Rhys stepped out onto the gangplank of his boat. All day torrential rain had pounded the roof of his home, beating a steady tattoo upon its metal construction. Finally, as the sun began to set, it had stopped, leaving everything damp and clean looking. It was high tide and the boat and its neighbours were bobbing gently on the sparkling water. Where the sky met the distant, black outline of woodland on the horizon, it was a deep cerise gradually fading through shades of pink, until it finally dissolved into a misty white. Wisps of purple and grey clouds, the only remnants of the day’s earlier deluge, floated gently across the sky’s dome. The black silhouettes of birds flying across the harbour punctuated the view, their cries strangely reminiscent of creaking doors. With a rueful smile to himself, Rhys thought that the vista’s brilliant hues well reflected the theme of his forthcoming party.
Tonight, the houseboat community were gathering to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. A large gazebo had been placed in one corner of the quay, and now housed music decks and amplifiers, as well as disco lighting. These had all been provided by Rhys who was a professional musician; currently gigging at pubs and weddings, but in past years had provided backing for some famous artists. Flamboyant and widely gregarious, he had been planning the gathering for some months. Several yards of the quay’s boundary wall was draped in multi-coloured tie dye throws, and large batik cushions were strewn on the ground, the damp gradually invading their fabric. The party was to be seventies inspired.
Rhys had whole heartedly embraced the era, and was dressed as David Bowie. He was a tall man, and had long lost the leanness of his youth. He used the second bedroom of his houseboat to store his precious saxophones, stage outfits and props. From here he had unearthed some fake snakeskin boots with two inch heels, skin tight neon blue leggings, and a red sequinned jacket. He had used stage make up to paint his face white, and then draw Bowie’s trade mark zig-zag of red and blue across one eye, descending down the side of his face, finishing and narrowing to a point. He had also applied black nail polish. The only item he had bought was a short, red, synthetic, spiky wig, which was now pulled down over his own thinning hair. He was bare chested underneath the glittery jacket, and the leggings were so tight that, he had been unable to wear underwear with them. When he admired himself in the boat’s full length mirror, he realised that every contour of his genitalia was clearly visible.
Many of his neighbours were already gathered around the gazebo. Some had enthusiastically joined Rhys in his fancy dress. There was an Elton John lookalike wearing enormous, sparkly framed glasses, high heeled platform boots and a white, glittery suit complete with feathered collar: two couples had joined together to form a latter day Abba, in crocheted hats, knee length boots and satin suits: a Rod Stewart wannabe was present, wearing a spiky wig and tartan leggings. These mingled with more generic seventies outfits, women in afro wigs and floating hippy dresses, and gents sporting huge moustaches, flared trousers and hideous multi-coloured shirts. Scattered amongst them were a few who preferred to stay in their habitual jeans and tee shirts. It didn’t matter to Rhys; the important thing was that his friends had gathered to celebrate his birthday.
He had provided a vast glass jug of a lurid green cocktail, and everyone had bought a bottle. Many of the guests had also provided a plate of food inspired by the era. There was cheese and pineapple impaled on cocktail sticks and stuck into a pineapple, mini sausages on sticks, and a cherry and chocolate flake festooned black forest gateau. People stood around in groups chatting and smoking. As Rhys walked unsteadily on his heels towards them, a cheer went up. His guests laughed uproariously at his outfit, and one asked:
‘Did you spray those on, mate?’ A few late dog walkers, and people out for an evening stroll curiously glanced at the gathering, but generally they were left alone.
Gradually, as the drink began to flow, the music increased in volume, the idle chit chat changed to singing and conversations degenerated into raucous shouting. Groups of women began to sway to seventies classics such as, David Essex’s Gonna Make You a Star, and Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed Delivered I’m Yours. The rhythmic swaying morphed into full on dancing. A few individuals preferred to watch from the side lines, but there were a few dozen people ‘strutting their stuff’ on the impromptu dance floor. Rhys circulated amongst his guests, alternating between talking animatedly with the bystanders, from enthusiastically gyrating with the dancers. He was having a marvellous time.
Several hours had passed, and it was now completely dark. The disco lights alternately illuminated the quay yellow, green, red and blue, and the music continued to blare from the sound system. Many of the guests had headed back to their boats, leaving a few hard core ‘party animals’. Rhys was happily drunk, and dancing on the roof of his home. Several of the houseboats had flat rooves, and in fine weather their residents often climbed up onto them to enjoy the sunshine. In his head, Rhys was re-enacting his night club days, when he would take to the podium to dance. In reality, he resembled a slightly plump dragonfly, dementedly jerking against a window. Suddenly, one of his feet slid out from him. It is unclear whether it was his high heeled boots on the still wet surface, his inebriated state, or a combination of the two, which led to the mishap, but Rhys, went crashing over the side of his boat. He fell at least twelve foot into the mud below. His first thought was relief that, he had not hit his head or broken any bones as he fell. He landed on the soft silt of the river bed. A few minutes of panic followed as he got to his feet and grabbed a neighbouring boat’s anchor chain. Initially, he thought that he would be sucked down into the murky river bed, but then realised that after sinking a few inches, his feet hit more solid ground.
It then dawned on him that, he was in a predicament. It was now low tide, and he was surrounded by the smooth, high sided hulls of boats with no visible footholds. Reaching down, he pulled off and discarded his boots, and then waded through the sludge to the edge of the quay. Once there, he was dismayed to realise that, stretch as he might, he was too short to reach up and pull himself onto the walkway. Meanwhile, his fall had been observed by his fellow partygoers. One panicked woman cried.
‘For God sake get him out. When the tide comes in, he’ll drown.’ Her more pragmatic partner answered. ‘Shut up, Sheila. It’ll be hours yet. The tide’s only just gone out.’ One man grabbed the nearest lifebuoy and threw it down to Rhys, who pulled it down over his head, and put it under his armpits. Several of his friends then grasped the attached rope, and attempted to haul him up the side of the quay. This only resulted in his arms almost being yanked from their sockets, and him shrieking in pain. The assembled company looked around at each other nonplussed. Someone commented that the fire brigade ought to be called, but then one woman had another idea. In order, to protect the boats’ hulls from damage, old tyres had been secured around the harbour walls with thick ropes. She suggested that, they cut some of these down, lower them to Rhys, until he had enough to climb up to get onto the quay. Several people disappeared into their boats, to reappear minutes later with cutting implements. They set to work, one with a hack saw, another with a bolt cutter, and yet another with an axe. Soon four tyres had been released and Rhys had managed to pile them on top of each other. They were heavy, and the muddy surface resisted their movement, but with a major effort he pulled them together. Using all his strength, he hefted the tyres up onto each other. He was tiring now, but with the last of his energy, he clambered up, until he was high enough, for his friends to reach down and pull him up by his arms onto solid ground. Once there, he lay flat on his back, breathing heavily, until at last he asked. ‘Help me out of these trousers will you? They’re restricting my breathing.’ The leggings were covered in mud and sodden, and fitted so tightly that it was a struggle to remove them. Two people pulled from the bottom, and one brave woman started to roll them down from the waist. Eventually, they came off and Rhys was left, naked from the waist down and smeared with mud from the waist up. One woman was heard to comment ‘Doesn’t look much like Bowie now.’ For months to come, the houseboat community talked about when David Bowie fell into the mud.
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I really like the comparing of the rain to the tattoo. Overall, this is a very well-written story, and a pleasure to read. Nice job
Thank u, story was good and I enjoyed the fun
This is a very funny story. Thanks.
Thank you Juliet. I'm enjoying trying different sorts of writing.