the gibraltar nightclub, the irishman’s wife, the blow, the response, the moroccan shaabi
Hassan on a break.
The curtains were always drawn, day and night. Heavy brocade that had been hanging for twenty years. If you were to suddenly twitch a curtain aside to expose the wall a thousand cockroaches would scatter away from the light – leaving only their heavy must. They hiss you know, and their shitpeck lies on the old carpet like black soot.
The club has a groundfloor street bar, the middle floor is a kitchen and the top floor is where we are and where the roaches roam the wallways in between in their skittering thousands.
The club is a small room with a two-man bar, lounges around the walls and a nook for the show – just enough room for Hassan’s trio and one dancer. Here they come now crowding past the Australian on door-duty. Hassan, Abdulazziz and their boy Faoud.
Hassan gives the Australian doorman a Moroccan handshake in passing, a light caress of his testicles. Abdulazziz hesitates when he sees the homophobic fire Hassan has lit and the pretty boy is shoved through with no small patience.
All the girls follow; buxom, perfumed and flirtatious – dressed in clinging wisps of chiffon and silk they press by the Australian in a manner just as licentious as the band but with a little more decorum, leaving it to their ample and rounded bodies to greet him in their fragrant passing.
The Fox and Hounds, Gibraltar. Moroccan Belly Dancing every night. Soraya! Sultry Queen of Maroc.
Three Shaabi musicians nightly. English beer on tap.
3 am closing.
Adequate Security. *
* Jaspar is the upstairs security, good looking dark-haired Jaspar – he qualified as a representative boxer for the 1960 Rome Games.
Jaspar could box but he couldn’t fight. He is married to the owner’s niece, hence the upstairs job.
It’s Nearly midnight and the top bar is almost empty but for an English couple, a table of Americans on shore leave and a drunken Irishman and his wife. They had been arguing relentlessly and drinking heavily for hours. She was redheaded and pretty, he was a squat and powerful pug and he leant over the table that separated them and landed a full blooded punch to her face. On the nose.
She fell back to the floor entangled in her chair, someone hit the Jaspar button behind the bar, the English couple slid away to a safer distance down the lounge and the Irishman heaved himself up onto his feet and moved around the table towards where his young wife lay. He could hardly stand. Her face was a mess of blood and horror as she watched him come for her again.
One of the American sailors, a Chief Petty Officer, folded his big arms and sat back to watch – the other two hardly looked up from their backgammon board. Vietnam does that to you.
The Moroccans vanished as the barman quickly moved behind the Irishman and twisted his punching arm behind his back before putting him in a choke hold – this was called the ‘ secure the garbage ‘ manoeuvre. Then he started to drag the fellow backwards across the carpet to the door and the stairs – the ‘remove the garbage manoeuvre ‘ – just as Jaspar burst into the room.
Jaspar was no fool. He saw the problem securely wrapped up and immediately danced around to face the near throttled Irishmen and began to pepper him with a few little jabs and short crosses. Then a smart combination of hooks and jabs to the head as the barman’s progress with his increasingly agitated load continued.
The door finally reached.
bop bop bop, goes Jaspar
The stairwell reached
bop bop, goes Jaspar
The top step reached
Whump Thump Bump goes the Irishman – Ground Floor Please – where he is soon met by a serious contingent of owners and street doormen on their way up.
Later that evening, when the band had completed the last of their responsibilities Hassan, to his gentle credit, attempted to make amends with the barman by offering him a small notch of hashish from the leather bag he always kept in his pocket.
This was accepted with good grace and complete forgiveness.