Sweno, the Norways’ king, craves composition:
Nor would we deign him burial of his men
Till he disbursed at Saint Colme’s inch
Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
Guy Jarvis threw himself into his A-levels and flying, although not so much now the winter was upon them. He also joined a Tamworth amateur theatrical group and started helping with the sets and productions, before getting his first, small speaking part. Something had to give and Guy cut his evenings with the ATC down to one a week. He was by now a cadet sergeant and helped to instruct the younger cadets in airmanship, navigation and the theory of flight. He still attended Judo classes although some of the adults were getting better and he spent a lot of time on the mat.
Guy was superbly confident on the stage and outgoing. His parts became more complex and he could dominate the stage with his characters. But it was all an act. He had realised in his early teens that he was an introvert, not a misanthrope but he found that while extroverts needed and even craved the interaction with other people, he was comfortable in his skin. Guy was indifferent to the extroverts that controlled his sixth form social scene and often wished they could listen to themselves and realise just how little they actually said or offered. And the problem was that teachers seemed to believe that everybody should be outgoing and the only way to contribute in the classes was to dominate the discussions with opinions, which were often ill thought-out or just plain wrong. Guy did contribute in the lessons and group discussions, but tended to only ask questions when he wanted clarification or didn’t understand a concept. Guy Jarvis knew the odds would be stacked against him when it came to operating in the career he wanted to pursue, so he acted and realised that that was what he had been doing all of his life.
Now his elder brother was a much different kettle of fish. He had left the home to get married many years before, but his parents regularly visited him and his family, far too often for Guy’s taste. He was the life and soul of the party, quick of wit and an accomplished joke-teller. He was unquestionably his mother’s favourite and if the truth were known, Guy found these family visits trying and nauseating. And how his elder sibling resented his younger brother. Even into adulthood Guy’s brother continued to refer to him as “The Accident.” As a small child Guy had been bullied by his brother and could have cheered when his elder sibling got married and left home. The worst part was that his mother knew what had been going on, but the motherly love of a first-born is an impossible link to break. When he became a Pathfinder, an elite within an elite, Guy asked his father not to tell his brother, or even his mother what it was he was actually doing. His father had complied with his younger son’s wish, but it was difficult for the elderly man, who was immensely proud of his younger son.
His mother worried about Guy. She reluctantly thought him to be a sad loner, which Guy wasn’t. He had friends, real friends that accepted him for what he was. Some of the school’s wannabee gangsters made the mistake of misreading introversion for timidity and cowardice. The self-appointed school hard man and his posse decided one day that Guy Jarvis was a lonely loser and decided to teach him a lesson for not wanting to be part of his gang. It was a mistake and Guy was never bothered by anybody, including one of the PE teachers, who had actually engineered the situation between Guy and the school so-called hard men. Guy had hurt two of them quite badly. One had to be taken to hospital because his fractured nasal septum wouldn’t stop bleeding. Everybody knew, but because many teachers are such cowards, there was no follow-up action. But word got around. The cat that walked on his own was a tough bastard.
Perhaps his father recognised his younger son’s personality traits more than anybody, because he too was a thinker. And like Guy, he too had been an actor. Superbly confident in the cramped flight deck of an Avro Vulcan, former Wing Commander Jarvis had a very good imagination. He realised that his megaton payload was not going to be dropped on targets, it would be dropped on people. And he knew that as soon as his aircraft’s wheels left the ground of one of the many emergency dispersal airfields, he and his crew would be dead within a few hours and his wife and family would be dead in a few minutes. He had once asked his crew’s opinion.
“Chaps, if we ever have to do this bloody awful thing and drop the instant sunshine and if by some miracle we’re still alive, what do you want me to do?”
“Engage full throttle, climb like buggery and if a missile doesn’t get us, then fly us into the ground or the sea,” his Nav Plotter had suggested. There were no dissenting voices.
So Guy was comfortable in his skin and wished that other people would allow this. In a few years he would meet a man called Mark Edge, who was so like him it was uncanny. They would dislike each other, but eventually become firm, lifelong friends.
He took three A-level subjects in his sixth year, Mathematics, Physics and French. Even though he couldn’t play a musical instrument, Guy had an ear for languages and was fairly fluent in French and he would eventually learn to speak Russian. He had passed O-level Maths with a Grade B, but was struggling at A-level. Strangely although the subject required a significant amount of mathematics, Guy found Physics to be a relatively easy subject. He was predicted an A in French, a B in Physics and a C in Maths.
Unfortunately girls, or rather a girl rather distracted him from his studies in the sixth form as he underwent the initial sexual fumblings and discovered that relationships were not always trouble free. And inevitably it could never last, but guy felt no bitterness, he just chalked it up to one of those things in life you had to experience, all part of its rich tapestry.
