I had to go into town this morning, as gone off milk in my coffee wasn’t too pleasant first thing. I prefer to drink my hot beverages, not chew them.
I ambled slowly into the town centre, kicking my way through the discarded lager cans and kebab wrappers. Smashed beer bottles glittered savagely from the gutters, a slice of pizza clung to a tattoo parlour’s window, a trail of pizza sauce dotted with melted cheese marking its slow descent from the original site of impact. Two fat flies crawled slowly over the stale crust. Pepperoni, mushrooms and extra cheese, by the look of it. Tasty.
Saturday mornings in this supposedly quiet market town are only eclipsed by Sunday mornings for visions of post apocalyptic carnage.
A dishevelled, hooded figure shambled past me, existing in a cloud of stale farts, tobacco smoke and cheap wine vapours. It muttered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘brains’, so I quickly ducked inside the nearby Spar convenience store.
A safe haven in a world of hungover chaos.
“Good morning, Alen!” called a member of staff as they disappeared into the dark recesses of the stockroom.
A friendly face! Wonders never cease. A slice of normality. Thinking of slices reminded me of the window pizza, and my stomach took a barrel roll. Coffee laced with chewy milk threatened to put in a reappearance. Only just got here, and time to leave already, so I grabbed what I needed and headed for the tills.
At the checkout a little old lady was paying for her half ounce of Old Holborn with bags full of coppers, her four and a half foot frame struggling to reach the counter, tobacco stained fingers sliding pennies and twos into piles of ten. The girl behind the counter chewed gum noisily, lips smacking, nose stud glittering, lip ring swinging from side to side. Her fingers drummed on the scratch card holder. She cleared her throat. She sighed.
The little old lady paused her counting and looked up at the checkout girl, rheumy eyes fixing her with a piercing gaze. “I didn’t live to be eighty five years old just to be rushed by impatient shop workers, young lady. Now hush up and let me count.” Checkout girl sniffed and rolled her eyes.
Go granny, go.
Next in the queue was a big slab of a man. Baggy, oil stained jeans covered half of his considerable, and no doubt hairy, arse, dirty grey boxers covered the rest. A blue and white football shirt screamed with the effort it took to contain a beer barrel sized beer belly. A twelve pack of Stella peeked out from under his left arm, his meaty right fist clutched a two litre bottle of White Lightning in a death grip. Stale sweat and garlic emanated from him in sickening waves. It wasn’t even half nine yet. In the morning. Jesus.
Slabman glanced at me, then farted, his eyes almost challenging me to complain about the stench of last night’s vindaloo mixed with rotten eggs wafting up towards my cowering nose. I held my breath and smiled back at him, willing somebody to open the shop’s door to create an air clearing draught. I glanced down and noticed the laces of one of his workboots was undone, the thin brown cord trailing across the floor like a dead worm.
“Your laces are undone, mate,” I informed him. Opening my mouth wasn’t the smartest move. Rotten egg vindaloo coated my tongue and threatened to slip down my throat.
“Whatchoo say?” he rumbled.
Stealing myself for another chemical warfare attack from his arse, I bravely opened my mouth again. “I said, your shoelaces are undone. Mate. You might trip. Or something.” I closed my mouth with a snap, tongue rubbing over my teeth in an attempt to scrape off its toxic coating.
“The fuck’s it gotta do witchoo, dickhead. Mind yer own fookin’ bidness!” He leaned closer, greasy lips pulled back, exposing yellow and black teeth. I’m sure he thought he was snarling at me. He looked like a Spitting Image puppet. A second hand and unloved Spitting Image puppet. “I dun fookin’ care me laces is undone, do I? Why dontcha do one, you ain’t me ma!”
Perfectly charming. A pleasure to meet you too, my good man. He was expecting me to back away, so I edged towards him instead. “Suit yourself. Mate,” I replied, while his ripe aroma made me wish I had backed away, after all.
A draught blew over us, the shop’s door opening to let badass granny back out into the world, rolling tobacco clutched in one claw-like hand. Checkout girl cleared her throat again, before calling “next please!”
“That’s you, buddy,” I told my new friend. “Move along now.” Slabman narrowed his eyes, then turned his massive bulk with all the grace of a pirouetting elephant. Unfortunately, for him at least, his undone shoelace was caught on something. Instead of lumbering forward towards the till, his feet remained still, while his top half continued to move. Realising, too late, that there were no feet under it to keep it upright, the bulky body began a slow, majestic bodyslam towards the floor. Slabman’s head bounced off the floor with a satisfying thump as his twelve pack of Stella split open, cans rolling in all directions. The plastic bottle of White Lightning burst, super strength cider spraying the sweet counter and an unfortunate kid who’d picked the wrong time to try and buy a Mars bar.
“Oh dear,” I grinned, “those undone laces can be a real pain, can’t they?” I looked down, and took my foot off the said undone laces, stepped over the beached whale, and paid for my lowly carton of milk.
Was it a fortuitous accident that I happened to stand on his laces, anchoring his foot to the spot? No, of course it wasn’t, I wanted that ignorant fucker to take a fall. Mean spirited, sure, but oh so satisfying. It fair made my day, it did.
And… that shallot…