I was shocked on the night of the performance, I can tell you. I had knocked on his dressing room door to tell him there was an hour before the curtain up, and was sure I could hear someone gently weeping. I opened the door and saw John sitting at his dressing table wearing a dressing gown and doing terrible punishment to a bottle of Drambuie. He looked up at me with swollen, tear-filled eyes and tried feebly to smile.
‘What’s the matter Mr. Noakes?’ I asked. I must admit the sight of one of my idols crying into a bottle (and his bottle was definitely half empty) disturbed me greatly.
‘Oh nothing…nothing, here sit down,’ replied John, wiping his tears on the back of his towelled sleeve. He patted a stool next to his.
I sat down.
After a long silence he turned to me, a far away look in his eyes. “Love’s a funny thing, isn’t it son?” He took another pull on the Drambuie, spilling some of it down his chin where it dripped forlornly into the folds of his gown.
Being eighteen years old I knew nothing of love. The nearest I’d got to love with a woman was pulling myself off over picture stories from my little sister’s Jackie comics.
‘Love son, love…it’s a funny thing,’ he burped. Snot dribbled down his top lip and he sucked it up absent-mindedly.
I thought about this for a while. I was sure that it was, but I also felt sure that his statement required a certain answer…I didn’t want to set him off crying again and he’d be up in front of the Queen in just over an hour.
‘I suppose it is Mr. Noakes, I wouldn’t really know.’ I couldn’t help looking round at the door, my illusion of John’s hard-man image was falling apart. They say that you should never meet your heroes.
‘Take Valerie Singleton. I…I loved her for years lad, years…and I never told her.’ He made a sound somewhere between a sniff, a sob and a belch and closed his eyes.
‘Oh’ I said.
‘Never told her…never fucking told her. Couldn’t you see, she wouldn’t look at me…wouldn’t fucking look at a p-poor northern boy like me!’
He brought his bottle angrily up to his mouth and, unaware that he’d just smashed one of his front teeth out, took another pull of Drambuie (and blood). I was now desperate; I didn’t want to be there anymore.
‘Shep loved me!’ He wailed.
Oh shit, he’s brought the fucking dog up. Again.
‘And I loved Shep!’ He was starting to shout. I suddenly noticed that in his drunken state his dressing gown was falling open. I noticed his nipples. Christ they were hairy. And it wasn’t human hair.
‘Fucking hell John!’ I rasped, ‘what the fuck happened to your nipples?’
But John didn’t hear. He swayed to his feet, the cord on his dressing gown becoming worryingly loose.
‘I never fucking told her! I never told her and thought I’d never have her…but Jesus Christ son, she’s just telegrammed me.’
He shoved a tear-stained telegram in my face. I read it.
To cut a long story short it seemed that Valerie Singleton had only just come to the boil and had told him, in no uncertain terms, that he was on a promise after the show. I didn’t know the language of love at that tender age and some of the terms were unfamiliar. ‘I’m going to fuck you big boy’ was obvious but I didn’t know what a ‘hot lunch’ was. It sounded good for him anyway.
‘What’s the problem then, Mr. Noakes?’ I asked, confused. ‘It looks like you’re up for a right seeing-to, and no mistake…’
‘What’s the problem?!’ he barked, ‘WHAT’S THE FUCKING PROBLEM?! IT’S SHEP!!’
‘But…but Shep’s dead Mr. Noakes, Shep’s dead!’
John swayed and looked down on me, the hint of a triumphant smile on his wet lips.
‘Oh no he’s not…Not thanks to modern science. Shep’s alive. IN ME!!’
‘What? I don’t understand!’
Panic was rising in my chest, I tried to rise but he pushed me firmly back down.
‘Surgery boy! Surgery! I’ve melded Shep into my own body! It was the right thing to do…it felt so good!’
Jesus, suddenly the hairy nipples made sense…they were Shep’s! But, surely, he can’t have…
‘But oh! The irony!’ he gargled, ‘I have my little Sheppy forever, but because of this, I can’t have Valerie, she won’t want me now!’
I had to think fast.
‘But it’s only nipples John, surely you can keep your shirt on and she’ll never know!’
His hand moved up to the back of my head, grabbing my hair and twisting it around his strong fingers.
‘Oh she’ll know alright boy, she’ll know…’
I gagged in horror as his dressing gown fell to the floor. The nipples were the least of it. I watched, frozen with horror as his canine lipstick started to emerge from within himself, leaking a silken thread of doggy pre-cum two inches from my face.
‘But you don’t mind do you lad?…You don’t mind…’
I was powerless to resist as Shep’s engorged member forced its way to the back of my throat.