He gained his predicted A in French, a C in physics and a rather disappointing D in mathematics and he wondered what to do with his life. He was seventeen and still undecided which path in life he would take. The atmosphere in the family home had become rather strained and there was palpable tension between his mother and father. Perhaps his mother had found out about his father’s “visits” to Sutton Coldfield, while Guy remained blissfully unaware.
It had been his father’s suggestion with an inducement of a couple of hundred quid, to travel through France and hone his language skills. Guy thought about it. He had no wish to stay at home during the long summer and wait for his parents’ tension to break into open warfare. Many youngsters of his age would have been daunted by the thought of travelling in another country alone, but this held no fear for Guy, the cat who walked on his own. He caught a ferry to Calais as the Channel Tunnel was yet to open and made use of the excellent French railway system to head south.
Guy travelled light with just a poncho, paracord and a few steel tent pegs. Sometimes he stayed in camp sites and other times he dossed down in woods and fields. Food was simple and cheap and he remembered to make his weekly phone calls home. But all the time he was heading south towards the Mediterranean and the sun. He travelled through the Camargue to Montpellier and visited Martigues and the singularly unlovely Marseille. Guy headed further east and decided to stay near Toulon for a week or so. The sea cliffs and small beaches were quite captivating, as was the seeming endless display of naked flesh. He saw a sign in a bar wanting staff to cover the August holiday rush. He still had plenty of money, but a little more wouldn’t go amiss, so he volunteered his services, knowing the proprietor would pay him less that the a French person would be paid. Guy didn’t care and was happy with the quid pro quo.
He worked six hours a day, 17:30 until 23:30 when the bar would close. Then Guy would walk the four kilometres to the camp site he was staying in and sleep until later in the morning. He had two meals a day and spent the afternoons swimming or going for a run, despite the heat. He became very fit and suntanned and he was quite reluctant to go home to the West Midlands. He became well known with the bar’s younger patrons and once they had overcome their distrust of this English stranger, he was accepted and became the butt of their good-natured jokes.
Just over a week after he had arrived at Cabasson, Guy decided that he would go for a late swim, one evening after he finished work. The night was warm and balmy and the crickets were chirruping in the acacia trees as he went down the steps to the deserted beach. He decided to swim au naturel and stripped off, leaving his shoes and clothes on the shingle. Out in the small bay was a raft and he swum out to it with a powerful crawl stroke. There were the lights of ships far out to sea and Guy hauled himself up onto the raft and watched them in quiet, contented contemplation. It was after midnight and he thought he’d better swim back and walk to the campsite. He swum back to the beach and was surprised to see a girl standing by his pile of clothes, watching him. He stayed in the water.
“Hello,” she said in English, “You’re the English boy, are you not.”
“That I am,” Guy replied in French.
“Yes it is and I should be getting off to go to bed.”
“Where are you staying?” she asked.
“In a camp site near La Ris. Would you hand me my shorts please.”
“No,” she said firmly, “You’ll have to come and get them.”
“I warn you, I will.”
He could see a glint of white teeth in the darkness of the shadows under the small cliffs, “Come on then. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
“Just remember that the sea is cold.”
“That’s just an excuse.”
Guy strode out of the water and grabbed the shorts, turned his back and put them on then turned to look at her. Even in the darkness he recognised her as one of the girls who frequented the bar.
“What’s your name, English boy?”
“Hello, Guy. I’m Deja.”
“Yes, of course you are,” Guy sat down and pulled on his shoes and then his polo shirt, “Haven’t we met somewhere before?”
She wrinkled her pretty nose, “I don’t think so. Only in the bar.”
Guy smiled in the darkness. Perhaps she wasn’t ready for his devastating repartee. He walked towards the steps up from the beach and the girl followed him, “Four kilometres is such a long way. You could stay with me if you want.”
Guy halted and peered at her, wondering if this time she was having a joke at his expense, “Pardon?”
“My parents have a holiday home for the summer holidays in Hyères. We, or rather they live in Amiens but come down here for two months in the summer.”
“Will your parents mind?”
“Probably, but if you don’t tell them, then neither will I. Besides, my father is currently in hospital recovering from a fractured hip and my mother is with him.”
“Hyères is a hell of a walk from here.”
“I have my little car. Stop making problems, Guy” she pronounced his name as Goy.
This has got to be a bloody dream, he thought.
Her car was a very old Renault Cleo and it was very rusty, but it went.
“I hope you weren’t drinking at the bar,” he said solemnly.
“Only two little ones.”
Her driving was cautious, probably because as he had suspected, she had drunk a little too much, “What do you do, Deja?”
