We walked on a little further. “I’ll tell you what, boy. They sell them in

machines, you know.”

 

He was right of course. Some gents’ toilets had contraceptive machines.

 

“All you’ve got to do when you’re in the pub with Sonia next Saturday is to

pop into the gents and get some out of the machine.”

 

“What pubs do they have them in?” I asked Emyr. “I haven’t noticed them in

The Crown.”

 

“I think they’ve got one in The Coach and Horses,” he said. “And if they

haven’t got one in there, I’m pretty sure they’ve got a machine in The Talbot.

I think that’s where Ceri gothis.”

 

I called for Sonia at seven o’clock the following Saturday. I’d spotted her a

few times in the week, talking to other girls, but I hadn’t had the nerve to

approach her. I didn’t know if she was officially my girlfriend, and I wasn’t

sure how I was supposed to behave if she was. It was as if the Sonia of last

Saturday night had no connection with the young woman laughing and

joking with her classmates. All my confidence had evaporated.

 

It revived a bit when Sonia answered her front door – I was afraid that I’d be

confronted by Mr Watkins, who would issue me with a stern warning to

stop pestering his daughter.

 

We went to The Crown first off. It was sort of automatic; I always went there

on Saturday nights. When Sonia took her coat off in The Crown I saw she

had a low-cut dress on underneath. I found it difficult to talk to her

sensibly. I’d forgotten all about that ridiculous conversation with Emyr, but

now I found myself wondering – what if he’d been right? Maybe, for once in his life, he hadn’t been talking nonsense.

 

It was only a few minutes after I’d bought Sonia a drink that Emyr showed up, like a bad penny. He came over to speak to us.

 

“Come to pick up some tips,” he said.

 

After a few minutes of listening to Emyr rabbiting on I went to the gents. I didn’t need the toilet but I checked to see if there was a contraceptive machine lurking somewhere. There wasn’t.

 

When I got back I asked Sonia if she’d like to go to another pub. “Try The Coach and Horses,” said Emyr. “Worth it just for the gents.”

 

Sonia looked a bit surprised. “I’d rather stay here for a bit, if you don’t mind,” she said.

 

I didn’t know what to do. Naturally, I couldn’t force her to go to another pub if she didn’t want to. I bought Sonia another drink and I bought Emyr one as well, though I wished he’d go away. Then I had an idea. The Coach and Horses was only a hundred yards away. I could say that I was going to the gents and then nip outside and run to get the contraceptive.

 

I stood up as if to go to the toilet once more.

 

“Won’t be a minute,” I said. “But you’ve only just been,” Sonia complained.

 

“Bladder like a sieve,” said Emyr as I headed for the door. “Due for the operation any day.”

 

I walked straight through the toilets in The Crown and out onto the street. Then I ran as hard as I could to The Coach and Horses. There was hardly anyone in the pub. I tried not to look at the barman as I went straight past him into the gents. There was no contraceptive machine that I could see – only one old chap having a pee.

 

I tried to go too, just to make it look right, but it was difficult I can tell you. I had to go through the bar again on my way out, which was embarrassing because the barman spoke to me this time.

 

“This isn’t a public convenience, you know,” he said.

 

“Sorry,” I said, “I thought it was from the outside.”

 

People are always complaining about silly things like that. I’d hardly used his stupid toilet, anyway. When I got out into the street I didn’t know what to do. It was time I got back to Sonia, but I thought this might be my last chance. I didn’t hesitate for long. The Talbot was in the next street. I ran there as fast as I could. The lounge bar was empty except for one couple sitting in the corner. The barman was Jack Phillips, a friend of my father’s. I walked through the bar as fast as I could, but Jack spotted me.

 

“Don’t see you here very often, Gareth,” he said. “What’ll it be?”

 

There was no escape. “Half a bitter please, Jack,” I said.

 

“Go on, have a pint. You’re old enough.”

 

So Jack poured me a pint. I could see he wanted to talk, but I was getting a bit frantic. I took a couple of sips and headed for the gents. The first thing I noticed was the contraceptive machine. There was no-one else there. I examined my change. I only had one half crown piece. I put it into the machine. As I did so I heard someone coming along the passage to the toilet. I shot across to the urinal. I stared at the wall as the door opened behind me. It was the bloke who’d been sitting in the lounge bar with his girlfriend. He went over to the contraceptive machine. I heard him pull the lever and then the contraceptive must have dropped down because he laughed. I glanced round and saw him pocket it before he turned and walked out again. I thought of shouting at him – “That’s mine!” – but it was too late. Anyway, I wouldn’t have had the nerve. I was in a right state to tell you the truth. I had no

more half crowns and Sonia must be wondering where I was.

 

I went straight through the bar without finishing my drink.

 

“Got to rush,” I said to Jack as I passed him, “late for an appointment.”

 

Jack would probably tell my father, but I hadn’t time to worry about that. Anyway, I was telling the truth for once.

 

As I ran back to The Crown I thought how difficult it was to do something as simple as buy a contraceptive. I was also trying to work out how I’d explain to Sonia about my being in the gents for so long.

 

I needn’t have bothered. Just before I got to The Crown I saw Sonia. She was walking away from me on the opposite side of the road, and she was with someone else. Then the two of them crossed the road and I could see they were holding hands. I could see who the other person was, as well. It was Emyr.

 

Aberystwyth Boy, a collection of short stories

by Gwynn Davis, is available now from Y

Lolfa priced £6.95 (www.ylolfa.com)

Johnny Come Lately

 

It’s Saturday night, Gareth thinks he might be about to get lucky,

there’s just one thing missing...