Wolverhampton Tommy was a repulsive little shit of a man. Barely five foot six, he was an assortment of unwanted parts: short fat stumpy legs; a huge gut that spilled over his waistband and took his grubby vest up with it; a stocky, compact head; no neck as such to speak of; a chest that looked like it held a shriveled heart; and arms which were too small to do most of the things they had evolved for. Apart from a thinning pitcher's mound at the back, Tommy had a full head of grey hair. When washed it became a natural bouffant, though usually it was slapped full of Bryl Creem and combed flat to the scalp, a little dry tuft at the back curling up, giving the impression he had a filthy neck. What wasn't in dispute is that he was a selfish man, a pair of black-framed National Health specs helping to further magnify only that which was in front of his own existence. A gambler, a drinker, a semi-dosser, he lived off a diet of chips and fried bread and mushrooms. His teeth were grey and loose and ground down flat like a herbivore's. He had a habit of peering over his glasses like he was an intellectual, or a judge; a pencil constantly behind his ear which he used to pick out horses and fill in crossword puzzles. Each morning, except Thursdays, he could be found sitting at the kitchen table, surrounded by bread crumbs, his balls spilling out his baggy y-fronts, the fronts patterned with piss marks and melted butter. After breakfast he'd dress in a pair of One-Size-Fits-All jeans, dirty white sport socks, a pair of backless comfy slippers, and over his vest a red and blue striped bathrobe. Like that he'd run down to the newsagents and pick up the racing paper along with some other rag with even less news in it. I guess Tommy was a kind of stock lot of middle-aged British men at that time, masquerading as the disillusioned white working class, but really, avoiding work at all costs and scraping by on reversed shirts, cheap Bic razors, pots of weak sugary tea and penny accumulator bets.
Why my mother shacked up in a bedsit with such a man is a mystery. Even after years of reflection I have no answer. Tommy had nothing going for him, no wooing feathers at all. More than the junkies and the perverts and the ultra violent (who at least had a kink to entertain mum with) it was men like Tommy who baffled me. I couldn't understand why she'd let such a dull excuse the intimate pleasure of getting between her legs. It was sad. It was sad because of what it said about Mum: that she needed no reason to attach herself to someone; that any warmblooded creature, no matter what their looks or intellect, was company enough; that loneliness has no standards and bypasses all natural quality control.
Tommy wasn't even a decent fuck. Neither was he blessed with an arm-sized cock. From what I could discern the sex was miserable and made worse by his meagre resources. Tommy fucked like a man with heart trouble. I used to lay on the floor, in the dark, listening to his three minutes of bucking and heaving, Mum reviling him, hating him, sometimes raining her fists down on his back and shrieking as he hogged and slobbered away. It wasn't a serious attempt to get him off, more something to try and bring some passion out in him, turn him into the hulk, a monster who'd flip her around and drive it straight in her arse without a word. But it never happened. After three minutes Tommy was done for. He'd roll off like a fattened leech, back to his side of the bed, straight into Crossword Position, flicking the light on and adjusting his glasses as he took his folded newspaper and began rubbing words out and putting new ones in – mum besides him, unsatisfied, drinking herself unconscious and puking over the side of the bed.
Whatever animal Tommy was, in himself, he seemed strangely content. In fact that was his only real quality, well, that and his ability to pass huge chunks of time, always finding something slow and delberate to do. His days and weeks were all planned out; times and days and dates he would do things. Everything from getting up to going to bed was accounted for by a time. Even his drinking, an alcoholic, but Tommy never drank a drop before 4pm and never after 12. But by far the weirdest calender event was his weekly strip down wash. As he wouldn't use the communal bathroom he had his full-body scrub, every Thursday morning, right there in the room, stripped naked and standing on the previous day's newspaper. With a saucepan of hot water besides him, he'd be there, in full glare of everyone, soaping his cock and bollocks and then squatting a touch to clean the crack of his arse. It was during his wash-time that Tommy's unfortunate physical characteristic became apparent. His arms were so short, that when he lathered his chest, he looked like a grown up thalidomide baby. And all the while he was doing this, his pants, which he'd washed in cold water and rang out in the sink, were stretched over the kettle on the stove, steaming away so as they'd be dry for his 10am jaunt to the shops.
Bizarre habits, that are usually borne out of poverty, came to Tommy via his unrelenting attempt to scrimp through life without ever having to work. He had kinda stripped all the fat off living and was down to economizing with the bare bones, arranging them in different ways so as to keep his life standing. He'd do stuff like keep potato peel for soup, or fry them to a crisp and munch them between doorsteps of buttered bread. Teabags too. He found that with six used teabags you could strain them to get an extra cup. His bets were the same. He'd somehow make the racing last all day, placing multiple petty wagers across the cards, criss-crossing them in double, trebles and accumulators, working it so as there was hope right up until the last race. At fifty he was already a part of the old boys crowd, counting out pennies in tens and sliding each little pile across to the cashier. Only it was amusing when the old boys did it and you kinda hoped they'd win: nobody hoped Tommy would win. The cashier took his pennies with contempt, avoiding his brown nicotine fingers on the way.
Without ever really doing anything disgusting Tommy disgusted people. All his scabby ways seemed to hint at more perverse stuff he'd maybe get up to alone. Mum was always looking at him with a deep hatred. As she drank herself silly she'd stare evil at him as he sat there in his glasses and vest, filling out his crosswords. That's when mum would get ratty and start picking fights, hissing nasty comments at him. Tommy would unscrew the cap of his whiskey bottle, turn a measured drop down his throat, then slowly recap the bottle and put it back on the side. The deliberateness with which he lived riled mum even more. She liked her men to do things without the fear of consequence, to drink whiskey fast and get drunk quick. This rationing of liquor and life that Tommy had mastered just made her being with him that little more incomprehensible.
A beautiful woman, Mum could have had almost any man she wanted. Though maybe that was it: she didn't want to choose but to be chosen. She knew any woman could sit in any bar and flash some knicker and serve it up on a plate, but to be wanted, really wanted, was something quite different.
Mum lived with Tommy for over a year in their bug ridden bedsit in Earls Court. Holed up in that decrepit building, with communal bathroom and toilets, they did everything in the room under one another's glare. With not even a toilet to retreat to, hatred wormed its way in, both beginning to despise the others' habits. Tommy would hate how mum would just lay there blitzed all day, always naked and falling about, giving him eyefuls of things from weird angles, which rather than turning him on turned him off. He's mantra at the end of it all was “Will you please cover that cunt of yours for Godsake!” She in turn despised him right down to the way he smoked – hand-rolled cigarettes squeezed between his thumb and forefinger, inhaling the smoke like it was the greatest pleasure on earth. It was mutual hatred, and as there'd not been any love to begin with it was more bitter than most.
By the time mum eloped with Tommy's sister their relationship was really over and dusted. Of course, Tommy was still furious, kept going on about deceit and betrayal, suddenly becoming infected with a violent, vicious, bullying streak which came out in threats and stalking. It was his selfishness again. Suffering only his own soreness and not registering at all the hell that he himself was to be around. That she left him for his own sister, well, no-one knows how Tommy thought about that as he never once broached the subject. Mum always said he only wanted her back so as he could leave her first. That made no sense to me at the time, not until years later when I was beaten to the trigger myself. Then I understood. Finally, however, Tommy did get mum back, though not entirely and not to himself. It was an incestuous affair involving his own sister, his new girlfriend and Mum – a fourway split over many months. I guess that's as good as Tommy ever got, though three minutes, between three women, well... I guess like always the girls had to pleasure themselves.