April Fool

I entered the shop still muttering like Yosemite Sam and the fact that the big lights weren’t on didn’t bother me. I went straight to Enrique’s office to hang my coat up. I opened the door and was met with the sight of Enrique – his face horribly deformed – staring at himself in the mirror. I didn’t expect that and my anger turned to fear. Instantly. I think my heart actually stopped for a while. It’s safe to say I nearly shit. Enrique turned to me, but even then it was two or three seconds before my brain actually processed that he was wearing a mask. It was a wretched mask, possibly supposedly an approximation of a US politician or perhaps an actor. It was a poor quality mask.

“What are you doing?” I asked, still full of fear. Enrique didn’t answer, his eyes – the only part of his face that were real and shiny – flicked over to his desk and then back to me. I looked at his desk. Laid out on the desk was a pair of handcuffs, some rope, one of those ping-pong ball mouth strap things and a pile of material, clothing or blankets I do not know. Enrique’s hat was also on the desk. “Okay,” I announced to Enrique who was still still and still facing his face at me and then I hung my coat up and left his office. I put the lights on and felt a little bit safer because nothing bad happens when it’s light.

A few minutes later Enrique emerged without his mask and wearing his hat. Was he a hacker? I’d asked myself in the time it took him to emerge. I watched him. He was pretending to look for something down the aisles. He was clearly pretending to look preoccupied but he wasn’t, he was approaching me covertly. When he was a few paces from me and staring down one of the aisles pointing at nothing in particular and pretending to count he suddenly wheeled on his heels, pointed at me and shouted, “April fool!”

“What was?” I asked him. Enrique had a wide grin plastered to his face. He cocked a thumb back to his office. His pose was almost Michael Angelo’s David in appearance.”That was an April Fool?”

“I got chu!” He said still grinning and leaning forward with his thumb still cocked back.

“It’s, like, the twentieth,” I said. Enrique laughed stood upright and then went over to the window. The car park was empty apart from his Cadillac in the disabled bay. “Of May.”

“It’ll be a nice day,” he said nodding and gazing out with his hands held behind his back. I couldn’t help looking at his hands and wondering what despicable acts he had in store for them.

“Enrique?” I asked without thinking too hard. He turned and lifted his eyebrows. “What was that in there?”

“Dat in der?”

“Yeah, that in there, what was that in there?”

“Dat was notink.” Enrique held my gaze and I backed down. Lowered my gaze. When I looked back he was again staring out of the window. “Come on people!” He shouted and then clapped and rubbed his murderous rapey hands together.

“You’re happy today then?”

“Si Si. Chu ever got a royalty cheque?” He asked.

“A royalty cheque?”

“Chu ever get one?”

“No.”

“I get one today.”

“What for?” I asked. The only thing I could think of was perhaps he had recorded some shit folk shit back in Colombia and it was on the radio.

“Wha’ fo’?” He asked me back. I didn’t respond. “For being awesome.” He stretched the word awesome for a while until it faded to nothing like a Scotsman in the sun.

“They don’t give you royalty cheques just for being awesome.”

“Chu see, man, it’s from Spa’,” he told me and I supposed that this was nothing more than the second in Enrique’s fucked up, nonsensical series of April Fool tricks and so I read the paper.

It was supposed to rain all day but actually it was quite nice, the showers held off and out of the wind it was pretty warm so we had ice-creams outside, around the back.

Mid-afternoon I saw Stan’s car pull up. Can’t remember what car I said Stan drove last time but this time it was different. It was a Mitsubishi Evo (Evolution) VII (Seven). Enrique was reading the inside of the dire selection on birthday cards we stock and chuckling to himself.”It’s Stan!” I shouted. Enrique replaced the card and rubbed his hands together.

“Moony time!” He said. He then lifted his fists and really clenched them so his whole body vibrated. It was funny as fuck.

“Wassup!” Said Stan when he entered. Enrique was now beside me.

“Wassup!” I replied.

“Stan,” said Enrique politely. I should have said just said hello. Stan put his folder on the counter.

“You got my email then?” He asked Enrique. Enrique nodded. He was breathing hard. Nearly panting. I stepped away from him as I hate people breathing near me. “You know why I’m here?” He asked me.

“Not really,” I told him honestly.

“Well, let me just say,” said Stan suddenly serious, “that I am here in the capacity as a mate, yeah?” We nodded. “Forget I’m the big boss, yeah?” We nodded. Stan isn’t the big big boss. He’s Enrique’s boss but he’s not the boss boss. I don’t know who is. It’s not Stan. He’s definitely not a mate either. Truth be told he’s a bit of a dick. “Cool beans,” said Stan. I didn’t know what that meant. Stan opened his folder and took out a sheet of paper and placed it on the counter. Enrique grabbed it scanned it front and back and then put it down. It wasn’t a cheque. Looked more like an order form. It was an order form. Stan picked it up and gave it to Enrique. “What is that?”

“Dis? Dis order form,” said Enrique proudly.

“For?”

Enrique read it. “Three hundred Maxibon Cookie cream ices.” I’d been asking Enrique to do it ever since we had one at the zoo. I didn’t think he’d done it though, fair play to him.

“Ice creams?” Asked Stan. “Three hundred?” Enrique studied the form, nodded and put it down. “You see these tills?” Said Stan pointing at the tills. Yeah Stan, we could see the tills that are right there you fucking dummy, we’re not blind. “These are all computerised, yeah?” We nodded. The computers are computerised. Makes sense. “So that we know what you sell, yeah?”

