One afternoon, out of the blue, Malcolm decided to start gambling.
“I’m not a risk-taker,” he said. “That’s my problem. I need to stop playing it safe. Taking up a hobby like this is the only way to be happy.”
We went into town and he put a tenner on a randomly-selected horse. He won at odds of 6-1.
We went to lunch to celebrate. Malcolm bought me an all-day breakfast from one of the cafes on the seafront, and a couple of scones for dessert. The combination of these two courses, plus a cup of coffee, felt like the ultimate extravagance.
“I think I’m going to stop gambling now,” he said. “Quit while I’m ahead. It’s a slippery slope.”
“I suppose so.”
We left the café and went for a drink at the Royal Hotel. Malcolm ordered a drink he’d invented called a “Fucking Mary”.
“I’ll have two Fucking Marys please,” he said.
The barman didn’t bat an eyelid. “What’s that?” he said.
“It’s like a Bloody Mary but a bit stronger. Heavy on the voddy, easy on the tomato juice.”
It was a sunny day so we sat outside peering at the sea over top of the traffic. Beside the pier there was a lone surfer, desperately trying to tease some response out of the lightly-lapping brine.
“You know, I’d like to get properly educated,” Malcolm said. “I left school too early.”
“Same here,” I said.
“Did you ever consider going to college?”
“Not really. I like the idea of being self taught.”
“That’s what I want to be too. Independent. But it’s not possible, Franklin. No one can be self-taught. You can only learn things by talking to people or reading books.”
“Books are overrated,” I said.
“So, why do you expect people to read yours?”
We ordered another round of Fucking Marys.
“I’m part-way through the dictionary at the moment,” said Malcolm. “It’s fascinating. I’ve started consciously trying to learn new words. I’ve got a word of the day, and I pin it on the fridge alongside the definition.”
“What’s today’s word?” I said.
“What does it mean?”
“It means “compliant, dutiful or obedient.” Like a servant.”
“I’m not a big fan of long words,” I said. “If it means obedient, why not just use the word obedient?”
“There’s more to it than that. The word obsequious has an overtone of “dutiful suck-up”.”
“I’d like to see you use it in conversation.”
The drinks were quickly drained. Malcolm returned to the bar, already beginning to stagger.
I heard him through the door calling, “Same again please, you obsequious bastard!”
He laughed so hard he dropped down to his knees and slapped the floor.