– The Two Stevies –
The hotel had seen better days. It was one of those whitewashed, four-storey, Art Deco affairs that had probably been built back in the 1930’s, when the Nazis used Majorca as their exclusive Mediterranean holiday playground. That would make the place well over fifty years old, I calculated. Some steps took me up to a wooden veranda, where a table and a handful of wicker chairs were placed on either side of the entrance. I had a vision of SS officers in highly polished jackboots strutting along that veranda. When I went inside, I half expected to see framed black-and-white pictures of those same officers giving Nazi salutes in front of a swastika-festooned building. There were no such pictures, of course, although there might have been at one time.
The interior was just as shabby as the exterior. The paint on the walls was so faded that bare plaster was visible in places. In fact, the décor looked as if it hadn’t changed since the place was built. I was given a room on the second floor. It was described as a single person’s room, but it was more like a monk’s cell. It was just big enough to accommodate a single bed (a cot, really), a wardrobe and a chair. There was a window on one side of the room and a door on another, the latter leading into a tiny bathroom with a sink, a WC and an open shower, all of which I presumed were original fixtures. When I first saw the bathroom, my immediate thought was that some Nazi bastards had once pissed in that pan and washed in that shower.
Along with many others above, below, to the left and right, and opposite, the window overlooked a sunless quadrangle, at the foot of which was a piece of waste ground. Naturally, there was no air conditioning, so I kept the window open permanently in the futile hope of attracting the odd cooling breeze into my humid, little space.
To be honest, I wasn’t particularly bothered about the condition of the hotel and the room. You paid for what you got: that’s how I looked upon it, and I hadn’t paid very much for my holiday in the sun. I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but I had been desperate to get away for a while, to be on my own, to heal from all the hurting, to return refreshed in body and spirit. I was still reeling from the ending months before of a torrid affair with a girl ten years younger (brutally ended by her); I was still pining after my three estranged children (the wreckage of my failed marriage); and I was bored to death with my social life (basically, drinking in the pub down the road, followed by more drinking in another pub down the road). To cap it all, having recently turned thirty-five, I had realised suddenly that I was no longer young, that I was now hurtling towards middle age. I was in a bit of a mess, really.
Thus I came to stay at the Hotel Playa Gestapo. It was in the quiet end of the resort, with the beach within spitting distance across the road and with an array of seafront restaurants and noisy bars only a short walk away. I had worked out that if I only ate in the hotel’s dining room, which I could do at no extra cost as a full-board guest, I would have just enough pesetas to ensure that I could get blitzed on every one of my ten nights there. And that’s what I did. Very quickly, I fell into the routine of getting blitzed at night, lying on the beach with a massive hangover the next morning, eating lunch in the hotel, lying on the beach again until late afternoon, returning to the hotel to sleep until early evening, showering and dressing, and eating dinner in the hotel before going back out on the town to get blitzed. There was a soothing sameness to my days and nights, and by the end of the first week I was totally relaxed, as brown as a berry and actually enjoying myself. Then something happened to disturb my peace.
‘Steee – vaay!’ the voice rang out, interrupting my siesta.
‘Steee – vaay!’ it called again, the sound echoing around the quadrangle.
I had been asleep for the best part of an hour, so I was still drowsy and not sure what was happening. I stumbled to my feet and peered out of my window into the half-gloom.
‘Steee – vaay!’ the voice came a third time.
I could make out the head and shoulders of its owner hanging out of an open window to my left on the floor below. He was a man in his twenties with short hair so yellow that it must have been dyed that colour. Judging from the breadth of his shoulders and the size of his chest, he was a powerfully built young man.
Another window directly opposite the first one flew open and another muscular, young man with short yellow hair poked his head and shoulders out of it.
‘’Allo, Steee – vaay!’ the second man called.
‘’Ow’s yer room, mate?’ the first one enquired.
‘It’s a’right, mate. It’ll do.’
‘Great stuff, mate! Mine as well!’
I was reeling. This was bizarre. They were both called Stevie. They were like identical twins. And they were having a fucking conversation across the quadrangle!
‘See ya downstairs in about an hour, then,’ the first Stevie continued.
‘Right, mate,’ came the reply.
Then the two windows were slammed shut, one immediately after the other. I stood for a while in the renewed silence, mesmerised and wide awake.
I saw the two Stevies again when I was leaving the hotel after dinner that night. Although both of them looked like bodybuilders, had the same haircuts and wore practically the same clothes, I could see that they weren’t identical. I was glad about that, because I was having difficulty believing that any parent would be stupid enough to call their twin boys by the same name. They were sitting at the veranda with their girlfriends, who were also very similar in appearance: the same long bleach blonde hair and the same buxom build that you knew would run to fat by the time they reached thirty. All four of them were having a great time, the men braying like bull elephants and the women cackling like hyenas. Their accents were Northern – Mancunian, possibly. I walked past them, yawning, not having had enough sleep, and headed for my favourite bar.
