Perhaps I’m missing out, I thought, but the more he banged on about his lathes, routers and table saws, whipping out his mobile snaps of bench tops, bread boards, dodgy cricket bats and the blocky blokes around him in the Men’s Shed, I thought not and when he finally asked me what I did and I said chirpily, I write poetry, conversation shut down like a roller door.
It’s Carol’s 70th so we have to go and I know what’s waiting for me as soon as we rock up. The Test! My partner doesn’t have to submit to it, nor do the younger males, only the senior ones. Each Xmas, Easter, special occasions, he waits for me. Bone-crusher Bowden.
We lock eyes, hands like deer lock antlers, while my partner settles down to chat..
He grips. I grip. Harder. Tighter. Grimace. Grunt. Grin. Faces redden. Eyes almost pop. “What are you men up to?” the women say. Then one of us weakens. It’s always me. He was a wharfie. I was a teacher but it’s getting closer. He’s losing his edge.
I’ll get you next time, I smile. Not on my watch, he says. But he doesn’t know. I’m working out at the gym. Can’t wait till Xmas.