Mr. A. Phale's usual course of Friday night proceedings is to sit behind his desk reading a romance novel, or perhaps a well-loved classic such as Wuthering Heights, which he enjoys but knows to be merely a romance novel in disguise as great literature.(1) It is perhaps one of the saddest ways to spend a Friday night, but he will often have a mug of hot chocolate and warm, fuzzy slippers on his feet, and so, in his heart of hearts, he will consider himself perfectly content.(2)
However, and quite luckily for Mr. A. Phale, there are some nights where he is able, with the help of a good friend, to escape such pathetic and laughable pleasures as, you know, reading a good book. These nights are few and far between, but they allow him to be sociable according to the strict code of Social People Everywhere.(3)
On such nights as these, one A. J. Crowley comes along, bringing with him promises of enough alcoholic beverages to get any American pop icon sufficiently snockered. He is whistling to himself something very contradictory to the seasons, such as Deck the Halls in the summer and Summer is a Coming In in the winter, and from his bookshop -- yes, Mr. A. Phale is a bookseller, and the profession suits him like a white evening glove reminiscent of what he calls The Good Old Days(4) - he can hear his friend coming just by the way the air begins to shift and jingle to the wrongness of his presence. On such nights as these, Mr. A. Phale puts up the pleasant CLOSED FOR THE EVENING sign early, abandons his Heathcliff and his fuzzy bedroom slippers, and becomes for a little while, with the help of a little Cointreau and a little more Grand Marnier, much more of a man and much less of a British housewife.(5)
It is on one night such as these that our story takes place, made sweet and uninhibited by vintage wine, untouched by the graying British air. It is on a night such as these that a demon and an angel, allowing themselves to blur the proverbial lines just a little bit for the sake of an age old Agreement, sit around an antique kitchen table as two old college chums would -- except for the fact that their college was in a Place and a Time Before Eden, and they just so happened to graduate from rival Ivy Leagues.(6)
(1) Any book in which there is at least one exclamation point on every single page except for one cannot truly be considered 'great literature' by the standard of the reader; rather, it is considered 'great literature' by the values of old women and poofters in denial from the late 19th century. This does not stop many people from reading this classic, however, even if it does seem as if Brontë was in good need of a relaxing cup of chamomile tea.
(2) But only because he doesn't know any better. If he were to be looking at himself from the perspective of another, more modernized person, he would point at himself and laugh.
(3) That being:
1. Get very, very drunk
2. Do equally very, very stupid things
3. Don't try to remember them all in the morning, and just say you had 'a bloody fantastic time last night.'
(4) When the wine that did the snockering was better, and considerably more French.
(5) Or vice versa, depending on your view of British housewives.
(6) Heaven and Cambridge.