My Cousin Raymond
The Doyle family has a motto, a sort of Golden Rule which strangers must learn as a means of simple self defence before being allowed to come anywhere near us: expect the unexpected. And having said that, I must promptly admit that there are some Doyles who can still surprise even me, and I was born into the clan. One of them is Aunt Mary's youngest, Raymond, my cousin; and to quote Groucho Marx, one like him's worth three ordinary ones!
As a kid Ray was a lamb, but lambs have a habit of growing up, and this one grew up into a ram. He was a hoodlum at fourteen, a real, genuine hardcase; but then, Doyles never do anything the same as anyone else. Hardcases end up inside, right? Well, not Ray. Ray went to art school. Art students end up being artists, right? No, not Ray -- he became a copper. And before we all assume he ended up as an officer of the law, I'll go back to the Golden Rule... My cousin Raymond sold his soul to CI5, and they are not the Police. they get a lot of bad press, do CI5, and I often wonder how much Ray is responsible for!
Still, he's got his partner to keep him in line, although he can twist Bodie around his little finger. Bodie's nice, really nice; tall and stacked and suave, not like the Doyles of this world; we're not so big and a bit skinny and tend to be rather scruffy. If you've seen Ray you've seen the lot of us! But, Bodie -- now there's a lovely man, and I'd have batted my eyelashes at him, might even have got out the lipstick and earrings and put on a skirt, if I hadn't caught on just in time.
Raymond and his partner are in love. Expect the unexpected, remember. Ah, I was mildly surprised but, hell, if I found Bodie so nice, why shouldn't Ray? But, you say, Raymond's a man, it isn't the same. Well, says who? Or do I mean whom? I've watched them together a lot since they realised I knew and was not a bit discomfited, and they're lovely together; but I'll never forget their faces the day they realised that the cat was out of the bag!
Our Aunt Jean has half a dozen acres out in Surrey, and when her apple trees are ready for stripping every year the family always gets first bash at the crop. Last year, Ray and Bodie were due leave at exactly the right time, and decided to holiday there; beautiful weather, lovely scenery, peace and quiet -- why not? A few of the Doyles were there, the kids, and a gathering of the older ones, myself included, but Jean's house is absolutely vast and there's plenty of room for all.
So, there were Ray and Bodie, down in the orchard, one moment climbing ladders, the next throwing apples at each other like hand grenades, laughing like a couple of teenagers, and the next moment quiet as mice and invisible. I was on my way down there with a jug of iced coffee and a basket of scones for our ten o'clock, and I expect I surprised them.
Quiet and invisible? They were stretched out behind the apple tree they'd been working on, and all I could see of my favourite cousin was his legs, wrapped around Bodie's hips, and his arms, wrapped around Bodie's shoulders and head. Bodie seemed to be trying to suffocate him either with his weight or the kiss... Damn, but I wish someone would kiss me like that. No casual peck on the cheek, this; they were settled in for the day, absolutely engrossed in one another. They didn't even notice me, and I stood gaping at them for about two hundred years or so.
It was a bit of a surprise, especially since I'd fancied Bodie myself, but... Oh, finders, keepers; he's Ray's. I sort of blinked and looked again, and saw how very nice they are together like that, all wound around each other, gentle and loving. I'm one of the world's basic romantics, I can't help it and won't apologise for it; and I know love when I see it. I put the iced coffee and scones down in the grass by the ladder and ambled away to sit on one of the rotting old stumps and eat a couple of windfalls. I could just to say hear them talking if they spoke up, but I wasn't listening that closely, because a person's privacy is their privacy. Basic human right.
A couple of minutes went by and then I heard a quiet giggle and Ray said,"that tickles," and Bodie said, "I know it does, s 'why I do it to you." I wondered what tickled but bit back on my curiosity for the sake of propriety. Then Ray heaved an enormous sigh I could hear even from that distance, and Bodie said, "Christ, I wish we could do it right here like this, in the sunshine." My cousin gave that rather filthy chuckle of his and said, "too dangerous, isn't it? Too many people about. We can go up and lock the bedroom door when the rest of them have gone out playing cricket later, but -- God, where did that come from?"
'That' was the food of course. I heard scrambling and politely ignored them. I wasn't trying to intrude -- if anything I was bloody envious; I've never found anyone to love myself. If they were worried about being caught in the act of kissing, they needn't have been; they could have ignored me and eaten the scones and cracked on they didn't have a clue about anything but -- Doyle don't act like ordinary people.
Next thing I knew, an apple hit me on the head, and I looked over my shoulder to see my cousin lying in the grass lobbing another one at me. That one I ducked, and when he threw a third I picked one up and chucked it back, giving his curly skull a nice wallop. Then we laughed and he beckoned me over. He and Bodie were rather rosy about the cheeks. "I suppose we took one risk too many," Ray said wryly.
