Always Second Best
By Leonard Pierce

“So he tells me, ‘ere, Pete, ‘snothin’ personal, only this Starkey character, ‘e’s got the chops. Bloody ‘professional’ they call ‘im, like a professional what can’t play trumps an amateur what can. So I says to ‘im, look ‘ere, Brian, I got a…”

“Cor, give it a rest, Petey.”


“Give it a bleeding rest already. You’ve been comin’ in here every Friday night for the last forty years, telling the same stupid story again and again. We know. We know, already. Everyone knows. Everyone one on the whole gory planet knows. Enough, mate.”

“Some barkeep you are, Terry. I thought you was supposed to listen to a bloke’s problems, not turn ‘im out like ‘e’s a bloody leper. And to think ‘ow many times I let you keep the change off a fiver.”

“Look, Petey, it’s nothin’ personal. I like you, you’re a right good bloke and a good customer. But I have to listen to a hundred stories a night from the clientele, and most of the regulars have the decency to tell me a new one every once in a while. The bleeding world didn’t grind to a halt on August 16, 1962, mate. What you been doin’ since then?”

“You…you really want to know?”

“Sure. I’ll even stand you a pint my own self to get a new story out of you.”

“Well…I mean…well, as it ‘appens, I kicked around Liverpool for a few years, then decided the bloody weather was too foul for a young man me age, so I headed off for the states.”

“United States?”

“Oh aye. Hooked up with this bloke in New York, name of Louis Firbank. ‘Ung around with all them arts crowds, Andy Warhol, that lot. Was getting’ a band together, wanted to know did I play drums. Did I ‘ell! I signed up for a tour o’ duty, and bloody luck, right before they record their first record, they kick me out as well. Said they wanted a bird in the band.”

“You don’t say.”

“Sure enough. Well after that begob I was through with the bloody music scene. Out to ‘Ollywood I went and decided to get into show business, what they call it over there. The pictures. This one lad George Lucas, I pal around wi’ ‘im in the ‘ills for a few years in the mid-‘70s, on account of ‘e’s a big fan of the Beatles. ‘E promises me a lead in this science fiction picture ‘e’s been kicking around. Right, I say, and then right before filming ‘e throws me over for some young bloke for no reason other than ‘e’s a blond. Bloody discrimination is what that is.”


“Of course by this point I’m done and over with in the entertainment game. Wouldn’t give you bloody tuppence for the so-called good people you can find in that mug’s game. I moved up the coast to Warshington state and did some odd jobs til I fell in with this feller Jobs, an electrician ‘e was. Come to find out we was both radio ‘obbyists when we was young, and we set out to making some electronics sets together. Big idea man, ‘e was, and ‘e throws me over for this smart lad named Gates ‘e says has a better ‘ead for figures. ‘E can figure my arse I say.”

“Good grief, Petey.”

“After that, I did little bits and bobs here and again. Did some interior design for this cow Martha Steward who was startin’ up a magazine, and she fired me for showin’ up late for shoots; got into workin’ out in a big way in the late ‘80s and was a personal trainer for this bloke Jordan until he tossed me over for putting the moves on ‘is wife, and then was a campaign advisor for the governor of Arkansas, which is a state over there, and I quit that one in ’90 on account of the bastard was too bloody long winded. Then back to Blighty since the States ‘ad been unkind to me, ‘ooked up with this bird I met in Dorking and ‘elped ‘er write a book about wizards or some such until she dumped me because she didn’t fancy Paki food. Women! Eh, Terry?”

“Say, Pete?”

“Yeah, Terry?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, mate, but…”

“What is it?”

“Could you go back to telling the Beatles story?”

“Sure, squire. It was August 16, 1962…”

Leonard Pierce writes for and maintains the website