Stories from a Lost Summer (2), or, Where do fictional characters come from?

Leaning on the piano, scotch in hand, sharp suit, crooning One For My Baby, Dave, round face with a bent nose, thick shouldered medium height, thought he sang like Sinatra when he entertained in the bar at the holiday camp where I worked in the time between leaving high school and getting a real job. He was a former army boxing champion whose boisterous ebullience disguised the mystery of why he forsook a prospering business in London – selling shirts – for a succession of jobs, the latest of which included his role of entertainer.

Until I discovered him late one night in the bar, slightly drunk, singing done. Arm around my shoulders, leaning in confidentially, he indicated a girl sitting near who, he said, was the image of his former fiancée, whose faithlessness had come as a shock to him (returning to London sooner than he anticipated after a trip away he used the key she’d given him to her flat to pay a surprise call, and found her sleeping – “with another” (“wiv anuvver”, in his tough guy London accent). Couldn’t stand London after that, he said. Had to get away, didn’t matter where, didn’t matter what he did. She still wrote to him, he confided, pleading forgiveness for that one infidelity, promising new faithfulness, but he could never accept her back.

He became a merchant seaman when he moved on from the camp and I never saw him again. Sometimes wonder if he still sings, maybe sea shanties in a Sinatra croon.


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