The mask was identical to the face Martin wore beneath.
“They’re meant to be uglier than your own mug, Martin. No point otherwise – especially at a Hallowe’en party.” I said this with a tongue in my cheek, as he knew I knew his face was nothing to write home about. And it would probably scare strangers shitless, particularly those of the gatecrasher variety…
“OK, OK, joke’s over. You’ll be laughing the other side of you face before the evening’s over.”
If I didn’t know Martin better, I would have suspected something sinister in that loosely veiled threat. I could even have believed he wasn’t joking.
We were not exactly gatecrashers ourselves. but it was a bit like a friend of a friend of a friend thrice removed who was holding the party in King’s Langley, if you know what I mean. We’d heard at least the rumour that all and sundry were invited. So, here we were, climbing off the M25 in Martin’s 2CV. Neither of us had been North of Watford before and we were eager to discover whether there was life up there…as the saying goes. We knew there would be, but that didn’t stop us chortling on the joke as the rubber band inside Martin’s jalopy finally unwound, bringing us to a halt in the car park of the Rose and Crown, where many of the guests would be tanking up in readiness for the long night ahead.
I turned to Martin and kidded him about all the badges he was wearing on his Albanian Flapjacket. I think he must have belonged to every club and society going including both the Foxhunters and the Anti-Blood Sports Associations. Whether it was just another of his silly jokes or he genuinely didn’t know his own mind, even now, after all the events have finally finished unfolding, I remain unsure.
It’s the story of my life, I know, but to cut a long story short, we’ll go straight to the party which turned out to be a pretty drab affair. Even the strobe lighting in the room dedicated to disco dancing was about as limp wristed as my next door neighbour’s dead mother. Martin and I carried out a few desultory jigs together, but the hotel foyer muzak was not exactly conducive to a real shake-out. On top of this, there were next to no birds. Even Alfred Hitchcok’s film had Tippi Hedren going for it. Unless there was a room upstairs where they had all congregated packed like kids in a Sardines game to escape Martin’s ugly mask, every guest at that shindig wore trousers and hugely dated floral ties. Not one badge between them, to gauge the fellow feeling, if any. Furthermore, not even obne backslapping howdyado from a hale and hearty host, eager to make his guests feel at home. But thinking about it, I could have felt at home anywhere, given an amorous nature.
Eventually, Martin gave me the nod. Back down the M25, to see if we could catch up on a bit of real nightlife in more familiar territory. We felt like fish out of water, or at least I did. Martin, well, he was just Martin, as inscrutable as ever. We walked off the dance floor and thus out of the limelight of the torch that the DJ was flashing upon us from his plinth.
Suddenly we were accosted by a bright young spark who called himself Aretha Franklin.
“That’s a funny name for someone who looks as if he’s just walked out of one of Hitler’s gas chambers.”
“Hark who’s talking. With a face like that…” – Aretha pointed at Martin’s mask – “I bet your face wouldn’t win a beauty competition against my bum.”
I look quizzically at Aretha’s backside, but could find no clue as to why he had made such an outrageous statement.
Martin evidently decided this was it. He was standing no nonsense from the likes of this Northern upstart and he immediately made a hefty kick at Aretha’s backside.
“That’ll change the odds somewhat – I hear judges don’t like bruises on the merchandise.”
Or that’s what Martin’d probably have said, given half the chance. For, in the event, his leg was left stuck up at right angles, the foot sunk to it’s ankle in Aretha’s buttocks. The trouser seat had disappeared with the merest ripping noise, leaving the weltering cheeks literally to munch up Martin’s calf. I tried to steady my friend, as he hopped precariously on his free leg.
As the others watched this amazing fandango in which the three of us were participating, I noticed the arrival of the Bad Crowd. Every shindig’s got them, even down South. But this lot were the worst I’d ever seen. Plug Uglies to the bone. Undergrunts to the letter. Martin’s mush was not even in the same league. The fact that made them seem particularly horrendous was the female gender they wielded. Fresh from girl talk, no doubt, in that Ladies Room I’d imagined earlier, they were waving red-stained panties as if this were some preliminary to a mating dance. If I’d ever fancied a bird, now was the time to stamp homosexual authority on my proclivities…
To come clean, it was a good job that Martin’s really only my alter ego and his leg, if I can put it this way, my metaphor for manly pride. Aretha (whose real name turned out to be Digory Smalls) wasn’t all that bad looking, despite my earlier misgivings…and the Bad Crows eventually skulked off churlishly, presumably crestfallen, hopefully back to the Ladies Room where they belonged together.