Monday, May 14, 2012
Tense scenes now over, the kid behind the counter of the burger place texts his mates and updates his facebook about the ridiculous scenes that have just taken place. He assures everyone that he’s single-handedly sorted the whole thing out – aside from when that wired-looking skinny bloke stepped in but he just told him to back off, he was dealing with it, yeah? – and that nobody else better fuck with him tonight, y’dig?
Ten minutes previously:
It’s not late, maybe about seven in the evening but I’m exhausted after nine solid hours of fresh air, sunshine and Favourite Son and Favourite Daughter. They’re home with their mother now so I head in the direction of my lodgings for the night. We’ve had a big lunch so I decide to just grab something en-route like maybe, I dunno, a burger or something.
“Quarter-pounder please” I say to the worried-looking kid behind the counter. It seems to be just him on shift tonight and there’s a weird atmosphere.
The place is deserted aside from a guy in his early fifties and another in his early twenties. They look completely fucked-up but then we’re not exactly dining in The Ivy. I take my change and examine my fingernails, ignoring the two radge-packets. There’s a bad vibe coming from them, I’m tired and don’t need the grief.
Worried Kid: Look, I’ve asked you to wait outside….
Radge the Elder: Yeah what the fuck for? We’ve paid for it, we’ll fucking wait inside. Who the fuck are you trying to throw us out? You cunt.
WK: I’m, I’m not throwing you out –
RTE: No you’re fucking not.
WK: I’m just asking you to wait outside until your food’s ready –
Radge the Younger: What the fuck for? What the fuck for?
WK: For, erm, abusive language –
RTE: Prick. What you going to do? Eh? What you going to do?
WK: And for throwing stuff and, er –
RTE: Just give us a fucking refund.
WK: I can’t I don’t have the card for the till…
The kid’s voice is wobbling. The radges are exercising the tyranny of men who have learnt from experience that they can act any way they like because the civilised will just stand by and do nothing.
Fuck it, none of my business. I’m hundreds of miles from home, disorientated, emotionally spazzed and I’ll be sleeping on a sofa with broken springs tonight. I’m keeping well out of it. I don't need the heartache. I feel bad for the kid though, all on his own like that.
I hear a calm, firm, authoritative don’t-mess-with-me voice.
“Pardon me, but have we got ourselves some sort of a fucking problem here, gentlemen?”
The two radges stand with mouths agape. I’m not surprised. Who the hell has said that to them?
Oh bollocks. It was me, wasn’t it?
Realizing I’m committed now, I make the best of it. I put my back to the poor sod kid, rest my hips against the counter, place my palms spread wide on the top, cross my ankles and give the radges a steady, unblinking gaze.
Or it would be if this were a
action movie and I were more than five-foot and change, carried more than
eight-stone odd and were not wearing a t-shirt with a screenshot of the old
Space Invaders arcade game on the front.
I’m acutely aware that I’m both about to receive a world-class kicking from a couple of West Country mentals and that I'm also well past the point of no return.
RTE: This kid’s messing us around and –
Me: NO. It sounds like he [jerk my thumb behind me at the kid, not even turning my head] is doing his job, and you [point my finger directly between the radge’s eyes] are being a COCK.
Great. Just great. That’s bound to calm the situation.
There’s a shocked silence for a moment. No-one’s more shocked than me. My mouth has taken on a life of its own, which would be fine aside from the fact that it is still attached to my body and as such is liable to get me badly hurt very soon.
RTY: Hey… what’s this got to do with you…
Me: [Still gazing into the eyes of RTE] If I was talking to you I’d have been looking at you. [Briefly switch my gaze to him] Bloody hell! How many spliffs have you smoked tonight?!
I hear the kid behind the counter stifle a giggle. He must have noticed long before I that RTY has smoked so much weed tonight his eyes are barely visible.
RTE: Hey. My son only smokes tobacco!
RTY seems to have lost all heart for further confrontation. He’s been rumbled. He knows it, I know it, the kid behind the counter knows it. The only person who doesn’t seems to be his father.
The kid hands me my burger. I stand at one of those chest-high tables and eat as well as I can. I make sure no-one notices my shaking hands and don’t take my eyes of the Family Radge.
RTE: [Grumbles, semi-audible] Who the fuck does he think he is? “Spliffs”? What the fuck –
Me: Hey. HEY. If you would like to voice an opinion about anything I’ve said to either of you, I’m standing RIGHT HERE.
Brilliant. No, really. Superb. Because I don’t want to get through what has otherwise been a splendid day in one piece.
Both radges fall silent. Thankfully, my seemingly autonomous mouth gives it a rest at this point also.
Astonishingly, the newly subdued Radge the Elder and the Younger leave without food or refund, grumbling quietly about the new franchisee of the establishment who I now realise they believe to be myself.
I slowly exhale. It feels like I’ve just climbed down from somewhere where the air is very thin. I dump my rubbish in the bin.
Time for a couple of stiff drinks. I'm properly shaking now and I need to try and sleep on the broken sofa.
I look at the kid on my way out.
He shrugs without looking at me. He’s busy doing something with his mobile phone. God knows what.