'I'd never join a club that would have me as a member'— Groucho Marx:- It's frehers week and Simmo has found his salvation at the Student Union Bar.
The Games Club
September — Freshers’ week.
The boy looked blankly through the Union bar shutters. The clock on the wall told him they wouldn't be opened for another fifteen minutes, but he could wait. He had nowhere else to go. The empty bar was a welcome escape from the freshers crowd and the preying happy Chappie salesmen trying to flog gullible students everything from mobile phones and wifi to gym memberships and bar crawls.. The smiley cheery hawkers where prowling the corridors of the student union just waiting to pounce. The bar was the boy's refuge
Freshers’ Week was only in its second day but Steven Simmons — Simmo to his friends, was already tired of the whole charade. The student union bar with it's cheap beer, was his salvation. It was the only place on the university campus where he wanted to be.
He passed the wait until opening time playing with a stack of beer mats. He was trying to master the trick of balancing them in a pile on the edge of the bar, then flicking them up and catching them. He was getting better, and for a moment he found the challenge stimulating. That was until he was disturbed by an annoying voice shouting in the corridor outside. As the voice came closer, It grew louder and even more annoying.
‘Jew Club! Jew Club! Anyone for the Jew Club? We’re meeting at one thirty in the Sheldon Library. Cream cheese, bagels and a kosher starter pack for all new members.’ The boy reached the bar and stood in the doorway looked around then repeated his chant. Simmo looked up and gave him a cursory glance. He was surprised to see the boy was a traditional Hassidic Jew, dressed in a black draped overcoat, with a wide brimmed hat his long black curls flopped down onto his face. He scanned the empty room. ‘Any Jews?’ he shouted. He caught Simmo’s eye. ‘Jew?’ he asked hopefully,
‘Catholic,’ replied Simmo.
‘We have associate membership if you’re interested.’
The boy shrugged his shoulders 'your loss' he said and turned away. ‘Jew Club! Jew Club!’ he began shouting again, as he made his way back down the hall. Simmo was about to return to his game, when a hand tapped him on the shoulder.knocking his arm and causing the pile of beer mats to fall to the floor.
'Excuse me' said the boy poking Simmo again, much to his annoyance. Simmo turned to see a now outstretched hand 'I'm Martin Oliphant. President of the Greek Society. Couldn’t help overhearing you say you’re Roman Catholic. You know, a great deal of the early Catholic Church has its roots in the Greek Orthodox religion. If you’re interested, the Greek Society is one of the better societies and, as a Catholic you may find a lot of common bonds as well as the richness of the Greek culture. Why not come along to our meeting this afternoon? Free hummus, taramasalata and tzatiziki. Plus,’ he added enticingly, ‘a complimentary glass of ouzo. You interested?’
Simmo ignored the still outstretched hand of friendship. He looked at the boy, he had beer bottle spectacles and a spotty face — ‘Do one’ He growled. Then turned away and began retrieving his beer mats. ‘So that’s a no then,’ said the President. Simmo didn't respond, he resumed his beer mat game,expecting the boy to take the hint and walk away, but he didn't move. He stood there hovering. There was then, what seemed to Simmo like an lifetime of awkward uncomfortable silence. Before the President of the Greek Society spoke.. ‘Ok, two glasses of ouzo.’
Simmo's had had enough now. He looked up, his face began to crinkle into an angry scowl. But the President wasn't deterred, he held his gaze for several seconds before he spoke again. 'Look' he said
‘I won’t be held to ransom. It’s two glasses of ouzo, take it or leave it. Here’s an invitation. He slapped the card on the bar, then turned and walked away. Simmo watched him leave and then sighed as someone else entered the bar.He swore under his breathe. This is worse than Piccadilly station he thought.
The tall, willowy stranger looked around the room only this time the new arrival completely ignored Simmo. He saw what he was looking for and headed straight for the fruit machine. Simmo watched as the lad positioned himself in front of the machine and began studying the reels. He then bent over the machine, and pushed his face against the glass. He tried to look up inside the screen His face screwed as he tried to see what was going to be the next row of fruits. He held the position for a good minute before he shifted his head and tried to look at the fruits that had already passed and were now below the WIN line. Simmo watched with a mix of interest and amusement. The boy wiggled his body and rocked on his feet as he tried to get a better view of the tumblers and their sequence. After a while he stood up, he had a red patch on his face where it had been squashed.
Simmo watched as the stranger pulled a book from his bag and flicked through the pages. He stopped at a point, ran his finger across the page. His studious face turned into a broad smile. ‘Yes,’ he silently mouthed. He looked over at Simmo. ‘You haven’t got 50p I could borrow for a second?’
Simmo pulled the coin from his pocket and was about to flick it over to the stranger when he stopped. He stood up and walked over to the machine.
The stranger smiled and held out his hand. But, instead of handing the coin over, his hand darted to one side and pushed the coin into the slot and in the same movement he hit the PLAY button.
‘You bastard,’ said the willowy youth.sounding shocked.
‘Yep,’ said Simmo as the barrels spun around. After several revolutions, they stopped one at a time. A bar. Then another. Then a third followed by the ding of the winning bell followed by a rush of coins as they burst into the tray.
Simmo looked pleased as he watched the tray fill with money. When the machine had exhausted itself of giving, he leaned down and picked up a fifty pence piece. ‘There you go,’ he said as he handed it to the boy.
‘Bastard,’ he repeated, looking shocked.
Simmo ignored the comment and carried on pulling out handfuls of coins from the tray and pushed them into his pocket.
‘I’ll remember that,’ said the boy.
‘So will I said,’ a smiling Simmo. ‘You owe me 50p.’