The bar was my favourite for a number of reasons. It was dark and hardly ever busy for a start, which meant that I could sit on a barstool all night, minding my own business, without being jostled constantly by other customers. Then there was the music, which was right up my street – blues from the late Sixties and early Seventies, with long guitar solos in which you could lose yourself. It was always very, very loud, and so much better than all the disco rubbish that was being blasted out elsewhere. Best of all, though, was the drink. I would defy anyone to have more than three vodkas and Coke in that place and then try to walk out unaided. Each drink was served in a tall glass. The first one consisted of one-third vodka and two-thirds Coke and ice. In the second one, the proportions were more like fifty-fifty. In the third, vodka took the lion’s share, so much so that you could hardly taste the Coke. Three drinks were my limit. It was usually about midnight when I finished the third. By that time, I was anaesthetised and ready to sway back to the hotel to black out on my little bed.
Such was the case on the night that the two Stevies came to stay at the hotel. I remember lurching into my room, switching on the light and catching the end of another bizarre conversation across the quadrangle.
‘G’night, mate!’ shouted one Stevie.
‘G’night!’ replied the other. ‘See ya in the morning!’
Then their windows were banged shut, this time simultaneously.
‘Cheeky bastards!’ I muttered to myself. They were using the quadrangle as their personal communication channel. And they didn’t seem to give a toss about the effect of their noise on the hotel’s other guests. It was nearly one o’clock in the morning, for fuck’s sake!
I stood there and watched the lights go out in both of their rooms. Then I switched off my own light, pulled the chair to the side of the window, sat down and lit a cigarette. It was time for revenge.
I waited a good ten minutes before poking my head out of the window and calling as loud as I could.
‘Steeeee – vaaaay!’ I cried.
‘Steeeee – vaaaay!’ I cried again.
One light went on. Then the other. One window shot up. Then the other. I pulled my head back quickly.
‘What’s up, mate? You a’right?’ asked one Stevie.
‘I’m fine, mate,’ said the other. ‘But it was you who called.’
‘Naw, not me, pal. Go to sleep, will ya?’
The windows went down and the lights off. I lit another cigarette and waited another good ten minutes before repeating the process.
‘Steeeee – vaaaay!’ I cried.
‘Steeeee – vaaaay!’ I cried again.
The next time the windows opened, the Stevie down on my left was angry.
‘You takin’ the piss, mate?’ he spat out.
‘What d’ya mean?’ retorted the other. ‘It was you who called me!’
‘Naw it wasn’t, mate!’
‘Then it must’ve been some other fucker, ‘cos it wasn’t me!’
The first Stevie’s window slammed shut.
‘Fuck!’ I heard the second Stevie mutter under his breath in exasperation. Then his window was also slammed down.
The morons are annoyed now, I smiled to myself. I was happy; I had taken my revenge. I flopped down on my bed and fell into a drunken sleep.
During the whole of the next day, I didn’t see or hear the two Stevies and their girlfriends. My siesta went unbroken, and I staggered back at night to a quiet quadrangle. My siesta on the day after that also went undisturbed. After dinner that night, my last night at the hotel, I strolled along the promenade to my favourite bar. I felt tanned and fit. I was glad to have come on holiday, but I was equally glad to be going home. My only slight grumble was that, as a result of overspending on previous nights, I could afford only two drinks, rather than my customary three – which was no bad thing, I suppose, because it meant that my head would be clearer for the journey the following day.
For some unfathomable reason, I disposed of the two drinks more quickly than usual that night; it hadn’t even gone eleven o’clock. I left the bar reluctantly and set off on the walk back along the promenade. It was far too early, and I was still relatively sober. I was passing one of the seafront restaurants when I heard a familiar voice.
‘’Ow’re ya doin’, mate?’ it enquired.
The restaurant was full and noisy. There was a chest-high hedge between me and its patio. I stopped and looked over the hedge. My heart jumped when my eyes locked with those of one of the Stevies, the angry one on the left of the quadrangle. He was sitting at the table nearest to me, the two girls on either side of him. His companion was nowhere in sight.
‘You enjoyin’ your holiday, then, mate?’ he continued.
‘Aye, thanks, but goin’ home tomorrow,’ I blurted out the words.
‘That’s good, mate,’ said the other Stevie. He had materialised at my side. He was so close that I could smell his breath. Next to my slight frame, his neck and shoulders seemed massive. I wondered how fast I could run with those two vodkas inside me and whether I could reach the safety of the hotel before him.
‘You the one who’s been shoutin’ out our names?’ asked the first Stevie.
‘Aye,’ I nodded nervously, adding to myself, ‘I’m done for now.’
The second Stevie came even closer. He was leering and flexing his biceps.
‘You’re lucky, mate,’ he whispered. ‘We wur angry to begin with, but we had a right laugh about it the next day. Then we figured out it was you.’
The first Stevie leaned across the table.
‘So fuck off, mate,’ he said quietly. ‘And count yer blessings we’re on holiday.’
I did. And I did.
– o –