Monday, 6 October 2014

Being Marcus Toberman

The drive from Venice to Beverly Hills was a warm one.  In the Mexico it felt like a heat stroke in a Senior Citizens' home while Strangelove-riding a washing machine on full spin.  Kidneys rattled against spinal discs which vibrated and clashed into intestines as the death trap on wheels rolled along surface roads, in and out, and in through traffic.  Pulling off on to the well-to-do, privately policed, streets of the top one percent I watched as octogenarians, who had the bagging skin pulled so tight that they looked as though they had a 365 Halloween mask, turned their new noses up at the sight of a man making his way through their streets trying to carve out a living.  ‘It’s the role of people like this to keep people like me down’ I told myself, ‘this is how they keep the world turning.’
I turned into the driveway and cruised up the perfectly smooth lane between the two immaculately manicured lots of green with award winning rose bushes.  I had been working this gig long enough that the community’s private police service no longer stopped my old wagon on sight.
Turning the engine off I climbed from the cabin.  I’d need to remember to feed her some water before I ventured back towards the Pacific, I’d need to re-tune my banjo before the lesson as the good vibrations from the frequently shot suspension renders chords unplayable, almost brutal.
I rang the doorbell, Eduardo worked away with his wheelbarrow and I heard the pitter of soft-shoed feet as Helena answered the door.  She was Filipino.  I was the first white servant she had seen call to the house in all her years working for the Tobermans.  She stood five foot on her tip-toes and had a roundness to her body which was homely.
‘Hey baby, ready to go to prom?’ I asked her.
She’d roll her eyes getting into character.  I was the smart-ass, she was the older woman who had no time for my personality disorder.  A beautiful roleplay.
‘Mrs. Toberman!’ she called ‘He’s here again!’
As welcome as a Jehovah’s witness at an orgy.
Even though I had been to the house every Wednesday for the past three months Helena would not unplug her frame from the doorway until she heard the mistress of the house, and her high heels click, click, click their way down the marble staircase in the middle of the foyer.  I caught sight, she was wearing her green dress today.  It meant emeralds on her fingers and ears.  Tossing her blonde mane she’d throw me a smile.
‘Please Helena,’ she said placing a hand on the maid’s shoulder ‘Douglas is a guest.  Don’t have him standing on the doorstep.  Take him to the music room then get Tommy and let him know his tutor is here.’
‘Follow me.’ she’d sigh before leading me to the music room as though it was my first time in the enormous New World estate of a home.
The music room used to be the games room, before that it was the library, and before that maybe the indoor pool or the den or maybe even a study but when young master Tommy spoke to his mother and father of his desire to learn to play the banjo Mr. Toberman (who was seemingly in a permanent state of weekday incommunicado) would click his fingers and materialize several black, and brown, and yellow men to do his building work for him; to transform the room into his son’s very own recording studio.
Propped up on a stool I nursed the new bruises the battered springs of the Mexico had willed me and re-tuned my Ozark.  Five string.  Bluegrass.  The instrument of Great American heartache.  Tommy arrived eager, instrument in hand, much more expensive than mine.  Prick.  His blonde mop bouncing wildly as he raced to his spot.  I had to give him it, he was a work-horse.  He might have come from money but he was determined.  He reminded me a little of myself.  I pushed that idea to the back of my mind, if he was me then I could be only one person.
‘Hey Doug.’ he beamed.
‘Hey yourself kid,’ I had finished tuning ‘pull up and show me how you’re coming along.’
He sat down across from me, his daddy had managed to buy him some gold records from 80s Rock bands that blew all their bank and couldn’t afford to keep any memento of the glory days.  One always sat directly over his head, light reflecting from it making it shine as bright as a halo.  Tommy plucked his way through John Henry.  He had been practicing.  It was a good rendition.
‘That’s cool boss,’ he got a kick from me calling him boss ‘but don’t be afraid to throw a little style into it.  When you come back around even just throw in a second open D to give it a little soul.’ I played it through for him, throwing in a little of myself here and there.  He took note with his eyes, unblinking and honest.
