We were smart young men in suits. We were so young that we loved our suits and our array of bright ties which we would parade each day as we strode down the pathways to our bright futures.
Our boss, James Black, had more expensive suits and his ties were Italian, something to which we could only aspire. But aspire we did and when we got together over a few drinks we planned systemic improvements for a new industry order that, it has to be said, had us firmly at its centre. And our boss was our model; immaculately dressed and groomed, articulate and witty, warm yet demanding and a master of political gamesmanship. Eventually he would become the CEO of the State’s biggest employer. We could call him James but not Jim and never, never Blacky, not even behind his back.
Pat, on the other hand, was never really made for a suit. Or maybe a suit had never been made that could quite conform to his loping, angular dimensions. His tie hung erratically and too short; the back of his shirt hung loosely and disconsolately around his backside. Even first thing in the morning he looked like an extra from a Diehard movie.
Pat was a sloppy and amiable in everything he did. But when he drank, he drank to get drunk and in this he was invariably successful even by his own exacting standards. At Friday night drinks he would slur the spoken language to within an inch of its life before lurching out into the late-night streets, his clothing struggling loyally and valiantly to keep up with its demented master.
One night I sat down strategically next to James Black at a Christmas function. At last I would have the opportunity to impress the great man with my subtle banter, my succinct but deeply wise observations. I had barely said hello, however, when, to my horror, Pat suddenly appeared and sat down opposite us at the same table. And Pat had been doing justice to the pre-dinner drinks; in fact he had found them all guilty and personally dispatched as many as possible. “Howdy, Blacky,” he hiccupped as he eased himself into his chair a little unsteadily.
I cringed but James Black was an affable man, a man of the people. “How are you, Pat?” was all he said. Maybe things will be all right, I thought. I mentally rehearsed a suitably impressive entree into conversation but just as it was about to escape my lips, Pat’s voice slurred across the table. “Jimbo, can I ask you a personal question?”
It seemed to me that there was a sudden shift in temperature and an almost imperceptible straightening of James Black’s back. “I think that would be alright, Pat.” Pat leant forward confidentially, knocking water into James Black’s prawn cocktail. “Sorry, mate,” he said hurriedly, obviously keen to get to the main game.
And then, in a hushed tone barely audible except to the fifty or so people around us he asked, “Blacky, if you woke up in the woods with your pants around your ankles and a used condom up your arse, would you tell anyone?”
James Black had all the air of a man trapped and out of his depth and not at all used to the sensation. Almost helplessly, and with a forced smile, he muttered, “Well, no, Pat, I probably wouldn’t.”
Pat’s eyes glinted and he wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth. “Great!” he guffawed. “Do you want to go camping this weekend?”