“Do? I’m a student at Rouen University, but it’s the holidays now and I have completed my second year.”
“What are you studying?”
“Humanities. I want to be a teacher.”
“A teacher. Wow! You don’t look much like my teachers.”
“Oh I think I will be teaching you many things, Guy,” she said enigmatically.
The villa was in the hills above Hyères, in the narrow streets and closely packed jumble of holiday homes and smaller, local houses, which seemed as if a giant had tossed them into the air and they had come down haphazardly. There were narrow streets with alleys that led into darkness and she took his hand and went up one, to a doorway above some steps. She struggled with the door lock and eventually opened the heavy, wooden door.
“Come on. It’s getting cold.”
Guy felt sweat trickling down his back. Cold was the last of his worries.
She switched on the lights to reveal a single storey interior of perhaps three bedrooms, a sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and utility room all off the small hallway. All the walls were white and a few pictures decorated them. “There is some wine in the refrigerator. Could you get me a glass please, Guy and you can have one.”
Guy wasn’t much of a drinker, but it seemed rude to refuse. There was a bottle of white wine with about a quarter gone. He saw a glass on the sink drainer and looked in a cupboard for a second one, then poured two glasses. He gave one to her.
“Thank you. Are you hungry?”
“Good, me neither.”
“Err, Deja, where am I going to sleep.”
“I’ll show you.”
She opened a door to a plain bedroom with a small, double bed, “You can sleep here.”
Guy sat on the bed and sipped the wine, his mouth suddenly feeling as dry as the Camargue salt pans, “It’s really nice thank you. Where are you going to sleep?”
She put the glass on a bedside table and pulled her light, summer dress over her head. She appeared to have omitted her underwear.
“Guess,” she said, pulled back the thin duvet and slid into the bed, “Close your mouth, Guy or you’ll end up catching flies like him.” She looked up into the corner by the ceiling at a lizard.
“Jesus,” said Guy.
Later, but not that much later he stared at the lizard that hadn’t moved, despite the creaking bed and sexual gymnastics below his simple, little world. Deja went up on one elbow and looked at Guy smiling, her pupils still dilated with desire.
“Tu as vraiment besoin de ralentir, Guy. Ce n’est pas un sprint, mais plutôt un steeple-chase. Avoir un peu plus de vin et puis nous aurons un autre essai. C’est quand vous êtes à la hauteur.”
“Because I like you. I like people who are quiet thoughtful and… And,” She struggled for the words in English, “Autonome.”
“Ah, now I have it, self-ruling.”
“Perhaps. You are confident in yourself,” she nuzzled into him, “And for a boy, you don’t look too bad.”
She was perhaps three years older than him.
“And for a teacher, you don’t look too shabby yourself.”
“In which case, my eager pupil, it’s time for your second lesson.”
* * *
In the following days he would contemplate her absolute inhibition in stunned wonder. Most of the time she spent in the holiday apartment she would be totally naked. One morning he was sitting opposite her at the breakfast table while she dunked yesterday’s stale bread into sweet, milky coffee. Guy found it impossible not to stare at her breasts and the little mole close to her right nipple. She was totally insatiable; they both were.
“I don’t want this summer to end. I want to stay here with you.”
She looked at him evenly and smiled sadly, “Guy, this is nothing more than une romance de vacances, which will inevitably come to an end. We are making the best of each other’s company and bodies, but all too soon we will go our separate ways. It’s inevitable, but we will remember one another. When God willing, we are both old and grey, we will look at this brief time and smile to ourselves. It is the way of the world.
They made the best of their two weeks together and in the moments when passions weren’t running high, they would lie together and she would ask questions.
“Are you a student, Guy?”
“I was and I’ve just finished what you would call matriculation.”
“So you will be going to university.”
“It’s what my father wants, but my grades are not good enough and I don’t want to stay at college doing resits.”
“So what else?”
Guy looked up at the ceiling and pondered the question. The lizard had moved on to pastures new, “I think I want to join the Army.”
She sat up, “The army? Madness!”
“I’ve decided that I want to be a para.”
“Oh my God. You can’t be serious. What a terrible waste of a young life.”
“At least I’ll see some of the world.”
“Yes, Ireland. Foolish boy! I shall stop making love with you until you decide on a better career.”
“I don’t think you will,” He playfully ran his finger down her stomach, “Because I have learned which buttons to press.”
* * *
A few days later Guy had just started his shift in the bar, when Deja came in in a state of agitation, “Guy, I must speak with you.”
He asked his boss who shrugged and nodded and she led him outside, “Guy, you can’t come back to my place tonight. My brother has come with a friend and he has found out I have been seeing you.”
“He is my older brother and is very possessive of his little sister.”
“That sounds unhealthy.”
