Rimmer was sitting on the toilet, enjoying a post-ejaculatory Gauloise and ruminating on that new catchphrase that was being bandied about everywhere – Safe Sex. He was a practitioner, of that there was no doubt. No one would be transmitting viruses to him, oh, no. He was, and would remain, as clean as a whistle. He stroked his appliance, which was balanced on his knees. Meticulous aseptic technique, that was the key.
He nicked the end of his ciggie and slid it behind his ear. The solitude of toilets. Peace and quiet to get on with one’s business, even if there was that rhythmic clackety-clack of the wheels...
Something creaked and the door imploded; a male torso crash landed at his feet. His appliance rolled off his knees and hit the intruder in the face.
The train charged into a tunnel.
‘Er...’ Rimmer said. ‘I haven’t actually finished yet.’
The inverted face looked vaguely familiar. Then he noticed the hair, splayed out over the floor like a distressed shampoo advert.
‘Terry? Well, well. I never had you down as a fan of toilet sports. One lives and learns.’
He offered a bony hand and helped his student to his feet. The toilet was suddenly very cramped. Of course it was; British Rail had designed it for the exclusive use of solitary stunted children, never mind two fully grown men. And young Terry was a strapping example of the fitter line of Scottish chromosomes. It was a pity half of them had come from Eck Kinlochleven, Rimmer reminded himself, but then Eck Kinlochleven seemed to be the poison at the root of every positive thought these days. He pulled a yard of paper off the wall and attempted to sponge away the mud, or worse, damage to Terry’s tresses.
‘I’m sure this will bring good luck,’ he said, and stepped outside to give the boy more room. ‘Like a pigeon pooing on you from a height.’
He gestured at Terry’s suit. His performing a backwards roll into the toilet could in no way have accounted for the state he was in.
‘Been gardening at all?’ he asked.
‘No,’ said Terry, trying to wipe some of the muck off his sleeve.
‘Ah,’ said Rimmer. ‘No accidents with large lawnmowers, then? Your falling into one, I mean?’
Perhaps he was being a tad too flippant. All this contrived humour and glib sexual innuendo had been wearing a bit thin lately. Oh, it was fine during lessons – nothing gave him more pleasure these days than watching a Fresher blush at one of his insinuations. But he was growing tired of it. He knew they spoke about him behind his back, the disgraced army MO who, like so many of his patients, had been subject to a dishonourable discharge. The sight of all those privates, as it were, standing to attention, had proved too much. He had groped the gunner’s glans on one occasion too many and been shown the door.
It was all so long ago. So long ago, but the undercurrent to his everyday thoughts. One of the undercurrents, in any case. The boys being...
He stood back and took stock of the situation in toto.
‘So,’ he began. ‘Terry gets onto the packed train, pushing and jostling his way to the other side of the carriage with his...what, is that Nike, is it?...with his Nike holdall. Nike, or ‘Nikeh’ as our classicists would have it, of course being the Greek goddess of Victory. This is a young man who will not be denied.’
An old woman in a crocheted cap, one of the many passengers crammed into the space between the carriages, began to tut. Rimmer stooped and retrieved his appliance from the floor. Don’t worry, dear, he thought. I’ll deal with you shortly.
‘He props his bag against the door,’ he continued, ‘and sits down, but Alas! He is such a sturdy fellow that his weight proves too much for the flimsy latch and he lands with a thump at the feet of his venerable mentor.’
The tutting had stopped, but he could feel the old woman’s eyes burning into the side of his head. Her stare was likely to reignite his Gauloise, the blackened end of which, he knew, stank. Rimmer was a man who did not like being silently stared at. God knows it was bad enough during tutorials, never mind on an overcrowded train. His motto over the years had become ‘The silence of the fish is strictly for the fish’, a line he’d borrowed from Plato, and improved upon. He returned the old woman’s stare with tenacity. She tried to wriggle away, but it was too late. He’d hooked her.
‘Excuse me, madam,’ he demanded. ‘But could you tell me what you are so insistently gawking at?’
Everyone was looking. The old dear’s head lolled on her shoulders. How bloody predictable, he thought. She would probably contrive a fainting fit to avoid a scene.
‘It’s that thing you’re holding,’ she lisped, eventually. ‘It looks like a rare wee hoover!’
She was referring to his appliance; cradled along the length of his forearm was a large leather cylinder, with rubber attachments at either end. To the uninitiated, he supposed, it probably did resemble a small vacuum cleaner, of the type used to clean the interiors of cars.
‘Oh, my dear woman,’ he laughed, loudly. ‘This isn’t a hoover. It’s an artificial vagina, used for collecting sperm samples at the University of Scotland!’
Her eyes widened, trying to take in the full dimensions of the sperm sampler. They were at risk, Rimmer noted with awe, of popping out of their sockets, something that he had always considered an anatomical impossibility.
‘I’d like to meet one of your students, then,’ she faltered, and began to swoon.
Terry emerged from the toilet.
‘Speak of the devil!’ said Rimmer, and leaned into her. He lowered his voice to a seductive growl. ‘He’s a big boy, I’ll grant you, and when he ejaculates, you lucky woman, he’ll blow your woolly hat off.’
She fainted. It wasn’t contrived.
Rimmer alighted one stop before the terminus, at Haymarket. He was feeling pleased with himself. He had lit, partially smoked, nicked and stored a Gauloise on the slow train from Glasgow to Edinburgh without it going all soggy on him, which was a first, he was sure, in anyone’s book. He skipped up the steps to the exit, where he was met by another of his students. They would spend the rest of the afternoon at the Institute of Animal Science taking sperm samples from General Charles de Gaul, who was a really, really big boy, and when he ejaculated, he ejaculated in buckets. And in artificial vaginas, if they were handy. The kind of performance de rigueur for a prize Charolais, in fact.
* * *
This is an extract from the novel, Drive!, which is a 1980s tale of privilege, rock music and attempted patricide.