Monday 26 August 2019

The Stag Do

by Dawn Knox
a pint of beer
“What can we do which won’t involve tying me to a lamppost, tattooing my face or relieving me of my trousers?” Sydney asked.

It was the planning meeting the week before the Stag Night and the bridegroom-to-be was sitting in the Petulant Partridge Tavern, next to his brother, Toby, who in two weeks’ time, would be his best man. Across the table were the two ushers-to-be. Sydney’s cousin, Derek Carruthers was one. The other was Sebastian Milligrew who Sydney had met for the first time that evening. 

Betty’s best friend, Florrie, had recruited Sebastian to be the second usher when it became clear Sydney didn’t have many friends. And strangely, although Sydney’s brother, Toby, maintained he came from a large family, Sydney claimed he didn’t – sometimes, even denying he had a brother.
Sebastian belonged to Florrie’s knitting group, Blankets and Blarney, and she’d persuaded him to be the usher at the wedding after Betty had confided in her that she feared her wedding was going to be lopsided. 

“I’ve got so many friends and family and Sydney doesn’t seem to have many people except his brother – and he doesn’t like him very much. My side of the church is going to be full but Sydney’s...”

Betty hadn’t been able to finish and Florrie, who couldn’t bear to see her so upset had resolved to try to fill Sydney’s side of the church – somehow. She’d offered Sebastian free lifetime membership to Blankets and Blarney if he’d be the usher. In the end, she’d had to throw in some wool as well, in addition to promising to provide Hobnob biscuits at each meeting for the next year, before he’d agreed. 

The bargain was struck and now, he was attending Sydney’s pre-Stag Night planning meeting.
Each man slowly sipped his pint, deep in thought.

“Why didn’t you get the wedding planner to organise your Stag Do?” Toby asked.

“Because she’s bonkers, that’s why,” said Sydney.

The four men raised their pints to their lips and drank. 

Eventually, Toby said, “I know a bloke what had pipe dancing at his Stag Night.”

“What’s that then?” Derek asked, “Is it like sword dancing?”

“Nah, it’s girls swinging on pipes.”

“What, like monkeys?”

“Nah. They hang on to the pipe and… sort of wiggle.”

“I think you mean pole dancing,” Sebastian said. 

“Yeah, mebbe,” Toby said, “poles, pipes. They’re all the same.”

“How about going Salsa dancing?” Sebastian said, “I belong to a club. It’s good fun.”

“Hoh! I was thinking of watching girls dancing, not doing it ourselves,” said Toby, “What d’you think Syd?”

“I’m not sure Betty would like it if I spent an evening ogling at dancing girls a week before my wedding,” Sydney said, “And don’t call me Syd. You know I don’t like it.”

“It’s better to watch them before you get married rather than after, Syd… ney,” Toby said, ignoring his brother’s look of annoyance.

“Girls dancing up poles could be considered an art form,” Derek said, “You could tell Betty we were appreciating the arts…”

“You mean like Ballet?” Sebastian asked.

Toby grimaced, “Nah, I was thinking more of the can-can or something a bit more… well… colourful.”

“Colourful?” scoffed Sydney, “You don’t know the meaning of the word! Only you could believe there’s a colour called Mint Pink!”

“Mrs Harbottle loved it in her living room! You’re just jealous because her husband praised my decorating and then didn’t give you a bank loan. And I’m not surprised! Fancy wanting to manufacture aftershave what smelled of mackerel!”

“Bacon! It was bacon, not mackerel! Who on earth would wear aftershave smelling of fish?”

Sydney glared at Toby.

Toby glared at Sydney.

“You know, Ballet can be quite colourful and umm… interesting,” said Sebastian soothingly, “and there are men as well as women, so no one could complain there’s gender exploitation. I know of a lovely performance of Swan Lake where the roles are reversed.”

“What! You mean all the dancers are replaced by swans?” Derek asked.

“Not species reversal!” Sebastian said, “I mean the roles that are usually taken by women, are taken by men and vice versa.”

“Who wants to watch a load of geezers dance?” Toby asked.

“I’ll have you know they’re very good! I’ve seen it twice,” Sebastian said.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Sydney, “I don’t want to watch anyone dance.”

“Well I know a lovely Salsa club, if you prefer—”

“You already told us about that and my brother said no,” said Toby.

“I rather think it was you who said no.” Sebastian tossed his head crossly. 

“Chaps! Let’s not fall out over Sydney’s Stag Do!” Derek said, checking his watch, “If I’m going to catch my bus and get home at a reasonable time, we need to make our minds up quickly. So, how about… um…” he glanced around the dingy pub for inspiration and his eye rested on a poster, “The theatre! Yes, how about the theatre?”

“What’s on?” Sydney asked.

