In a couple of minutes we are back in our recliners. From the corner of my eye I get a fleeting impression of the leader of the Celtic supporters registering grudging approval. Pumping his clenched fist up and down he seems to be acknowledging I have done something quite astounding. I know of course that I have been the recipient of an enormous slice of good luck. I smugly consider my good fortune before a feeling of numbness creeps through my entire system. I fight fatigue and determine to find out more about this creature of barely hidden fire.
“Where from you come, Trish?” I croak from a parched throat.
“Oh, back there,” she replies, flicking the back of her hand towards the starboard bulkhead.
“Name of country, please,” I ask. “Thailand maybe?”
I take a quick look at my companion’s jaw line. There is no trace of a prominent Adam’s apple.
“No, thank you,” comes her reply.
“Somet’ing like that,” she breezily replies. “Shhh – don’t ask. It’s never mind for you.” She sounds suddenly angry with me.
“Okay,” I say resignedly. But I don’t give up. “What you goin’ to do, if job in Glasgow fails?”
“Me?” she replies, as though the Observation Lounge is full of beautiful young Asian women bound for the Outer Hebrides, each waiting to give a reason.
The young woman stares at me for a minute or so as though contemplating a major revelation. “Nude man,” she says, “I am sorry. You are a very funny man – funny face and ver’ funny legs. But, darling, I must remain silent.” She places her smooth left palm on my right thigh and squeezes.
“No, no,” I squeal. I mean to say it coolly, without the one-octave-up notes that issue from my lips. We get up from our seats at the same time and stand facing one another in the aisle. “Tashi, I . . . I . . .,” I sigh, then start again. Tashi, you are very beautiful . . .”
“I know,” she says calmly. She takes a pace forward and imparts a soft kiss on my left cheek. She caresses the spot with soft fingers. “Soon,” she says with assurance, “you will become cool man.”
My mysterious Asian beauty pirouettes away from me and skips towards the entrance to the Bar, never to be seen or heard from again. I don’t know this at the time and I fear she may return and do something that may cause me great embarrassment. Alarm spreads throughout the lining of my skull. I grab the newspaper and clutch it before me like a shield. I back away from the row of seats and start to crab walk backwards like I don’t want to turn my back on Tashi Daleq. I am creeping backwards towards the rear of the lounge. I never make it.
The paper drops from my numb fingers and flutters to the deck. I plunge forward as though to capture it. My body lurches and begins to collapse in sections – head, then shoulders, the knees, and finally the tòn.
It’s the face of young MacPhee from South Uist, the leader of the Celtic gang, I see when I come round. He is peering down at me, eyebrows raised in astonishment s though I have just delivered a complicated joke in Serbo-Croat. Tashi was gone from my life forever What happened to me? Well, I was deposited in Ospadal Uibhist agus Bharraigh in Benbecula, and for the second time in fifteen hours I found myself in a wee white hospital bed. Plus ça change . . . and all that.
In a bizarre way her prophecy was fulfilled. Our encounter marked the start of the ‘straight edge’ (fags and booze free) period of my life. My world and the way I look at it, as well as how I regard myself, is now gratifyingly different. Alleluia!
PS That’s a wrap. My thanks, viewers. Beannachdan – Tormod.