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Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Scary story

"What's the most frightening thing that ever happened to you?" Al asks, as we exit the cinema, having watched two hours of tedious chainsaw schlock.

"That's hard," I say. "Do you mean frightening at the time or frightening later, when you grasp the enormity of what you've done?"

"Oh, either. Let's not get too analytic."

"Well, there was that time we were coming back from the pub and decided to walk along the parapet of the viaduct. You remember?"

"Yeah," he says. "But it was too easy, so John Gibson suggested hopping and we did that for a while and he thought it was still too easy. So we tried hopping backwards and you fell off."

"I did. But on the side with the three foot drop, not the fifty foot. Which is why I'm here today."

"So that was frightening?" Al asks.

"Not at the time. You're armour-plated at that age. But it scares me now. We could have died."

"We didn't," he says. "Will I tell you what's scarier than chainsaws or viaducts?"

He pushes open the door to the Bon Accord and the iconic image on the wall of Baxter and Bremner piques my nostalgia. I order two pints, while he keeps me waiting for the punchline, but I know what's coming.

"Women," he says, lifting his beer and heading for the table in the corner, below the bookshelves. "Women are scary."

"Nah," I say, when we're sat side by side, surveying the bar. "They're not scary. They're just different. You have to not talk to them like guys." 

"I know what not to do with them," Al says. "Pretty much everything I've done with them my whole life. What I don't know is what to do with them."

"You got to get back in the game," I tell him. "You won't learn anything about women by talking to men."

"Except you?" he says.

"Except me," I agree, taking a long pull of my pint. "You should ask my sister out. She likes you."

"Way too nice," he tells me. "I was thinking I'd start at the easy end and work up."

I glance at the wall-poster of Jim and Billy, fresh-faced, young and confident. Everything Al isn't. "Lot of guys make that mistake," I tell him. "Then end up settling for a woman who makes them miserable. Start at the top and work down would be my advice."

"You'd get a load of rejection that way," he says. "Rejection is scary."

"I'll tell you what's scary," says an old guy at the next table, wearing woolly gloves with no fingertips, who's clearly been earwigging. 

He lowers his voice to a whisper. "You live alone. You wake at three in the morning. It's pitch dark and silent, except for the tick of the bedside clock and the faint rustle of winter wind in the trees." 

He pauses. "Then somebody knocks on your bedroom door," he says and starts nodding his head. 

Al and I digest this in silence. Both of us live alone.

"You know that spare room in your house?" I say.

Al shudders and grabs his beer. "It's yours for the night," he says.

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