching her too and he was looking at her like she was really interesting. I thought if Dad thought she was interesting, then I should watch too, even though I thought it was a strange way to spend a morning.
The other strap came off and that did something odd to the shape of the lady’s chest, like how your stomach changes shape when you undo a tight belt. The lady was swaying and bits of her jiggled as she moved and I was about to say to Dad could we go now, cos I really needed a wee, when Dad picked me up and I was standing on the table.
‘You can see a lot better from there, son,’ he said and laughed.
And lots of men were laughing at me and I was worried becuase I could hear the crisps snap under my shoes and I looked down quickly to see where my bottle of cola was because I didn’t want to kick it over. And the lady saw me and walked closer and though I’d thought she was pretty when she first walked onto the stage, I could see now that she had black all smeared round her eyes and down her cheeks and red round her mouth. And her forehead and chin were glistening like she’d licked them. And then she smiled and her teeth were all brown in the ridges and she was really very ugly though I felt bad for thinking it.
Her top was sliding down and her skin was falling out of the swimsuit and she went from tight and tiny to wobbling and I didn’t want to look and I didn’t know if it was rude to look or rude to look away and I wanted to take my coat off because it was so hot but I knew if I did I’d fall off the table and I really needed a wee and I really needed a wee and I really needed a wee.
It was hot and wet down my leg and in my shoe and I could hear something trickling off the table splotting onto the carpet.
And the lady’s face crumpled up, her red mouth almost touching her black eyes. Dad jumped up and was swearing and I was jerked off the table and carried away, under Dad’s arm and I wanted the rest of my cola, but I didn’t dare say.
Every time I ate an ice lolly I thought of the lady in the swimsuit and I’d feel guilty Mum never got her new fridge.
A free-write based on a story I overheard on the bus.