"I suppose you did," I nodded, and shrugged. "Doesn't matter, it's only me. Good thing it wasn't Jean, though! She might have had a fit -- or laughed till she fell over."
"It's not funny, Maureen," Raymond said sternly, but his eyes were glittering: yes, it was funny, and he was going to laugh at any second. Meanwhile, Tall, Dark and Smouldery was starting to relax again, though he still looked a bit dismayed.
"You mean you don't mind?" Bodie demanded.
I shrugged again. "Not really. Why should I? You're all grown up, so am I."
"Oh," Bodie said, as if that was the answer to everything -- which, maybe it is. "Well, in that case --" He plunked down beside Ray and looped his right arm around his neck. "Pass the nosh over, Maureen."
They polished off the lot between them while I watched them and wickedly tried to imagine them in bed. All right, I've got a dirty little mind; is that a crime? Yes, they'd be nice in bed together, too, as much as that was obvious. Bodie's a real love, bigger and stronger than Ray but oddly more gentle. Ray's a bit of a ruffian, actually, except with Bodie. Bodie makes him kittenish somehow -- it's lovely to watch them together because of the way they change when they are together. One at a time, they're Mr. Machismo of 1982, but with each other... I dunno. Call it love.
I managed to help them a few times, too, kept Aunt Jean and the kids out of their way while they snuck off upstairs -- better than trying to manage it in the car, and I know from experience how bloody uncomfortable haystacks can be! I was sixteen myself once, about a thousand years ago. They'd done the haystack stunt already; Ray was combing straw out of his hair for an hour, and Bodie was itching... Where there's hay there's insects, and some of 'em bite! No, Jean and the kids never knew, and that evening they were so tired they could barely keep their eyes open, so it must have been good.
Bodie kissed me to thank me for my efforts... Ah, be still my wayward heart! Any more at home like him, I wonder? I mean, Doyles and Bodies seem to go together like strawberries and cream.
Two months later, when I had to go up to London for a job interview (I'm a stenographer; isn't it nauseating? I wanted to be a scuba diver), I phoned Ray and asked if I could stay with him for a few days. "Sure," he said, "any time you like." I should have guessed the two of them would be living together; for a bit I was worried that I'd make them uncomfortable, but thank heaven we'd all got over that at Aunt Jean's. They didn't skip a beat on my account. Have I mentioned how I envy them? I know Ray's mum, Aunt Mary, is wondering when Raymond's going to get married and give her a tribe of grandchildren, but I just can't figure out how she's ever going to get the answer to that question. Ray is married, happily, but I don't think there's going to be many kids, not if I'm remembering my biology lessons right.
What does Bodie think of all this? He's a refugee from a broken home; his mum married again when he was twelve and his stepfather, who was made of money, decided that 'Bill' needed an education in order to cast off his Liverpuddlian origins. They sent the poor kid to a public school, which he stuck for two whole years before he scarpered, running away to sea -- and that was just the start. What a life he's had! Must have been miserable at times; and the one thing he's never really had is a home. He's got one now. Ray's flat is a home, you can feel that as soon as you walk through the door -- and I'm wrong. It's not Ray's flat, it's theirs.
I'm as pleased for Bodie as I am for my cousin; they deserve the best, and they are the best. They behaved pretty much as themselves when I could tell when they were making love by the odd moan that would come wafting out of their bedroom. When they don't have a guest I should think they make a real din. I can't imagine what the neighbours think! My cousin Raymond must be a dab hand at it -- he's always been a randy twerp, which runs in the family anyway, so it's not his fault. Didn't do my blood pressure any good, wondering what he was doing to Bodie! Ray's a kitten, cuddly and furry, which also runs in the family, and Bodie once confessed that he never could resist the Doyle charms -- not when they're attached to his partner, at any rate.
Tough luck, Maureen. Better luck next time, Maureen! Oh, hell, Ray had a hard time of it as a kid while I had it easy, and Bodie had a rotten childhood and young life. They've paid their dues, they're not getting anything now that they haven't earned, and if they need or want my good wishes, they've got 'em. I can't help wondering what Aunt Mary is thinking, but --
She's got quite enough grand children already.
I didn't get the stenography job but it wasn't a fruitless trip; as luck would have it, Ray knew a bloke who knew a bloke who was recruiting keyboard talent for the Defence Department. Presto, Maurie Doyle is a civil servant who's signed the Official Secrets Act, works in Whitehall for a cute boss and shares the same watering hole with the better part of the local Met and half of George Cowley's people. It's a pub in Chelsea. I met a Bodie-type there, even taller, just as dark and suave, by the name of Michael Patrick Murphy, 'Murph' or 'the Smurph' to all on the squad, and I discovered that we share Ray's and Bodie's secret -- which makes us partners in deceit... I don't know how enthusiastic Major Cowley would be if he knew about 3.7 and 4.5 but I know for sure that the gents from Fleet Street would hang, draw and quarter them.
