Cooper Brown: He’s Out There

'Mrs Himmler staggered in, drunk as usual. She comes up and starts patting my head like I'm a bulldog'
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The Independent Online

The big wedding of the year is back on. Tentatively. Victoria and I are to be married on 4th July and I'm shitting bricks. I drove down to see my in-laws – The Himmlers – on Tuesday. I got the Quattroporte up to 172mph on the stretch from Whitney to Burford – a personal best. So I cruised up the Himmler drive in fine form but it didn't last long. Mr Himmler was in the worst mood I'd ever seen him in. He had something to do with Northern Rock and it's hit him pretty bad. I have to admit that I immediately started fantasising that he'd have to hand over Himmler Towers to me as some sort of tax dodge and I was already mentally stripping the place bare of their gross old furniture when he hit me with a sucker punch.

"Obviously we're happy that you and Victoria are finally legalising your position but we're going to have to really cut back on the original wedding plans. We're going to have to go with something a little more... modest. You do understand the situation, I hope?" Mr Himmler looked almost penitent for a second, before regaining his usual asshole demeanour. I took a moment to take in what this loser was saying.

"Sorry, you're going to downgrade my wedding because of your financial incompetence? Don't you have any fucking savings? You're going to make her look like a joke." I was totally pissed and he knew it and I could see he was almost enjoying this particular consequence of his personal financial failure.

"I think you've done your fair share of humiliating my daughter, so don't start talking to me about jokes. You're hardly what Diana and I were hoping for, if we're going to be totally honest..." We were right up in each other's faces now and I was quite excited as I smelt that that it was going to get physical. Then Mrs Himmler staggered into the room, drunk as a skunk as usual. "Coooooper, darling, I didn't know you were down today. How's my adorable little grandson?" She comes up and slobbers all over me, she starts patting my head like I'm a fucking bulldog. Mr Himmler looked at me with a panicked flicker of the eyes and I knew immediately that she didn't know about any of his financial problems. I looked at him and grinned.

"Humboldt-Fog is just peachy, Diana. Poppa and I were talking about the wedding and what we were going to do..." Mr Himmler looked like he was going to have a stroke, but Mrs Himmler didn't even notice. She stumbled over to the drinks cabinet and poured herself something from an unlabelled bottle.

"We haven't had a proper big wedding in the family for decades. It's time we threw a proper bash – like the old days..." She knocked back whatever she'd poured out in one loud gulp.

"That's just what we were talking about," I continued, looking at Mr Himmler out of the corner of my eye.

"I want to have the thing here, Victoria wants the village church and then marquees, dancing, bands, champagne fountains – the whole Four Weddings thing." I smiled at Mr Himmler, whose shoulders had slumped. He was staring vacantly out of the French windows down towards the old tree by the river. I wondered whether he was sizing up the gallows potential of the thick branch that stretched out over the river. I tried to catch his eye and nod encouragingly but he wasn't with us any more.

"Where will you honeymoon? Capri is nice, although full of peasants at that time of year. What about Umbria? You could use the house?" Mrs Himmler was nattering on as she filled herself up to the brim again. Not for the first time I had that curious sensation of having wandered into some Victorian drama performance. I looked around the tired room. I'd definitely keep the superb fireplace and I actually like the wooden drinks cabinet. But everything else – the frayed couches, the indented armchairs, the piano that nobody ever played apart from Hugo when he was on mushrooms – they'd all have to go. I imagined a huge bonfire outside on the croquet lawn, everything piled on it with the Himmlers tied to a stake. She'd go up like a firework with the amount of booze in her veins. He'd be more of a slow-burn as the fire fought to break through his leathery skin.

"You could finally meet Hugh Grant." I smiled at Mrs Himmler who had gone all red. She loved Hugh Grant and started squealing like a little girl pig.

I smiled and slapped Mr Himmler hard on the back. "So that's agreed then. We'll have the wedding here. So very kind of you, Poppa." He turned to look at me. Our eyes met and it was like looking into the abyss. He knew that I'd won this round and I twisted the knife.

"Hope you won't have to sell the family jewels to pay for it all?" I laughed heartily, as did Mrs Himmler.

"Oh Coop, you're so naughty. It'll be a pleasure and I'm already so excited about the whole thing. Let's have a drink to celebrate..." I made my excuses and left them to it. I got in the Quattroporte and did a celebratory handbrake spin in the gravel. On the way back I watched the speedometer climb gracefully – 161, 163, 168... On days like these it's good to be alive. Cooper Out.