“And he absolutely hates the English so we must keep our distance until he has left,” She was clearly very worried by this development, “He is not a nice person, Guy.”
“He sounds like my brother. How long will he stay?”
“A couple of days. He just arrived on his motorbike with a friend. He is in our army, Guy. That is why I said you would just be wasting your life, like he has wasted his.”
“Is this a subterfuge to dump me?” Guy asked.
“No it is not! I am really worried for you and you should consider going home.”
“I’m not going to be chased home by your brother, Deja.”
“Please be careful, Guy.”
He watched her leave and shook his head. I knew it was too good to be true. Guy wasn’t looking forward to sleeping alone under his poncho, instead of with a pneumatic French girl.
The following night Guy was walking back to the camp site when he heard a motorbike coming up from behind him. He got off the road and waited for it to pass and saw the headlamp and the bike slow down. There was a pillion passenger and the bike went past him slowly and stopped. The pillion rider got off and the two of them removed their crash helmets, then the driver got off.
He looked at Guy. He was about six foot with short, cropped hair. His wingman was about the same height as Guy but thicker set.
“Are you the Englishman called Guy?” The rider asked in French.
“Who wants to know?”
“You have been pestering my sister.”
Guy smiled in the darkness. He knew he could take these two punks, “Actually, I haven’t been “pestering” her. I’ve been fucking her and do you know what? She goes like a train.”
Even in the darkness he could see the anger on his face and heard the click of a switchblade. That wasn’t so good. Deja’s brother slowly approached Guy, the knife held low and in front of him. The other man moved out to outflank Guy.
“I’m going to teach you a lesson for fucking my sister.”
“Au contraire. Elle m’a donné toutes les leçons dont j’ai besoin.”
Guy was goading the man into making a mistake, which he did. He lunged forward with the knife at Guy’s abdomen too early. His wingman wasn’t in position. Like his gliding, Guy had continued to go to judo classes and had steadily risen through the grades. He was a brown belt and ready to grade for his black belt first dan within the next few months. As a brown belt first kyu, Guy had studied the discipline of Atemi Waza or combat judo striking moves. The knife made contact with thin air as Guy had easily sidestepped. He grabbed the knife wrist with his left hand and crushed the pressure point causing the knife to clatter on the road. The Frenchman’s scream of pain was cut short as Guy’s right elbow smashed into the bridge of his nose and between the eyes. It was a classic blow to the uto, designed to stun and disable. Deja’s brother went down like a sack of potatoes. Guy picked up the knife and hefted it showing the wingman who stopped uncertainly.
“Come on then you bastard,” he said in English, “Come and get it.”
Deja’s brother grunted and attempted to get up. Guy’s walking boot shattered some teeth and probably the mandible. It wasn’t a recognised Atemi Waza move, just pure and simple, gratuitous ultraviolence. The man on the ground didn’t move again.
“You want some of the same?” Guy asked the wingman who was by now stepping backwards while he advanced, holding the knife up. The other man decided that what had started out as a bit of fun, beating up of some English kid, had escalated into a threat to their lives. He disappeared into the night. Guy walked back to the man who was bleeding on the road and hauled his head up by two fingers in his nostrils, which were bleeding copiously. Bloody drool slipped from his mouth.
“Right you bastard,” Guy hissed in his ear, “It’s me who’s going to teach you a lesson for pulling a blade on me.”
Guy proceeded to slash the bike seats and every piece of electrical wiring he could see. He let down the tyres and took one last look at the groaning body on the road, wiping his bloody fingers on the back of his jacket. Then Guy also headed off into the night, threw the knife into the rough terrain and pondered what the hell he was going to do now. He doubted that Deja would be too impressed with him for messing up her brother and the police would investigate the incident. He went to the camp site to collect his kit and then walked the twelve kilometres to the railway station at Hyères to catch the first train to Marseille, staying well clear of Deja’s holiday apartment. He changed onto the next Paris express and arrived in the capital in the afternoon. He took the final train to Calais and paid as a foot passenger on a ferry. It was an anxious time showing his passport, but the bored customs woman barely glanced at it and he was on the ferry.
In truth, Guy had expected to be wanted by a manhunt on the scale of the hunt for the Jackal. But the Flicks weren’t interested in some punk beaten up and having his bike vandalised. The local plod would deal with it in their inevitably ponderous way, by which time Guy was back at home. As he sat on the boat deck watching the white cliffs come closer, he pondered on his strange and marvellously carnal adventures. Like all good things, it had to come to an end, but she had been right. Guy would never forget Deja, the lovely, uninhibited student from Rouen University and their mutual erotic explorations. And every time he thought about it, he did smile. It was a smile of gratitude.
© Blown Periphery 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file