"You have a friend coming over? And you're sure it's not Lester Corncrake?" Vince asked one more time, just to be sure.
Howard narrowed his eyes (an impressive feat) and scowled, "I have friends, you know! Just because I don't pal around with every Tom, Dick and Harry..."
"What's wrong with Tom, Dick and Harry? They're great! They got a band and dress as Roman gods and sing in Latin..."
"I'm not talking about your friends: Tom, Dick and Harry - I meant a metaphorical Tom, Dick and Harry."
"They aren't metaphorical, they're real! I got pissed with them last night. Remember? I came home wearing a toga..."
Vince trailed off as Howard stormed out of the room. He wondered what right Howard had to be angry, it wasn't Vince that was casting doubt on the existence of Tom, Dick and Harry (a really nice group of guys to boot!).
True, Vince had questioned the existence of this Sebastion guy but that was only because Howard never made friends of his own free will. Howard had to be forced into friendships against his better judgment. You had to keep coming at him until he softened like butter on a fresh pancake and then he was your friend for life, even if you were just a severed head like Lester. The idea that Howard had just met some bloke in a jazz club and invited him over for pancake night was ridiculous. There had to be more to the story.
Howard sorted the ingredients for pancake night. He normally leaned towards more traditional pancakes, blueberries or chocolate chips, but on pancake night - he always tried something new. The chive had worked out, this week he was trying ginger.
He pulled out cinamon, dill, brown sugar, chocolate chips, butterscotch candies, jelly beans, rock candy, licorice, bananas, blueberries, an apple, raisons and some pecans. Then he remembered Naboo would be in and grabbed a packet of crisps and a bag of coconut shavings.
He was arranging the toppings in alphabetical order when Vince joined him in the kitchen. His flatmate grabbed a handful of jellybeans and stuffed them in his mouth before tossing some candy bars on the table.
"I thought Naboo might like a Bounty Bar with his crisps, amp it up a bit."
The first pancake night, Howard would have thrown up in his mouth at the thought of a Bounty Bar/crisp pancake but he'd become more open-minded over the years. A man of the world couldn't be afraid of an unconvential pancake.
He wondered what Sebastion would think of their daring pancake recipes. Would he be disgusted? No. He was American, their eccentric pancakes would probably seem mundane.
He sorted the candy bars in with the other ingredients and found himself curious about a Mars bar pancake.
"Tell me about this Sebastion guy," Vince prompted as he sucked up a raspberry bootlace like a turtle.
"He's a bass player, he was filling in for Lactose-Intolerant Louis at the club."
"He's American, here on holiday."
"I didn't ask for his CV, Vince. What else do you want to know?'
"Why you invited him to pancake night."
Howard tried to look casual and nearly fell over from the effort. He didn't know why he invited Sebastion over. It was a whim.
"He's a stranger in our land, I was being friendly."
"You won't let me invite Leroy and you've known him since school!"
"Yeah. I had him round my house, once, and he knicked my favorite bookmark."
"The one with the Charlie Parker on it?"
"Yes. I saved up two weeks allowance for that."
"Actually, Howard, that was me. I painted over it and gave it back to you for your birthday."
Howard rethought the past twenty years, "I guess I'll have to ring Leroy and appologize. I'll invite him to next week's pancake night."
Vince was leaning against the wall, smiling up at Howard with a cheeky glint in his eye.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Howard asked, feeling inexplicably nervous. After all these years, Vince still had a way of making him uncomfortable for no apparent reason.
"You're not mad I knicked your bookmark?"
Howard pushed past Vince and headed to the living room to choose some records for the evening.
Vince tossed himself on the couch and watched Howard sort through his dustiest records.
"Don't tell me we're going to have to listen to Weather Report all night?" he whined.
"Sebastion and I will be listening to jazz, you can do whatever you like," Howard snapped.
Vince frowned, not liking the idea of Howard choosing someone's company over his, even if it was some crusty old bass player. He probably wasn't even from a good part of America, like California or New York. He was probably from somewhere in the middle where they had nothing but corn and tornados.
He was tempted to make mean comments about jazz, a sure way to get Howard's full attention, but instead he picked up the book Howard was currently reading about Duke Ellington and flipped the book open to the bookmark. Vince had been reapplying finish once a year for two decades so it stayed in tact and the paint didn't chip (and reveal Charlie Parker). Sometimes he wanted to re-do it, fix the mistakes, but he could never change the message and there was no way he'd re-write it now.
He ran his finger over the little trumpets and saxaphones he'd drawn in yellow on the white background. In red letters, outlined in dark blue, were the words, "Happy birfday. I love you Howerd." He smiled when he flipped the bookmark over and read the words, "Made for you by Vince Noir Rocking Role Star". The words after "Vince" were written in a slightly darker shade of yellow. After finishing the bookmark, Vince had been afraid Howard might think it was Vince Smith who made the gift so he added his last name, just to be clear. The bit about "Rocking Role Star" had been a sudden flash of ten-year-old inspiration.
"Remember Vince Smith from school?" Vince asked after carefully placing the bookmark back where it belonged and closing the book.
"That berk? What made you think of him?" Howard didn't even look up from his records.
"I used to worry people wouldn't be able to tell us apart because we had the same name and yellow hair."
Howard looked up, his face incrdulous, "You've gone wrong, Vince. No one would ever confuse you and Vince Smith."
Howard cast Vince a suspicious look and went back to his records. Vince didn't know what he had hoped to hear Howard say but he was disapointed nonetheless.