More Than a Mentor

A tearful Howard reveals to Vince the extent of his relationship with Tommy


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Chapter Notes: A massive thankyou to ailcia who beta’d it for me. Also, my second ever Boosh fic, and considerabley longer than my first!

“Waaaaaaah! *gulp* uh uh *sniff* whyyyy?!”


Immediately the noise stopped. Vince came into the zookeepers’ hut and saw Howard suddenly engrossed in Minky Monthly, trying to hide his face with his hands. “Howard? What’s wrong?” Howard lowered his hands and looked up at Vince, his eyes red and puffy and his cheeks damp. “Howard, have you been… crying?”

“No.” He replied, somewhat unconvincingly. “I don’t cry, I’m a man, Vince. Men don’t cry. No, I’m Howard Moon, nerves of steel: I could see my mother’s face be ripped off by a deranged octopus and not shed a tear. Once, I even had my foot stood on by a wildebeest out for revenge. Broke all my toes, didn’t bother me: I could take the pain.”

“Howard, that’s just wrong. And that wildebeest was out for revenge because you tried to get off with it.”

“That’s just a rumour. Everyone knows wildebeest are notorious liars, it was just angry at me because I’d forgotten to give it its lunch. Anyway, what are you doing bounding in here unannounced, scarf flying everywhere? You could take someone’s eye out with that!”

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t matter if the eye was yours. You wouldn’t cry, you’d grin and bear it. You’re Howard Moon, balls of…aluminium.” Vince laughed, resting his hand on Howard’s shoulder. “Come on, tell me what’s really up with you. It’s obvious you’ve been crying, the whole zoo could hear! The porpoise derby had to be cancelled because your noise was distracting them! They couldn’t think straight, ‘ooh shall I go here?’ ‘ooh should I go faster?’ ‘ooh what’s that thing coming towards me? Oh bollocks!’. They were crashing into everything!”

“Hmph.” Howard grumbled. “Well maybe if they’d been trained properly…”

Vince shook his head. “That’s not the problem here, Howard. The problem is that you’re clearly upset, what’s wrong?”

Howard looked down at the table for what seemed like an eternity before answering. “Tommy.”

“Tommy? That dairy-headed fruitcake? What about him, I thought that had all been sorted. We grated him, was what he wanted.”

The sobbing started again, but this time a lot quieter. Vince looked at Howard and felt something in his chest tighten. He couldn’t bear to see his best friend so upset, even if he did think Tommy was a nutcase. “Look Howard, I know you looked up to him. I completely understand.”

“Do you?” Howard asked, suddenly quite violent. “Do you really? No Vince you don’t. You’re just simple, you’re like a small child. Just think Vince, how would you feel if Gary Numan died?”

Vince’s eyes opened wide with shock. “Don’t even jinx it! That’s evil thoughts that is Howard.”

“Exactly, you’d be devastated. But it’s worse than that for me. I had to see what Tommy had become, I had to see how deranged, how insane, how frightening he’d become.” Howard’s voice descended into a cracked wail as he reached his climax, words forcing their way out through the gasping sobs. “And then he died!”

Suddenly a lot more subdued, Vince tried to hug the older man. “I’m sorr,y Howard, I know how upsetting it must have been for you. He was your mentor. He trained you in the art of zoo keeping. I’d hate it if that happened to you.”

Howard pushed him away and looked upwards at the ceiling, tears welling up again as he gently sobbed. “Oh Vince, you don’t understand! Tommy was so much more than a mentor to me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Tommy was,” Howard drew a deep breath and sighed. “Tommy was my first true love.”

Vince squealed with delight. “Aha! I knew it! You did love him… did you kiss him?”

“Shut up Vince. You don’t understand. When I said Tommy was my first true love, I meant that Tommy and I were… well Vince, Tommy was my first lover.”

“He was your only lover.”

“No he wasn’t, shut up.” Howard retorted angrily. “I’m trying to tell you a story Vince and all you can do is make silly remarks. I should have expected that of you, you’re too immature. All you think of is your hair and your bloody electro nonsense.”

Vince frowned and pouted his bottom lip like a little boy. “That’s not fair! I want to hear Howard, honest I do!”

Howard looked up at Vince and wiped a tear from his eye. “You do?”

“Of course I do, you fool! Tommy obviously meant a lot to you, and now he’s dead. Come on, tell me your story.”

“It all happened a long time ago when the best keeper the Zooniverse has ever known was looking for a new apprentice. This keeper’s name was Tommy Nooka and he was truly a great man. He was handsome, a different kind of aesthetic, a simple one but a rugged good-looking one. Tommy was a man’s man. He could do anything he put his mind to. If a fence was needing fixing Tommy’d get out his tools and hammer away until an even better fence stood in its place. If there was a distressed llama running riot around the zoo, Tommy would gently stroke its back to try and calm it down, maybe even get off with it.”

