Saturday, 15 November 2008

Shop Girl Caught Out

“I’ll come in a cab next week and collect my stuff,” Mr Roberts had said. “Don’t panic, I’ll give you warning.”
I was relying on the warning because Mum had inadvertently sold one of his wall brackets and I still hadn’t secured a replacement.
Monday morning I make myself a tea, ignore the flashing of the dying fluorescent tube and settle in front of my laptop.
I think I have time...
I switch on....
Mr Roberts storms through the door.
I jump up.
He's on a mission and stinking of booze.
“You haven’t come to collect everything, have you?” I squeak.
“Yes, come on, I told you I was coming.”
A pale-faced man in a flat cap walks in behind him. He’s evidently the cabbie.
I feel the panic rising inside.
“You have done those wall brackets, haven’t you? Here’s what I owe you.”
He starts counting out twenty seven pounds on the counter.
“I... uh... the wall brackets... they...uh... they broke!”
Mr Roberts stops counting and looks at me.
“The...uh...” I’m struggling to get a grip with my story. “The lamp holder... was faulty... we’ve sent them back to the factory.”
“Oh come off it!” Mr Roberts spits.
He isn’t the jolly man he was last week. He doesn’t want to play ‘granny went to market’.
“Look,” I point to a different wall bracket. “I could make two of these.”
“Alright I’ll take them.”
“But I need to put the crystal on them,” I stammer. “Mum could drop them into you.”
“You see this is my mate Danny,” he says, nodding at the man behind him, “and he’s doing me a favour coming down here. I don’t want to mess him about.”
Danny, in the flat cap, stares at me with watery blue eyes.
“Give them to me as they are,” Mr Roberts says. Then he leans in, his breath sticky with drink. “You could come over and put the crystal on for me couldn’t you? You’d do that for me, wouldn’t you?”
The idea of being alone with him in his flat, drunk as he is.... it doesn’t bare thinking about.
“I think the girl will be happier doing them here,” Danny says.
Danny convinces him and carries everything but the bare wall brackets to the car parked outside.
Mr Roberts lingers a little longer.
“If I’m not too drunk later on, I’ll ring you to let you know when Danny is coming.”
“Oh,” I say and before I can stop myself, “are you celebrating something?”
He steadies himself and looks me in the eye.
“I drink every day. I suppose you’d say I’m an alcoholic.”
“I’m not one of those dirty ones who lie about on benches. I shower every day.”
“No, of course...”
“All genius’ are drug addicts or alcoholics. You know why? It’s because genius and logic don’t go together.”
“Uh yeah...Hemingway.”
I’ve never read Hemingway but I think there are lots of bars named after him.
“Genius and logic just don’t go,” he insists. “That’s why. Do you see?”
“Yeah yeah... ” I say, nodding.
He leaves me to ponder that thought under the flashing glare of the dying fluorescent tube.
And I come to the conclusion I’ve never done anything remotely clever, let alone genius, after a bottle of wine.
Unless you count my sudden ability to speak French.
Which is something, I suppose.

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