Steve made a new year’s resolution too, not quite as infallible as my own and not quite a new year’s resolution either, more like something he should have done years ago: spend his wife’s cash. He invited me and my daughter Taz to join him at his least favourite and most exclupensive restaurant in Saint Tropez: La Vieille Arnaque.
“With vitality, if not with pleasure” I replied blithely, “as long as we are to go on two wheels, not four.”
Steve agreed on the moped way even though he had planned on taking the pink Hummer. Not just because we were going to Saint-Trop, but ‘lest we should hit upon a huge flock of sheep on the way.’ Yes he did mean hit upon, sick bastard, but that’s Steve for you. He has seen the needle and the damage done is distressingly, irreparable.
It was the middle of the afternoon by my desktop clock set to seventy-five per cent fuzziness, so we reckoned that if Taz left on her Harley at early evening, we should all meet up at the restaurant at eight o’ clock sharp. We did.
A word here about Steve’s wife Tammy may be of interest. She is currently wintering in California, as just the thought of wearing a woolly jumper sends a chill all the way down to her butt. Woolly bully. Her one mediocre country-pop album from the late seventies “It Ain’t Necessarily Titties And Beer” has assured her a totally disproportionate and steady income ever since. Steve hates the bitch, but being British, all I can say is that I’m not frightfully fond of you either darling.
As we entered the crowded restaurant the diners fell instantly silent, possibly due to Taz in her skin-tight let’s talk about leather outfit accompanied by two middle-aged weirdos, But no, it was in Steve’s honour. The hush turned into a rustle of tasteful applause with a few hoorays and bravos added to emphasize the approval.
Why do I always forget that Steve is what is commonly known as a Genius in France? A much mocked and derided figure in his homeland, yet nothing short of a hero in this land of lovely cheese and laughable biscuits. In his heyday Steve had apparently been a wildly unsuccessful professional bicycle rider whose exploits in the Tour de France in the eighties had gone largely unnoticed in the rest of the world but the French had placed him high on a pedestal, all the better to admire his magnificent calves.
I quickly realised that Steve’s real motive for coming out on the town tonight was to cheer himself up. Not only had he been a little under the weather over the holidays, but “I haven’t seen a fellow American since the last time I dyed my hair”, he lamented pathetically as we were at table expecting a waiter to appear and be flattering. Taz was no better, the sour puss, but at least her reasons were more justified. A little sad because one of her school friends had upped and betrothed her good-self to some jerk called Lister and was currently cruising on his monster yacht, The Turpitude, somewhere in the Algarve. Totally postal about the acts of vandalism and crass criminality which had been committed on our precious guerilla cannabis plantation a couple of days previously. Someone or something had completely ground-zeroed the place and she now had the daunting prospect of a life without weed for the dimly foreseeable future. I felt for her.
We had already decided on our order from the neatly scrawled bistrot chalkboard: Steve would have the woozy numbat with brisures of crystal meth. I would opt for the saber-toothed squirrel with candied sorbs and cork oak acorns.
Taz still in the dumps would just have, “a packet of crisps and a pint of what Beckham over there is drinking”.
When Patrick, our waiter for the evening did come to take our order and be pleasing, he produced a crocodile tear as I mentioned the squirrel,
“It’s the last one sir!” he sobbed.
“Fine by me” I returned casually.
“I mean the very last one in existence Monsieur”
“Even better”, I quipped, “the squirrelling must go on and I will surely be mentioned in school text books.”
I knew he was just kidding, who doesn’t know that saber-toothed squirrel is the codename for the Linux kernel 3.2-rc1?
As for the the matter of drinks, Taz got her pint of Pur Absolut crap and Steve and I were to share a dozen bottles of Chateau Sainte Anne de la Regurgitation. Oh the French! Why can’t they just call it Chateau Chunder like everybody else? Saint-Tropez is the only place in the world where you can buy the stuff and was the principal reason for choosing the mopeds to get here, and back!
I should mention here that as the food arrived, Steve committed the most unthinkable and loutish faux-pas by requesting tomato ketchup. Now don’t expect a repetition of a similar scene in the Naked Lunch, this is France remember; no the waiter complied with a grin. It was I in fact who was trembling, with my fingers crossed under the table, please laddie let it be the 57 varieties variety and not a home made apology made with real organic tomatoes and balsamic bleeding vinegar.
All was going down nicely, my little treetop flyer was delectable, Steve’s favourite condiment had passed muster and even Taz was a bit more chatty. Emerging slowly from her own dystopian universe, which she had named “Jeans North”, she was imploring me to tell the story about spotting Bono moonlighting in that awful cheapskate supermarket,
“Please daddy, again! Again! Just one more time, Pleeeese!”
This peaceful scene of familiar self-indulgence was violently interrupted when the restaurant doors crashed open and some guy walks in with a monstrous wild boar slung across his shoulders. He stood there staring disdainfully at us all and left the door wide open behind him. He was requested, rather politely I thought, to “fermez la porte!” But he just stood there looking more disgusted than ever. As if it were perfectly normal for a man to be standing with a 200 pound pig round his neck but totally unacceptable to enter a room without saying bonjour and closing the door, the demands for him to do so continued unabated. Finally the man spoke:
“This place is so full of bullshit, I won’t close the door until you’ve all had a blast of clean sea air.”
He was staring at the chalkboard and for a moment I thought he was going to spit on it, but he just shook his head sadly and dropped the hog noisily to the ground.
Poor Taz was quite at the end of her tether,
“Shut the fucking door, Retard!”
To which he replied, with maybe just a hint of sarcasm:
“Well if I’d known that The Idiot Bastard Sons of Anarchy were here, why, I would have closed it long ago.”
Our fame was spreading then? The man was gone, leaving all at our table to believe that this brief interlude had been a kind of dream, not to say hallucination.
“What an extraordinary fellow”, I thought and said at the same time, “hippy douche” Steve agreed laconically, Taz said he reminded her of a sheep on meth. If this was all in our imaginations though, why was it taking six grown men to drag that huge slobbering beast into the back kitchens?
The soiree was drawing to a drowsy conclusion, it was time for getting drunk and kick starting mopeds, but we were all out of wine. It did end though on a more cheerful note, the number of zeros on the bill were way in excess of our wildest attempts at thinking up numbers and doubling them, even the ketchup had reached three figures. It was a happy Steve then that handed over Tammy’s charge card to the beaming waiter.
When one doorway to happiness opens another one slams in your face, Patrick had surreptitiously slipped a scrap of paper to Taz with a handwritten message from the dead pig guy:
“If you want your bike back, come to my place in the morning, ask anyone for Chez Maurin………”