Derek squinted at the faded sign and read, “Macbeth. There are no dancing girls in Macbeth, as far as I know. Not that I’ve seen the play. Or read the book. Although people always talk about breaking legs when Macbeth’s mentioned, so I couldn’t actually vouch for it not having any dancing. Perhaps there’s a lot of dangerous stuff like tightrope-walking or people on stilts.”

“That sounds more like the circus than Macbeth,” Sebastian said.

“Circus! That’s always fun. How about that?” Derek asked.

“There isn’t one on next weekend.”

“So, it’s back to Macbeth, then?” Derek sighed and checked his watch.

“I think you’ll find we’re a bit late,” said Sebastian. 

“You can say that again!” Derek said crossly, “There are only two more buses before I’ll have to walk home.”

“No,” said Sebastian, “I meant we’re late because that poster’s two years old.”

“Well, what’s on at the Basilwade Theatre next weekend?”

Sebastian consulted his phone. “The Eye-kia Boys.”

“Is that Shakespeare?” Derek asked.

“Don’t think so,” said Toby, “It sounds more like a demonstration on how to put flatpack furniture together.”

“It’s a troupe of male dancers,” said Sebastian, “they’re very good. I’ve seen them.”

“Dancers!” said Sydney, rolling his eyes to the ceiling, “what’s the big deal about dancing? The whole world’s gone dancing mad!”

“I guess it’s because of Strictly,” Sebastian said.

“Strictly what?” Derek asked. 

“I don’t care!” said Sydney, “I don’t want to watch or take part in dancing. I don’t even want to hear the word again! Is that clear?” 

The four men stared into their pints as they sipped silently. 

Derek checked his watch and drummed his fingers on the table top. 

“I know!” Sebastian said, making the others jump, “I’ll search on Google for Stag Night Ideas.”

“Good plan!” said Derek, “I hope it won’t take long.” 

“Here’s a good website,” said Sebastian, “Right, how about bungee jumping? Or white-water rafting?”

“In Basilwade?”

“Hmm, yes, I take your point.”

“Can’t we go to the pub?” Toby asked.

“You mean like we’re doing now?” Sydney asked.

“Yes! We all love a pint. You’ll enjoy it, Syd.” 

“It’s not exactly a barrel of laughs this week, what makes you think it’ll be more fun next week?”

“Well, all right, how about we go out for a meal?” suggested Toby, “There’s a new restaurant everyone’s talking about which has just opened up in Basilwade.”

“The Khaki Carrot?” Sebastian asked.

“Yes, that’s the place. Is it any good?”

“Yes, if you like vegan food.”

 “Absolutely not!” Toby said once the others had explained what vegan meant. “If they don’t do steak and chips, it’s not a proper restaurant in my opinion.”

“Go-karting?” suggested Sebastian.

“No,” said Sydney.

“Darts Tournament?”


“Cave diving?”

“Don’t be ridiculous!”

“Zombie Boot Camp?”


“Jelly wrestling?”


Derek tapped his watch and stood up, “I’m sorry, chaps, I’m going to have to leave you to come to a decision about next week on your own. I’ve got a bus to catch…” He strode away before Sydney could stop him.

“I ought to be going too,” Sebastian said, putting on his jacket.

“What? You can’t leave until we’ve decided on something!” Sydney said, jabbing the air with his finger, “You’re my usher. So, ush!”

“I keep suggesting things but you don’t want to do them,” Sebastian said crossly, “I’m clean out of ideas.”

“But can’t you think of something ordinary? I mean to say! Jelly wrestling! I don’t even know what that is! Why can’t you come up with something I’d like to do?”

“Because I don’t know you!” said Sebastian, “I don’t know what you’re interested in or anything about you!”

“He’s not interested in anything, are you Syd?” said Toby.

“I am! And don’t call me Syd!”

“Well, what do you like doing?” Sebastian asked.

“Umm… Oh you know! The usual things. Probably the same sort of things you’re interested in,” said Sydney.

“Well, I like doing the thing you said we weren’t to mention and I also like knitting,” said Sebastian.

“I don’t think Syd can knit,” said Toby, “and he definitely can’t… you know…” he wiggled his hips as if dancing. “How he’s going to do his first waltz with Betty at the reception, I don’t know.”

“My what?” asked Sydney his eyes wide with shock.

“Your first waltz. The bride and groom always dance first before everyone else joins in.”

Sydney sagged backwards into his chair. “What! You mean with everyone watching?”
Toby and Sebastian nodded.

“Help!” wailed Sydney.

“That wasn’t quite what I had in mind when you invited me,” Toby said a week later at the Stag Night.

“Well, you pointed out you didn’t want to dance,” said Sydney, “And you didn’t. Typical Toby! Wanting to please himself and not join in!”

“Oh, shut up, Syd! You were the one who said you didn’t want to hear the word ‘dance’ mentioned again and then – blow me down, we spent the night dancin’!”

