BY THE TIME I GET THROUGH THE SHOP DOOR

That fuckarsed wall of car radio clocks blink a seventeen/nineteen/fifteen minutes past nine as though to say late late late. Rob stands at the till, frowning at his watch, tilting his wrist as though trying to catch the light. Well, good afternoon Mr Billy, how nice of you to give us the pleasure of your company. I flick him the fingers, quick-foot towards the stairs, sidestepping a tracksuited cripple in a sporty wheelchair, a tin of Turtle Wax sat in his thin-legged lap… Fuck, how I hate Saturdays. As I get to the bottom of the stairs and turn onto the cycle-floor my arse winks. Let me get that down for you sir, smarms Norris, eyeing me over the customer’s shoulder as he levers a BMX off the rack. Cue knotted scowl, cue daggers, cue woopdifuckingdoo... In the staff-room I slide my stupid blue-grey overalls on. I look at my name badge. Fuck, how I hate this job. The staff-room stinks of Norris’s cheap cigars. My head hurts and my knob itches like fuck. I scratch it through my overalls and my ears crackle. I make a quick coffee and head upstairs to the cycle-floor. Great. Eight hours of fuckarse shoppers.

You are kidding, right? says Norris as I pull the curtain back and walk onto the shop-floor. What? I say, taking a sip of coffee. Norris walks towards me like one of those mongy speed-walkers, his elbows nearly level with his shoulders. He looks like a fucking cartoon. The man with the BMX looks up just as Norris grabs the coffee from my hand, some of it slopping onto the floor, my leg, my trainer. Norris makes an angry blowing sound. IF YOU THINK YOU CAN TURN UP HALF AN HOUR LATE THEN HAVE A BLOODY TEA BREAK YOU MUST BE THICKER THAN YOU LOOK, BILLY-BOY!... God, how I hate this cunt… I don’t feel very well, Mr Norris. The coffee’s for my throat. It’s sore. Norris pulls a sarky face, then says Oh deary dear, Saturday flu again is it?... Behind him, the man leans the BMX against the till and starts walking up the stairs. Norris spins around. WE CAN PUT IT ON ONE SIDE FOR CHRISTMAS, SIR! ONLY A POUND DEPOSIT! Norris shakes his head and makes that blowing sound again, points to the floor where little puddles of coffee glint like chocolate piss. GET THAT MOPPED UP! AND YOU CAN FORGET ABOUT HAVING A DINNER BREAK! YOU OWE ME TIME! AGAIN! CONSIDER THIS A VERBAL! AND GET THAT PROMO STUFF SORTED! TODAY! He speed-walks up the stairs, elbows pumping, head jut-jutting like a fuckarsed chicken. Cunt. I look at the pile of posters and price labels by the till, then run downstairs, make another coffee and get the mop… Thankfully, the first hour is fairly quiet. I put Abbey Road on the tape player and stick some Christmas posters up. CHRISTMAS CRACKERS AT HALFORDS! 10% OFF ALL BIKES! Cue behind-the-hand shifty whisper, When purchased on a Halfords credit card only four-hundred percent APR ha-ha-ha. I hear footsteps on the stairs. I look up and it’s Grace. She smiles and holds a carrier bag out to me. Bought you something, she says… It’s some sarnies wrapped in cellophane. A bag of Wotsits. Two cans of Fanta. A Mars bar. And what looks like a chicken leg wrapped in tinfoil. I tell her she’s just saved my life because I haven’t got a dinner break today. She shakes her head. They can’t do that, she says, It’s illegal. I stroke her arse with my hand and tell her what we did last night was probably illegal too. She giggles… HEY! Me and Grace look up to see Norris hanging over the stair-rail. THIS ISN’T A BLOODY SOCIAL CLUB! GET THOSE POSTERS UP! YOU CAN SEE YOUR GIRLFRIEND AFTER WORK! He turns and jogs back up the stairs. Grace looks at me and shakes her head. She tickles me under the chin. Take no notice, she whispers.

Later on that morning, Rob comes downstairs on his way to the staff-room for a tea break. He grins at me as he makes his way past a fat mum and dad stood around their little fat daughter trying to get her fat leg over a trike saddle. Rob’s alright. We’ve been out for a beer a couple of times. He’s the assistant manager but he’s not a jumped-up knobhead… Got a minute? he says. We go behind the curtain. Listen, he says, pushing his glasses back up his nose, I shouldn’t be telling you this, but Norris is shafting you. I ask him what he means. He tells me he’s just been doing the timesheets, and Norris won’t pay me for the overtime I worked last month. Rob tells me I can’t say anything because he’d get into trouble. I stare at my feet. He pats me on the shoulder. Soz Billy, he says… I go back onto the shop-floor with a fire in my belly that licks my chest, my throat, my brain. I want to run upstairs and kick Norris’s fuckarsed face in. Fat mum and dad ask me if I have any other trike’s that’d be right for their daughter. I tell them they don’t make them in her size and they fuck off tut-tutting and shaking their fat stupid heads. I scratch my knob. Something has to be done. I eat the chicken leg, put John Lee Hooker on the tape player, and think about the problem. The phone rings. I push the rest of the Christmas promo shit to the floor and answer it. It’s Grace. She asks if I’m okay. I tell her in a low voice what Rob has just told me. She says Norris can’t do that, that I should see him about it. I tell her I can’t, because I’ve promised Rob. She sighs, says not to worry, that we can talk about it later, that she loves me. You too, I say… For the rest of the day I do everything I can to not sell a bike. By four o’clock I up my game. I spike bike tyres with a staple gun, enjoying the slow-soft hiss as I lift the staple out with a flat-end screwdriver. I jab scissors into spare inner tubes. I take cogs out of bells so they won’t ring. Then I take a pair of pliers and twist the gear changers of the most expensive racers until they won’t work. Then, at five to five, I run downstairs to the staff-room, take Norris’s tin of Café Crème cigars from the table, go into the toilet, take my overalls off, pull my foreskin back to a hot stink of thrush, roll the gob-end of each cigar around the underside of my bell-end, holding each cigar under the blow-dryer until all the thrush smears have dried into the leaf, nipping back into the staff-room to grab my coat, putting the Café Crèmes back onto the table for Norris to stick in his fuckarsed gob, leaving the shop without a word, walking home to my girlfriend Grace, who’s laid a table of cheap steak and curly fries, a big bottle of Liebfraumilch, wearing a look on her face that says it all, the pots waiting to be washed as we fuck on the floor, looking into each other’s eyes as we come, a drag-rush of star, brown eyes deep as mineshafts, forever as I arc back to pump my come deep inside her, that comes and keeps coming, her thrush, my thrush, our thrush, the meat of each tit slipping from my grip as I arc back, until all I have is her nipples between my tightening fingertips, her rising moan as she comes again, again, my skin burning near-tearing as I push deeper into her, all this pain and come, one, the same, and the voices echo from the throats of a thousand brick-built jennels, when all is done we have suffered, and we fall, and we keep falling... enough.

 

35. Let your yes be yes and your no be no

33. When Billy said But Grace I love you

 
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