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Songs of Bliss


coughs and heads away from the woman of his dreams, whispering a gentle adieu.
"Take care, Maggie".
It's three o'clock on Sunday morning.
Billy has a choice of route home. He could take the coast road that runs through
Fremington's quiet little world of bungalow boredom, but he prefers to see the lights of
Bideford scatter along the Torridge Estuary as he breasts the last hill on the main trunk.
The Little White Town has tucked itself up for the night and the roads are clear.
Billy's Vauxhall is the only car on the new bridge, a perfect time for suicide. The
Samaritans sign is positioned at the apex, the reading of which offers a last moment of
redemption to the jumper. Jumping is not uncommon.
The tide is in and the street lights along the quay are reflected on gentle ripples.
Rope lights are strung in the rigging of the Kathleen and May, the country's last operating
merchant schooner, and they're switched on at night now to advertise the boat as a tourist
attraction for Easter.
At the roundabout just after the bridge Billy turns left into the town centre, slows as
he passes a speed camera and at the next junction, where a second hand car dealer spends
his days polishing tired paintwork, Billy swings right and up the hill. The headlight beams
from his car narrow and concentrate on to a green painted garage door and Billy pulls up on
the drive in front of a compact, thirties, bay window semi-detached house. All of the
neighbours' lights are out bar one house a few doors down. Saturday, sex, late night flicks,
who knows. Billy yawns as he puts the key in the lock. The house is dark and quiet. Billy
drops his keys on a glass topped telephone table, hangs his jacket on the banister and
visibly sags as he walks into the sitting room.
Instead of Jock Cascarino's preferred tipple, a reasonable blend but a blend
nonetheless, Billy pours himself a stiff single malt, picks a well thumbed copy of his
favourite record from a shelf and slides the black vinyl from its cover. It's an act of love.
Careful not to touch the record's grooves he places it on a Linn Sondek turntable, one of the
few indulgences in an otherwise spare and simple interior. He sets the sound system so that
his final memories of another long Saturday night will be soft and mellow. Billy lets Vic
Damone sing him lullabies.
The record is his favourite, the one he always plays to himself after a show. Linger
Awhile with Vic Damone. It's one of his hero's better recordings for Capitol from nineteen
sixty-two, the stuff of dreams. Damone was signed by Capitol in sixty-one when they lost
Sinatra to Reprise. Not bad for a boy who had to drop out of school and take a job as an
usher and elevator operator in a mo vie theatre, the Paramount, in Manhattan.
Billy thinks about Bex, about the Gingerbread House, a term he uses to describe the
place where his ex-wife spins her sugared web, and about the good old days. Like Vic,
Billy bummed around in dead end jobs, singing in pubs for a few beers and little bit of cash
on a Friday night, but unlike his hero Billy never did bump into Perry Como. He took the
traditional route; working men's clubs, hard grind and a little luck.
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