Excerpt – Spin the Bottle

Chapter One

‘Stop the music please!’ Lainey Byrne shouted, waving her arms as though she was fighting off a swarm of bees. The background music stopped with a screech. On the stage the ten dancers dressed in giant sausage costumes came to a wobbly halt.

Lainey quickly climbed the steps, looking for the lead dancer. It was hard to tell who was who when the entire troupe was dressed from head to toe in pink foam. ‘They look more like hotdogs than sausages,’ the sound technician had muttered unkindly that morning. Or something ruder, Lainey had thought privately. But it was too late to get new costumes and she could hardly scorch each of them with a cigarette lighter to get authentic grill marks. The fabric was far too flammable.

She spoke loudly, hoping they could all hear her clearly through the foam. ‘Can I just remind you again how it’s supposed to go? You run on after the barbecue’s been lowered, not before. Otherwise half of you will get squashed, which isn’t exactly the look our client wants for his big event.’

There were a few muffled laughs. Lainey turned and nodded at the sound man, and the opening notes of the Beaut Barbecues jingle filled the East Melbourne venue once more. As she moved off the stage and into the middle of the room, Lainey winced again at the lyrics.

Oh, believe me, mate,

Sausages taste great

On a beaut Beaut Barbecue-oo-oo.

She’d tried to gently talk the managing director out of the jingle three months ago, when they’d first met to discuss the gala  party celebrating his tenth year in the barbecue business. But it turned out his eight-year-old daughter had written the words and he wasn’t budging. Lainey wondered now if his eight-year-old daughter had come up with the idea of the dancing sausages as well. Or perhaps it had been his four-year-old son. Or his dog. Lainey just hoped none of today’s guests would think it had been Complete Event Management’s idea. Still, it was her job to give her clients what they wanted, and if Mr Barbecue wanted dancing sausages, he was going to get dancing sausages.

Lainey’s mobile phone rang. She took a few steps back, keeping an eye on the stage. ‘Complete Event Management, Lainey Byrne speaking.’

‘Lainey, have I rung at a bad time?’

It was her mother. ‘Ma, of course not. Is everything okay? Is Dad all right?’ As Lainey spoke, the dancers moved to the front of the stage to pick up the first of their props. Lainey held her breath as one of the fatter sausages teetered a little close to the edge.

‘He’s grand. Well, no, not grand, no change there. This is a brand-new problem.’

‘What’s happened?’

‘It’s to do with his sister’s will.’

‘The will? I thought that had been all sorted out. Don’t tell me she left her B&B to the cats’ home after all?’ The sausages were now making waltzing movements, each holding a giant plastic bottle marked Tomato Sauce. At the launch later that day the bottles would be filled with red glitter. For now the sausages were just puffing air at each other.

‘No, she did leave the B&B to your father. But we’ve just heard from her solicitor in Ireland. There’s a little bit of a hitch.’

Hitches came in sizes? ‘What do you mean a little bit?’

‘It’s too complicated to talk about on the phone. I think it’s better if we discuss it as a family. Can you call over tonight? If you and Adam don’t have any plans, that is.’

‘No, he’s working seven nights a week at the moment. Of course I’ll come over.’

‘Thanks, love. I’m asking the boys to drop by as well.’

The boys? Her younger brothers were hardly that. Brendan was nearly thirty, Declan twenty-five and Hugh nineteen. ‘Around eight-ish then – sorry, Ma, can you hold on a sec?’ She shouted over the music again as the sausages put down their sauce bottles and picked up giant barbecue tongs. ‘That’s when the managing director comes in and you form a guard of honour with your tongs, okay? That’s it, great. Sorry about that, Ma.’

‘I don’t think I’ll ask what you’re up to.’

Lainey laughed. ‘You wouldn’t believe it if I told you.’