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Barry Desmond Is A Wanker

by Martin Knight

Barry Desmond is an only child raised in the manicured London commuter belt of the 1960s. It is a decade of unprecedented change as the cult of the teenager gathers pace, but not in the Desmond household. Barry is cosseted from the outside world by distrustful, middle-aged parents and this leaves him woefully ill-equipped to cope with the savagery of a secondary school education. He does not fit in, and knows it – small eccentricities and a submissive manner making him a target for bullies. On top of all this he is wrestling with a masturbatory habit, his isolation causing him to believe that he is alone in indulging this compulsion.

On leaving school with a limited academic armoury Barry becomes the third generation Desmond to join the Empire Bank; an institution founded in the colonial prosperity of the 19th century and foundering in the economic uncertainty of the 20th. He finds a niche in the archives department where he and his colleague Danny Holloway, a rascal from the Caledonian Road, manage to survive under the radar and a wall of Bankers’ Almanacs for nearly a quarter of a century.

When Empire Bank falls to a US predator the changes that follow are traumatising. Barry’s world is turned upside down – he volunteers for redundancy to save his younger colleague and also, in quick succession, his parents die. He is desperately alone, only finding solace in masturbation and his collection of Seekers’ LPs, by now believing he must be the only middle-aged man persisting in this adolescent perversion.

Barry does not succumb to hopelessness. Essentially an optimist he resolves to force himself to go out, and in time he finally feels a part of society. He is content, and looking forward to each new day. Even his habit subsides, but at the age of fifty has Barry really cracked it? Or is life preparing another nasty surprise?

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