‘Open D.’
‘Yeah.  So what do you want to learn today?’
‘How about a little something from the homeland me boyo?’  I threw out a few strings of Danny Boy.
‘Oh yeah, that would be cool.’ he said.
‘Ok, so Danny Boy is deceptive.  Because you start up around the top of the neck and then there are some big jumps and the tune gets high and then you have to bring it right back down.  Make sure you’ve your fingering right from the get-go otherwise there’s going to be trouble.’
‘Fingering, right.’ his voice was without snigger, and I felt bad that the boy was missing out on a real childhood.
‘So how about we break it up a bit.  We’ll go right up until the jump to the tenth and we’ll work on that first.  Get it real solid and then next week we can learn the rest then put it together.’
‘You don’t think I could learn it all in one?’
‘I didn’t.  It’s a tough song, tough because everybody knows it.’
I played him through Danny Boy and then taught him everything he could do with the three fingers he had been using up to this point to work the neck.  He paid attention and played along with me when I gave him the nod.  At the end of the lesson I drew out the neck, marked up his chords to play and folded it in half before feeding it to his shirt pocket.  I packed up my banjo into its case but when I turned around Tommy was still there.  He stood awkwardly to attention, as though I was his drill sergeant.  I smiled.  He mirrored.  It was as awkward as dating your cousin.
‘What’s up boss?’ I asked.
‘I was wondering something…’
‘Oh yeah?  And what’s that then?’
‘How do you know if a girl likes you?’ his face grew red.
‘That’s an interesting question kid.  If I had the answers I’d be as rich as your old man.  Speaking of him, shouldn’t this be a question you direct to him?’
‘He’s always busy with work.’ confessed Tommy.
‘Leave Douglas alone son, you’ve monopolized just about enough of his time today.’ instructed Mrs. Toberman as she lent against the frame of the door.
Tommy nodded before turning to me and giving me that look.  The look that said it’s not too late to give me some advice.  I told him if he liked her he should say something to her, some girls like to be asked, some girls like asking.  He’d grow up and figure out which type of girl he liked and it would be made easier for him or it wouldn’t.
‘Why don’t you go outside and play?’ the blonde said.
Even I knew that answer.  The kid didn’t have much in the way of friends.  The kid didn’t have much in the way of anything that couldn’t spring from a chequebook.  The more some people have…
‘But Mum.’
‘No but Mums, off you go Thomas.’
The kid grabbed his antique banjo.  It probably belonged to Bill Lowrey, or Burl Ives, or maybe even Don Reno.  Gliding to the door she checked her son had actually left before slotting it into its frame and turning the lock.  In an instant her hair was down and her hands on my chest.
‘I’ve a cheque here for you.’ she said, all smiles.
‘Much appreciated, he’s a good kid.  He…’
‘I want you to fuck me now.’ the dress came off her shoulders, stalling a second on her breasts before it dropped to the floor.  She stepped out of it wearing only her heels.
Her body was tight.  Her stomach flat, her hips curvy with the right amount of meat on them.  Her flanks, toned and powerful.
‘What’s it to be today?’
‘No games today, I just need filled, give me meat and butter!’
Mrs. Toberman had propositioned me two weeks into employment.  It started out like any other screw but the more she got comfortable with me the more the real Julie Toberman started coming out.  One Wednesday she invited the whole family over purely so we could play a game she called:


I’d slide it into her, she’d bite down on her hand as I pushed up inside and her entire family walked around beneath us cast in the role of the Germans.  In recent weeks she had embraced my Irish roots and devised one called:


She’d play the poor Irish widow who couldn’t afford to feed her family, in a reversal of fortune I’d be the wealthy land baron who would let her work it off.  One Sunday afternoon she told some of the girls at the country club about her son’s banjo tutor and the little extra he’d do around the house for her.  I got two more gigs out of it, both with children of privilege, both with wives bored of fucking to a rota.  Like there’s anything worse.
Unbuttoning my jeans she reached inside and grabbed herself a handful of turkeyneck.  Guiding me to the piano, a Steinway, she bent over.  I grabbed her hips and jammed it in good.  I was giving his son girl advice and dicking his wife, I was making a good trade at being Marcus Toberman.