“You do that!”

“Yes I know Vince, Tommy taught me. Anyway, as I was saying, Tommy was a fine figure of a man. A little short yes, but his personality and determination more than made up for what he lost in height. He was kind and caring to everyone equally, with the small exception of Mods, he was a Rocker after all, but so long as you didn’t strut around in Fred Perry and ride a scooter then Tommy was your man. Aah yes, Tommy truly was something else. And then he found me…

I was a young man, twenty-four years old I think, and working as the barrel monkey in a local jazz bar.”

“Wait, you were twenty-four and Tommy was to be your first lover?”

“I told you to shut up, Vince.”


“Anyway as I was saying, I was working in a jazz bar. One night this man came in. He was sitting by himself on a tall stool, drinking a glass of milk, nodding his wide head in time with the music and dangling his feet above the ground. I saw him there and I was transfixed, now here is a man who truly loves jazz, I thought. I decided to strike up a conversation with him after the song had finished.

‘Hello, I couldn’t help noticing you were drinking milk. I love milk, the creamy calcium goodness strengthens your bones and refreshes you at the same time, genius! Are you enjoying the music? I personally am a fan of the early bee-bop…’

He stopped me. ‘What’s your name, boy?’

‘Howard Moon, sir.’

‘I like you. Tell you what, why don’t you have a glass of milk with me?’

“I gladly accepted. We talked all night of all manner of things: Tommy was an intellectual and he certainly knew his Sartre, although I’ll admit that got a bit tiresome at times. It turned out Tommy wasn’t quite the jazz buff I’d imagined, but he certainly appreciated it and that was more than enough for me. At the end of the night we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up for a drink the next week, as friends.

“A few weeks later and I found myself sitting in small Italian café drinking an espresso and waiting for Tommy to arrive. He was ten minutes late but that didn’t bother me, I was just glad he’d come. He transfixed me with his wisdom and his self-assurance, I was totally in awe of him. Tommy ordered a milkshake and then spoke the words that would change my life forever.

‘Howard,’ He said. ‘You seem like a nice guy and I like you. I’ve told you where I work yes?’

‘The zoo, yes. Sounds fascinating.’

‘Yes, the zoo. Well, as it turns out my apprentice Jimmy Redcorner has a talent for boxing so he’s left to pursue it as a career. So now there’s a vacancy.’

‘That’s a shame, you’ll be needing to find someone then. Do you want my help? We could put an ad’ in the ‘paper.’

‘No Howard you idiot. I was suggesting that you could take the job. Think about it, you work as a barrel monkey in a jazz bar. It’s hardly challenging and you’re paid pennies. At the zoo you’d be paid a decent wage and would get to spend all day with the animals!’

‘But I like jazz.’

“Tommy shook his head and sighed. ‘I know you do Howard, but there’s always lots of free time at the zoo so you can listen to your jazz then. Maybe teach the animals a thing or two about saxophones and clarinets? Besides, you’d get to spend all day with me…’

‘I’ll take it.’

“And with that I became Tommy’s apprentice.”

Howard turned to Vince and saw that he was sitting nodding his head in time to some imaginary music. Then he noticed the small white earphones. “Hoi! Vince! Have you been listening to a word I’ve said?”

“And I hate to ask, but are friends ” Howard ripped the earphones out and stared accusingly at Vince. “…electric? What d’you that for?”

“You weren’t listening to me Vince, I was trying to tell you my story!”

Vince chewed his lip and looked up at Howard with big puppy dog eyes. “Sorry Howard, I was listening honest! Something about you becoming Tommy’s apprentice.”

“Hmph. Yes. Anyway, as I was saying…

“I handed in my notice at the jazz bar. I can’t say they seemed sorry to let me go, but I know that deep down they were crying at the loss of the best barrel monkey in all of Yorkshire. I started at the zoo the next day. It was amazing, a totally different environment. I felt empowered, like I could do anything I wanted. As it turned out the animals weren’t always up for that, but that didn’t matter too much so long as I had Tommy at my side, watching my back and looking out for me.

“Bob Fossil was just starting in those days too. He would be forever at Tommy’s heels, always there in his ear. ‘Ooh Mr Tommy sir, can I get you a cup of tea?’ ‘Do you need any help cleaning out the Russian carpet man’s cage?’ It was immensely frustrating. But what really got to him was that I was clearly Tommy’s favourite.

