“Have either of you characters got a spliff, or the makings of one,” asks Howard hopefully.
They both look puzzled; it is pretty clear to Howard that they don’t know what he is talking about. He looks around the bar hopefully, but fails to spot any potential sources amongst the students who fill the place.
“So who are we all then?” he says, turning back to his fellow drinkers. The man in white looks a little taken aback by this, as if Howard had belched loudly, rather than asking a simple question.
“I’m Richard, Richard Burton,” says the other man. He has the voice as well as the looks. Howard smiled indulgently and looks at the man in the white suit– who is now staring disbelievingly and suspiciously at the man claiming to be Richard Burton.
“I’m Howard, Howard Marks,” says Howard turning his attention back to Richard. He smiles and extends his hand to this reincarnation of the great star. He then turns to the other man.
“Burton, just call me Burton,” the man says, extending his hand to Howard but still looking at Richard Burton sitting beside him. Howard’s eyes narrow and he asks uncharacteristically peremptorily, “College?”
“Trinity,” states Burton firmly.
“Exeter,” murmurs Richard.
“I see,” says Howard, stroking his chin and looking from one to the other, his eyes
hooded. This set-
“What year is it?”
“1975 of course luv,” laughed Richard.
“No, not at all. The year is 1871,” asserts Burton, sounding more confident than he appears as, once again, he looks curiously around the room.
“And I bet you are both fifty years old,” said Howard tauntingly. They both nodded, blinking.
“How could you know that,” said Richard, “we’ve only just met, and I don’t even know this boyo, this other Burton.”
“Because I’m fifty myself,” said Howard smiling beatifically. “I’ve just spent more
than six years in an American jail for drug smuggling. I had a few to drink on the
plane so I’m pissed but I’m happy. I know this can’t be happening. The year is 1995.
I haven’t had a shag or a spliff for so long I can barely remember what either is
like – and here am I landed with two guys who have been dead for years and don’t
even know what a spliff is. Drink up chaps, I need another to keep me sane and you
need another to keep you here.” Joe has anticipated his needs; he delivers three
fresh pints and takes away the empties. Students who pass by on their way to the
inner lounge, or as they leave the Buttery, look curiously at the three men -
“I have myself been incarcerated on occasion,” responds Burton as he sips from his second pint.
“I, on the other hand, have spent a great deal of time behind bars but have never been incarcerated. I consider my time behind bars to be a community service,” smiles Richard. The other two laugh, the ice has been broken.
“And how is ‘Miss Tits’,” asks Howard.
Richard fixes him with a steely blue stare, frowns, then relaxes, “I take it that you are enquiring after my fat Jewish wife, luv… Elizabeth is well. The second marriage is working, I am monogamous and magnanimous, she is magnificent and monopolistic. We are the perfect pair, Miss Tits and I.”
“Monogamy is no more natural for a man than it is for a dog, sir. The Mormons, whom I have visited and have written upon, have incorporated polygamy into their religion and into their economic system. I have spent time with Brigham Young their leader, a fine man. They will, I am sure, thrive in their chosen land, the state of Utah”
“And you Burton, are you happily married, are you monogamous?”
“I am married, but I do not consider it gentlemanly to discuss my wife or my relationship
with her. It is the general question of monogamy that I wish to address, not my personal
status. In the Arabian lands, in which I have travelled extensively, polygamy is
the norm and many men regard any other state as aberrant. My observations indicate
that a well-
Richard has listened to this with evident impatience and finally wades in, “I am
monogamous and I’m proud to say so -
“What about prostitutes. What about hookers,” interjects Howard. Both the other men look at him askance.
“What the hell do you mean? Prossies can’t be monogamous, that’s ridiculous mun.”
“Ah Richard, you misunderstand me, I mean the use of hookers by monogamous men.”
“That’s different, never used one, never had to pay for sex in my life. They come
to me you see, still do and here I am, half a century and not out. There are always
women around, on the film sets, in the theatre, everywhere really. They come to me
and I listen to them. I tell them a few tales, make them laugh and then we maybe
have a drink and there we are, NORWICH. I love it, but I don’t love them, so I remain
loyal to my wife -
“The Arab is allowed to take on an extra wife whilst travelling.”
“Sounds good to me,” says Howard. “I haven’t seen Judy for years. Those bastards in the States wouldn’t let her enter the country. Accused her of being a drug pusher. She was innocent, we all were really; they made her confess to all sorts of crap before they would release her so that she could see the kids. What level of humanity is that? It’s punishing the innocent, punishing women and children for something that they haven’t even done. It’s a police state over there man, I’m never going back.”
“Youse want another drink?” asks Joe as he clears glasses from the table, “we close up at eight.”
Richard took out his wallet and gave the barman ten pounds, “Three more of the same, and one for yourself and your good lady – and keep the change.”