This is an excerpt from my 2016 novel, Lucky Portbraddon. Noah Portbraddon and his uncle, Nick, who is very drunk, are heading home from a gig in a club in Easthope… Be aware there are a few ‘naughty’ words in this episode:
Nick was revived by the cool night air and began to sing ‘I can see clearly now.’ He stumbled and lurched into the road and a car screeched and swerved to miss him.
Noah grabbed him and dragged him onto the pavement.
“I’ve changed my mind; I’m taking you home and dumping you there!” Noah was angry.
The car had stopped further up the street.
“Oh shit, I hope we don’t get no hassle from this,” Noah complained as the car began to reverse towards them.
“We can handle it, big boy, give ’em a twatting! I’ll give ’em a twatting!” Nick was excited at the prospect of a fight.
The car stopped and the driver got out and it was Ismène.
“Nick?” she called, anxiously.
“He’s drunk, I’m taking him home,” Noah answered, Nick was grinning inanely at Ismène.
“Noah, is that you? My god, I didn’t recognise you,” she laughed and Noah realised she’d been afraid. She’d thought that Nick was in some sort of trouble from him and was brave enough to get out of her car to help.
He suddenly felt foolish; she always made him feel ridiculous. She was so kind, trying to be nice to him and he, as usual, became a tongue-tied idiot.
“I’ll give you a lift, come on,” and they followed her to her car. “I’ll drop you off Nick, then Noah as you live nearer me.”
Nick in his blurry way thought about suggesting going back with Ismène for a coffee… maybe… she’d give him a bed for the night… maybe she’d share her bed… But what was he thinking… she wasn’t interested in him, she had more class…
It was warm in the car and he slumped comfortably in the back, beginning to drift into sleep as the night flashed past… Where was Zofia? Would she be home? And if she was at home would she be alone?
Ismène was talking to Noah and he was mumbling away as usual… that boy was a surprise… who knew he could sing like that, brilliant! let alone write what he was singing… maths… he’d studied maths.
Ismène braked so suddenly that Nick was almost strangled by the seat belt jerking sharp against his neck.
They were saying something about an accident… stopped at traffic lights and on the adjacent junction there were two cars, one up against the back of the other.
Ismène pulled round the corner and stopped… She had an urge to giggle, this night was becoming ludicrous. First she’d nearly run over Nick as he lurched into the road, pushed, she’d thought, by the massive Goth… then the Goth turned out to be Noah, with fantastical make-up, and now, driving them home, a car crashed before her eyes.
The driver who’d crashed into the car in front was trying to open its door, shouting at the other driver, his face contorted with rage.
“Noah, what should we do?” she wanted him to say ‘you stay in the car, Ismène, I’ll sort it out’ but of course Noah wasn’t like that.
The angry man was banging on the window of the other car.
“Hey, that’s Alex’s car! It’s Dad!” and Noah jumped out and Ismène followed.
“You fucking twat! Why did you stop!!” the man was thumping his fists on the windscreen.
“What’s your problem, mate?” Noah bellowed.
“Hey, you tosser, what you doing?” Nick called, he was lurching towards them.
“This drunken idiot just stopped!” the man said belligerently, staring in disbelief at Noah.
“He’s a friend of mine, if you exchange insurance details we can get everything sorted,” Ismène spoke reasonably, smiling in a pleasant and unthreatening way. Her calmness belied her anxiety and nerves. Not only did this man look capable of attacking any of them, but Nick and Noah were obviously ready for a scrap. It was like being a teacher in a playground full of aggressive teenagers, unpredictable and possibly dangerous.
Unexpectedly Noah stepped forward, grasped the man by the shoulders and thrust him aside so he tumbled and fell over. A woman appeared and with a screech rushed to the man now sitting on the road looking bewildered. Noah wrenched open the door and peered in at his father.
The man got up, walked towards them and suddenly, unexpectedly, lashed out at Nick who staggered sideways. He swiped at the man, catching him on the ear as the woman swung her handbag full in his face.
Ismène was shrieking ‘stop!’ ineffectually as the woman, man and Nick wrestled together. Noah was getting Alex out of the car. In the lurid light of the street lamps he looked deathly, and he looked drunk. The lights must have changed because several cars came by slowly, rubbernecking as they passed.
“You fucking drunk!” the man suddenly lunged at Alex but cannoned into Ismène, and she tumbled backwards, pulling him over. For a moment they were bathed in light as another car went past then its tyres squealed as the driver braked.
A man got out of the car and suddenly everything would be alright because there were four Portbraddons… It was Antoine.
Here is a link so you can find out what happens next to this extraordinary family:
… “Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…”
A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them:
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom…
A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do.
However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music.. .
One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”