Will the explorer docked in a pub in Carlisle to write what he saw and heard. It was a busy place just off the square and did food. On the table next to him was a man, his wife, and two of their friends both male. Unremarkable they were as people but for the fact one of the males was an ex-pat living in Perth and had flown over for a school reunion. They were here for something to eat, filling their bellies with anticipation and excitement, wondering what happened to so-and-so and so-and-so and they’d soon find out because most of their class were coming, they’d confirmed on the Facebook group. So, Will quickly gleaned that these were all in the same class, and the man and his wife were childhood sweethearts who’d stuck together since 1979. And, though it wasn’t apparent at first, he would later decide this was remarkable. In fact, in his opinion nothing short of a fucking miracle…
“How’s your burger?” said the man, who was bald, to the man who’d flown in from Perth.
“Great,” replied the man who’d flown in from Perth, who wasn’t bald.
“How’s your fish and chips?” said the man to the other man, who also wasn’t bald but was receding.
“Very good,” the other man who was receding replied.
“And I know you’re enjoying your mixed grill,” said the man to his wife, who had good hair freshly seen to for the do.
“I am,” she confirmed.
“How the hell did you know that before she even said it?” asked the man who’d flown in from Perth.
“Oh he knows everything,” said his wife, with her new hairdo and just a glimmer of sarcasm. Nobody, Will noted, asked the man who knew everything how was his steak.
And so the man who knew everything went on to describe how he discovered this place, speaking as if the place didn’t exist before he discovered it, and how the reunion had been organised by him to the minutest detail, no stone unturned, no corner cut, nothing overlooked, nothing underestimated, from the choice of music, the decor in the room with the posters he’d made, and even the bar staff militarily drilled as to the kind of drinks everybody had stipulated so they wouldn’t run out. Hotels had been booked for those travelling distances and all expenses down to the last fucking penny were there for all who could be arsed to see on the spreadsheet he’d emailed out. When the party started, in exactly three hours and forty-six minutes, if the man who knew everything had anything to do with it, everybody would have a damn good time whether they liked it or not. But first, he decreed, they’d enjoy their bite to eat and move in synchronisation to their separate hotels for a shit, shave and shower.
Then, plainly in order to shift emphasis, the man with receding hair asked the man who’d flown in from Perth whether he’d watched any of the World Cup, which prompted the man who knew everything, who’d never kicked a ball in his life, to explain how and why Gareth Southgate made the wrong substitutions in the the recent game against Colombia. With his notebook and pen poised, Will listened to the ensuing debate and couldn’t help noting the man who knew everything’s wife kept glancing his way, as if knowing his thoughts and smiling an unspoken conversation going something like this:
“I know you’re writing about us.”
“You’re pretending not to listen.”
“Yes. And you think my husband’s a know-all and a prick.”
“You’ve got me bang to rights, please accept my apology.”
“Not a problem. He is a know-all and a prick.”
“You don’t love him then?”
“So why have you stayed with him since 1979?”
“There must be something though.”
“Certainly not the size of his cock. Write that in your notebook.”
And so Will did.
By then of course the meal had finished and plates were being cleared away as the man who knew everything thanked the waitress and worked out precisely what everyone owed for the tab down to the last penny. Once everyone had coughed up, no tip offered, the man who knew everything told everyone else it was now time to go and get ready for the bash. His wife and the man who was receding behaved accordingly, but the man who’d flown in from Perth announced he’d be staying put for a few more beers. Much to the man who knew everything’s chagrin, only three chairs were scraped back in synchronicity.
When they’d gone, Will decided to chat with the man who’d flown in from Perth.
“Will,” Will said.
“Terry,” said Terry, the man who’d flown in from Perth.
“I gather you’ve flown in from Perth?” said Will.
“Three days ago,” said Terry, “and can’t wait to go home.”
“So why did you come?”
“For this fucking reunion,” said Terry. “I have family too of course, thought I’d come and say my last goodbyes.”
“You’re not ill?”
“Never felt better in my life mate,” he said, “but this is the last time I’ll be back in England.”
“What do you hate so much about England?”
“Oh I don’t hate it, I just love Oz better. They make you work hard but they give you shit-loads for it. The weather, pool in the back yard, what more could you want?”
“What about the people?”
“You get the occasional arsehole, but most of them are OK. The “sheilas” are OK too. Over there they’re individuals, over here they walk around in threes: one who’s gorgeous, one who’s fat but tries and one who’s fat and doesn’t.”
“So I take it you’re not looking forward to this reunion?” said Will.
“I’m curious,” said Terry, “Interested to see how people are doing.”
“I couldn’t help observing it’s all been organised with minute precision.”
“You mean the guy who knows everything?”
“He’s the kind of guy who drinks alone at the bar and laughs at other people’s jokes to make it look like he’s got mates. The guy who’s never been anywhere and knows it like the back of his hand. It’s his wife I feel sorry for.”
“Yep,” he said, “that’s why I banged the arse off her last night. The man who knows everything doesn’t know that!”
And with a laugh and a conspiratorial wink, Terry the man who’d flown in from Perth gathered their two empty glasses and headed for a refill.