“Tommy would keep me behind after hours for special training. This usually involved large quantities of alcohol and me stripping down to my underwear. The idea was to get me in touch with the animals, ‘After all, the animals don’t wear clothes do they?’ Tommy would say. He was a wise man. Sometimes Tommy would take photographs of me like this. I didn’t ask why, I didn’t dare question Tommy, no doubt he had a good reason for it.

“Then one day when I was feeding the lions I felt someone’s breath on my neck. ‘Howard,’ the person moaned softly. ‘I’ve wanted you for so long Howard.’ Slowly I turned round and there I saw Tommy. He was standing on a box so that he could look at me straight in the eyes without me bending down.

‘Tommy, sir! I never knew you felt that way.’

‘Your tiny beady eyes, your long slender legs and your pathetic little moustache. Everything about you makes me want to…’ And with that he kissed me hard.

“I must admit I was surprised at first, but I soon gave in and went with the flow. Tommy was a very good kisser I must say. I felt his hand on my arse and I swooned. This man was my hero, and here he was feeling me up! I couldn’t have been more flattered. The kissing got more heated and Tommy led me to the zoo keepers’ hut and pushed me down on the ground. Then we, erm, you know.”

Vince frowned. “You what?”

“We, you know, did it.”

“What? Did the Guardian quiz?”

“No, Vince! We did it!”

“Played Monopoly?”

Howard sighed exasperated. “No Vince, we did IT.” He made an obscene gesture and watched Vince’s face change from one of confusion to one of disgust as just what Howard and Tommy had done finally dawned on him.

“Ooohhhhhhh… eewwwww!”

“Shut up, Vince.”

Vince screwed up his face and started slapping himself on the forehead.

“What on earth are you doing?” Howard asked, extremely confused, but slightly bemused at the same time.

“Trying to get rid of the visuals, you’ve hurt my mind!” Vince replied still hitting himself. Howard grabbed his hand.

“Stop that.”

“Sorry. It’s just not something I ever wanted to think about.”

Howard frowned and stood up. “Cup of tea?” He asked and made his way to the kettle.

Tommy wasn’t someone he’d thought about in a long time and now all the feelings and emotions he had felt at the time were all coming rushing back. It was an almost paternal relationship, with the obvious difference, the closest Howard had ever come to having a father after his own had left a six-year old Howard and his mother to run away with a bare-back rider in the circus. The last he had heard, Fred Moon and his new wife Trixie were running a school for wannabe stunt artists in the south of France. Tommy had provided that much needed mentor, even if he had come into Howard’s life when he was the relatively old age of twenty-four.

But, Howard thought, he was so much more than a mentor. Tommy had taught him how to love. Through his guidance and demonstration Howard had learnt to be a gentle lover, a kind and accepting boyfriend who treated everyone he dated like they were the most important thing in his life. It was just a shame that he didn’t get the chance to show this side of him to many people.

“Howard?” Vince interrupted, suddenly bringing Howard back from his thoughts. “Howard, are you alright? You went quiet there, didn’t say anything for about ten minutes.”

He looked at the younger man and smiled. “I’m fine, Vince. Anyway, where was I?

“We had to keep our relationship a secret. If anyone had found out then we’d have been forced out, the world was a lot less accepting of our kind of relationship back then. Even less accepting than they were about Jack Cooper, although that is only a rumour. But despite the secrecy and always having to perform our acts of love hidden away it was the best relationship I’ve ever had.”

Howard stopped again and started drinking his tea. Oh Tommy, he thought, those were the best days of my life. Yes, he loved Vince dearly, as a friend mind, but nothing could ever compare to the elation he’d felt every day on waking and realising that he was sharing his bed with the man he loved.

“Howard! Is that the end? I want to know what happened next!”

“Oh, yes. Well I suppose that is the end. You know what happened, four months later Tommy was locked up by Bainbridge in the Jungle Room and everyone was told he’d been eaten by the ocelots.” Howard suddenly went quiet and looked at the ground, tears welling up as he remembered. “It broke my heart, I cried for a week solid and wouldn’t come out of my room for a week after that. But I knew that Tommy couldn’t possibly be dead, no matter what Bainbridge and Fossil told me. There was just this gut feeling, you know? If Tommy had died then something inside of me would have died too, and that something was still there, even if it was very faint.”

Vince looked at his friend and saw a tear roll down his cheek and land on the table with a gentle plop. He hated watching his best friend cry: it was cutting him up inside seeing Howard so distressed. “But now he is dead.” Vince whispered.

Howard nodded.

“And that something has died hasn’t it?”

Howard nodded again. He looked so helpless sobbing quietly into his hands. Vince put his arms around him and hugged him tightly.

“Don’t worry Howard; I’ll always be here for you.”

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