We? We? You didn’t dance, as I’ve already pointed out!”

“I wanted to watch girls dance. I didn’t want to spend the evening watching you, Derek and Sebastian struttin’ your stuff,” Toby said.

“Well, that’s your fault,” said Sydney, “you could’ve joined in! You were just sulking because Miss Sanchez danced with me.”

The brothers were glaring at each other, their shoulders tense and their fists clenched.

“More drinks?” asked Sebastian, eyeing the two men, fearful they’d fly at each other. But his suggestion was enough to remind Toby and Sydney they were in the Petulant Partridge Tavern and not at home. They relaxed and sank back into their seats.

“Allow me to get another round,” said Sebastian chirpily, then as he stood to go to the bar, he added, 
“as usual,” beneath his breath.

“Very good of you, old chap,” said Derek, “make mine a half, I’ve got to go shortly—”

“Yes,” cut in Sebastian, “I expect you’ve got a bus to catch.”

“Exactly! How did you know?” asked Derek.

“A lucky guess.”

As Sebastian walked to the bar, he hoped that Derek, knowing his cousins’ fierce rivalry, would steer the conversation away from the dancing lesson which they’d had that evening with Salsa teacher, Miss Sanchez, and find some safe topic which would ensure they finished the evening amicably.

“Miss Sanchez is a bit of all right, isn’t she?” Derek said loudly, “At least you were able to watch her dance, Toby. I had to partner Sebastian.”
“You all right, love?” the barmaid asked as Sebastian groaned and rolled his eyes.

“I will be next week, when the wedding’s over,” he said, “assuming the bridegroom doesn’t murder the best man first – or vice versa.”   

But by the time he returned with the drinks, it appeared the trouble had been resolved as the three men were agreeing on the Salsa teacher’s finer points.

“Hoh! Yes, Miss Sanchez is definitely a smooth mover,” Toby said, “I expect it’s all that Latin blood.”

“And at least now, Sydney’ll be able to dance the first waltz with Betty and not trample her to death,” 

Derek said peering at his watch.

They sipped their beer in silence.

“Same again?” Toby asked.

The others nodded.

“Be a good geezer and get another round, Seb,” Toby said checking his wallet, “I seem to be a bit short. I’ll pay you back next week.”

“Like you paid me this week for what you owed me last week?” Sebastian muttered to himself as he got up for another round.

“Just a—” Derek started.

“Half for you because you’ve got a bus to catch,” Sebastian cut in.

“Yes, how’d you know?” Derek asked.

I’m going to see if Florrie’ll provide cake each week at Blankets and Blarney. Sebastian thought. Hobnobs were all well and good but after the expense of this wedding, he was going to need carrot cake at least. And as for the emotional wear and tear…

When he arrived back at the table with the drinks, it appeared the alcohol they’d already drunk had begun to mellow the brothers and cousin who were reminiscing about old times.
Perhaps they will get through the wedding without a punch up, Sebastian thought.

“I wonder what Betty and her friends are doing on their Hen Night, tonight?” Sydney mused, “I don’t s’pose it was as exciting as our evening, eh?”

“I bet they just stayed home,” said Toby, “You know what women are like.”

“So, it’s probably best if Betty doesn’t find out about me dancing with the delectable Miss Sanchez or about us coming to the pub… eh? Probably best if we keep it to ourselves,” Sydney said, a worried frown on his face, “I wouldn’t want Betty to think badly of me.”

At that moment, across town, Betty was in the Khaki Carrot sipping a Cauli Wobble cocktail with her friends and recalling with shrieks of laughter the moment when Florrie had tucked a fiver into one of the Eye-kia Boys’ thongs…  

Links to previous stories in the series:
1) A Question of Timing: 
2) In MaryWorld: 
3) Knit and Natter: 
4) Mint Pink: 
5) Sydney Jugg’s Book of Grievances: 
6) Is there Anybody There?:  
7) Going Freelance:  
8) So App-ealing: 
9) No Saints at All Saints’:
10) A Meal of Biblical Proportions
11) It is Better to Give than to Receive 
12) Superhero Worship
13) Playground Justice
14) Politically Correct at Christmas
15) The Life Coach
16) The Hen Night

About the author 

Dawn’s first success was with a short horror story published in a charity anthology entitled Shrouded by Darkness in 2006. 
Several years later, she had a Young Adult book (Daffodil and the Thin Place) and a single author anthology of speculative fiction stories (Extraordinary), published as well as several historical romances, set mainly during and between the two world wars.  
She has written two plays about the First World War, one of which commemorated the beginning of the war and was first performed in England in 2014 and then in France and Germany. The other play commemorated the end of the war and was performed in England in 2018 and in Germany 2019. 
Using her World War One research, she has also written a book entitled The Great War – One Hundred Stories of One Hundred Words Honouring Those Who Lived and Died One Hundred Years Ago.

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