Funny world, isn't it, where you can get trouble, get the sack and discredit your department, for being in love. Bloody funny. Still, if no one squeals Cowley won't find out, because in public you'd have to know the pair of them intimately to even make guesses, and if you knew them that well, you'd just smile. Unless Cowley already knows about them...? Now, there's a thought. Murphy knows and, like me, I think he envies them the love. He's not a fool and he's fond of Doyles too, I'm pleased to say. He took me out for a nice Chinese last week, and a film. What happened then?
I'm not saying.
But it was terrific. Raymond and Bodie laughed hysterically. From a hundred yards away, Murphy in his leather jacket and tan slacks and Maureen with her chaotic curls and habitual jeans, look like a xerox copy off the originals. Eventually I offered to thump my cousin if he didn't stop laughing; it slowed him down but he still titters every time he sees me or Murph. Murph wants to put a dead rat in Bodie's locker to get even, but I can't stand the Practical Joke Wars, and I've got a feeling Cowley'd lop the heads off the whole lot of us. Since I'm hoping to transfer from Defence to CI5 Computers one day I'd just as soon not annoy the boss too much.
And meanwhile, my cousin Raymond hit me with something far worse than a dead rodent among my sneakers and last week's newspapers. Ever wondered what an arrogant, macho bloke does when his curtains have faded? As a rule he sends the wife out to buy more, but in their case there's no convenient fall girl.
So Maureen took the fall. Off I went with a wonderful amount of their money, and bought myself an expensive lunch on the cash discount I'd managed to wrangle. Ever seen Ray being feather brained? Bodie nearly blows an artery and Ray kicks him under the table, which makes Bodie laugh harder. Men and curtains just don't go together... Or is it Raymond and curtains? He had a catalogue (mailed to 'Mrs. R. Doyle' -- isn't it enough to make you a feminist? If I ordered a machine parts catalogue they'd mail it to 'Mr. M. Doyle' but when he wants curtains he gets the Mrs.-treatment), and it took him an hour and a half to decide which he wanted!
Bodie was precious little help. When we said, "what do you fancy, Bodie?" he said, "three weeks on the Costa Brava." "No, curtains, you moron!" We chimed in unison. "Oh. Green." Of course, there were fourteen green patterns. At last Ray got the feathers under control in his cranium and decided on the palm- and-bamboo pattern, which was green and white. The I had to go around and measure the windows and find out what kind of tracks they had -- they'd never bothered to find out!
Actually, that's a mistake you could make about Bodie and Ray, if you were dumb enough. Assume these two blokes are really gay. They aren't. I expect Bodie might have been bi since the days he spent in the Merchant Navy, but I've known Ray all his life and he never went for that sort of thing till... Well, until he fell in love, I suppose. Bodie is awfully hard to resist when he turns on the charm and lets you have it with those blue eyes. Oh, I can see what Ray's in love with, all right; it's enough to make a strong woman -- man -- well, person -- weep. Bodie? He gets nicely turned on by different attributes (I suppose it must be hard to be in love with the face that greets you, all blearly eyed and whiskery, in the mirror every morning); yes, Bodie appreciates the Doyle charms. Green eyes and red hair, and what have you. We're a good looking family, even if I do say so myself, and Ray is the best of us, which isn't surprising, since he got great gene stock from Mary, as well as Uncle Frank's Doyle genes.
Aunt Mary may be waiting for Ray to marry and make babies, but there's a bunch of us who've more or less unconsciously opened ranks to let in a new clan member. He's family, is Bodie, as much as if he'd married into the Doyle tribe -- which, I suppose, he has. Sooner or later Jean or Mary and my own mother, Fee, are going to wake up to the two of them; maybe there'll be a moaning and a groaning and a gnashing of dentures, but it won't last long.
Bodie will charm the old birds the same way he charmed the young ones, and who knows? By our Christmas bash of '85 or '86, or however long it takes, maybe Ray will be able to stand underneath the mistletoe and collect a kiss from his lover without causing too much of an uproar. They do kiss beautifully -- I know, I've seen them. If there's an uproar around the mistletoe, it'd be envy, mark my words.
But -- Doyles being who they are, and what, in five or six minutes no one would even notice anymore, and they could neck under the seasonal weeds for half an hour... Call us adaptable, call us crazy, call us Irish -- we're all three of those things, and so is Bodie, who is also one of us now, and will be so long as he and my cousin Raymond are in love and together.
How long will that be? A long time, I hope; and going by randy past reputations, they don't give their hearts away cheaply but, once given, it's for good. We Doyles are mad like that; and Bodie? He's tarred with the same brush now -- he married into the family, as far as I'm concerned.
-- THE END --