I heard the opening line of this piece a few months back and was looking for a way to use it.

“Was it before or after the pilot came?”
Nonie asked the question. She already knew the answer but she loved the way the question sounded and the Brownes would be now more than curious to know who the pilot was and how Nonie knew him. I was tempted to kill the conversation with a short answer but the opportunity to torment and torture Kevin and Hillary Browne was too much for me. “Oh You know I cant remember” I scratch my head “Let me see now” I pretend to be figuring it out. “Well he came in April if I recall and the fire was in June” Nonie was nodding agreement “yes”.

So one question now posed two puzzles for the Brownes. Who the hell is the pilot? And what damn fire are we talking about? But then we knew all that when Nonie set the trap. The adhoc script Nonie had talked me through could deal with most of the question and eventualities that could arise.

The fun started now. Hillary was not going to ask straight out, we knew that and thats what made the game worth playing. “God” Hillary exhaled. “We haven’t seen you in ages” she is looking directly at Nonie. “What have you both been up too” I am smiling behind my wine glass, such an obvious opening gambit. And Nonie is answering, telling Hillary everything but never once mentioning the Pilot or the Fire. I can see Hillary’s smile slipping ever so slightly. Brian then takes a run at it “The house looks different Mike, have you being doing a bit of DIY” I feign surprise. “No Brian, I am not the do it yourself type” I laugh. “We had a lad in who repainted the kitchen and did some tiling” Hillary latched onto that like a dog latching onto a bone but tried to remain casual as she leaned in towards Nonie her eyes questing and questioning. “Didnt you only redo the kitchen a year ago” Nonie only nods in response and she turns her attentuon to the exchange between myself and Brian but Hillary will not let it go. “You found those blue antique tiles you were so fond of didnt you” Nonie smiles sweetly, she is so much better at this game than I am. “Oh yes” she pauses, a sad refrain “I did so love those tiles but I couldn’t find them again. But dont you like the red ones we have now, so vibrant” she turns her smile and all its dazzling brilliance directly on Hillary “Dont you think so” Hillary looks for a moment trapped, she casts about for a way to return the conversation to blue tiles but Nonie has trapped her and she can only smile and nod “Yes, they are lovely, not to my taste but very “you” Nonie” she does the inverted commas with her fingers. The barb in the complement, classic Hillary. I feel Nonie’s slim body quiver beside me, she is trying desperately to contain a laugh and its so against her nature to restrain merriment that I almost feel sorry for her. I dare not look at her or one of us will collapse.

“Have you any plans for the Summer” Brian asks. And Nonie has to excuse herself. She had guessed he would be the one to turn the conversation to flying “We are flying out to France in April” he says and  Nonie’s footsteps echo down the hall even faster and I can imagine her shoulders shaking with the contained laughter. I play the game of verbal tennis waiting her return “Perhaps Scotland in the spring” I answer Brian “I love the freedom of taking the car over on the ferry” Hillary takes the bait “Oh dont you like to fly then. I love flying myself, always have done” she is smiling and nodding manically urging me to spill the beans before my accomplice returns. I know Nonie is behind the door by now listening to every word. “I dont mind flying but I always drive if I go to Scotland or Wales” I am loosing interest in this small cruelty now. I almost feel sorry for Hillary.
Brian is looking at his watch, a sure sign he wants to get Hillary in the car before she starts foaming at the mouth. I question why these people are even our friends.

Nonie is outside with us now, all smiles and kissing Hillary and Brian and so sorry they have to dash but then she herself has to run back inside. I am left to wave Hillary and Brian off. Hillary has her nose to the window, in search of pilots or fire damage as the car pulls away. I wave but neither of them wave back. I found Nonie in the kitchen. She is still laughing and I cant help but love her.

© Dave Kavanagh @ daithiocaomanaigh.com

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