“H’okay,” said Enrique but he didn’t understand where this was going.

“Last summer you sold twelve Twisters and three Cornettos.”

“H’okay,” said Enrique who was now slightly grinning. He didn’t get it at all.

“That’s fifteen ice creams. That’s it. Fifteen.”

“H’okay,” said Enrique, he was clearly trying to keep track of all these massive numbers in his head.

“Fifteen ice creams. Last summer you had over twelve hundred ice creams delivered.”

“H’okay,” said Enrique now looking puzzled.

I had to interject. “The freezer broke.”

“Sure,” said Stan.

“And those kids, remember Enrique? The little thieves?” I shook my head to convey how bad the thieving children had been. “Buggers.” Stan might have been a dick but he wasn’t so incredibly stupid though.

“Listen guys, I used to work on the floor. I know how it is. You’ve got to make this job bearable, yeah?” I didn’t nod or do anything. It was likely a trap. “There are perks, right?” I didn’t respond. “You probably have ‘Ice Cream Time.”

“Ice cream time!” Shouted Paula from the back of the shop.

Stan nodded his head towards her voice. Enrique was still looking puzzled. “But you can’t take the piss,” Stan continued. He looked at Enrique and then me. “These Maxibon Cookie things, these are new. It’s a premium product. People are going… I’m going to notice three hundred of those going AWOL, understand?” I nodded ever so slightly. “Eat the Mini-Milks. Or Calippos.” I nodded again but it was a fake nod. Calippos are a waste of time, I’d rather go without. “So you’re not getting the Maxibon Cookie,” he said and then put the order form back in his folder. I nodded. Enrique was still looking puzzled but nodded too. “Okay then guys?” Said Stan looking around the empty shop.

“Okay.” I said. Stan put his thumb up and then started for his car. I thought about asking him for a Slush Puppie machine but Enrique ruined it.

“My cheque?” Said Enrique, rather timidly.

“Cheque?” Squinted Stan.

“My… royalty cheque?”

What?

“De email? A… a cheque?”

Stan thought about this for a seconds. “A reality check?”

“Si!” Said Enrique, the smile returning to his face.

Stan looked at me and then to Enrique. “That was it.”

“Oh, h’okay!” Said Enrique and he looked at the counter but didn’t move.

Stan looked at me again and then said, “ciao,” and left.

Enrique was lifting things off the counter and looking down the back of the counter. He spent half an hour looking for it. He’s a bell-end. Later in the night, when I was home, I watched him furtively lead a nervous looking young woman into my garage/his house.

I couldn’t really see if she was frightened, it was too dark, but it’s a fair assumption – Enrique leads you anywhere at gone midnight and that’s got to give you butterflies in your tummy. I could see that Enrique was carrying a rucksack and that was unusual for him. I guessed it was filled with the mask and the other ghastly accoutrements of torture he had been fucking about with in the shop. Although I was sure that I couldn’t be seen in the darkness of my kitchen I stood stock still and watched them go in.

I reckon Enrique has killed a person before, his reaction when I jokingly said he had at those awards that time pretty much confirmed it but then he’s from Colombia. I doubt there are many Colombians who haven’t killed at least one other Colombian. I don’t even care. Rape is a different story. It’d be bad enough if he was driving around doing it but doing it in my garage where my treadmill lives is taking the biscuit.

Listen, I’m talking about rape, like it’s no big deal. I’m blasé and flippant. I’ll spoil this for you. I’d made a massive mistake with my assumption that made an ass out of me.

Enrique wasn’t being monstrous. I wouldn’t be telling anybody about something like that – I’d be giving police statements. But that’s with the benefit of hindsight, something I have and you don’t. At the time I genuinely thought he was planning to rape that poor woman and so I after looking in the fridge and eating a sausage – nothing makes me happier than when there are cooked sausages in the fridge – I went out to put a stop to it.

I’m not frightened of Enrique. He’s my boss but I’m his landlord, he’s not going to fuck with me or he’ll be living in his car and so out I went. It was freezing so I went back in the house and got my coat. I went back out and had a cigarette to steady my nerves. I don’t normally smoke on my own property but my wife was asleep and this was a special situation.

I went to the side door on the garage and couldn’t really hear anything and so I knocked. I heard something fall over inside the garage but nobody opened it. I knocked again and counted to twenty before trying the handle. The handle was obviously being held from the other side by a human as it softly gave a smidge. “Enrique!” I shouted quietly.

I tried to force the handle down to open the door but Enrique must’ve been giving it everything on the other-side and the handle felt like it would break before I could out-muscle him. The door handles were £3 from B&Q. No point putting good ones on for Enrique I’d thought when buying them. My thriftiness had come home to roost so I let go of the handle and knocked again and again quietly shouted his name. I again counted to twenty with no plan for what I was going to do when I got there.

I didn’t get there as when I got to twelve the door opened. Enrique was there. He wasn’t wearing his hat. Normally when Enrique isn’t wearing his hat his hair is impeccably swept back but now it was a right old mess. He’d been wearing his mask.

“What are you doing?” I asked, giving him an opportunity to confess and repent.

“Nothink,” he replied. He was holding the door open about a quarter. Not enough for me to see everything. I could the garage was lit only by candles.

“Can I come in?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, his mouth moving about under his nose. I wasn’t expecting him to say no.

“No?”

“No.”

“It’s my garage!” I told him.

“S’my house. Chu cannot come in when chu wan’.”

“You’re a lawyer now are you?”

“I see chu tomorrow,” said Enrique, going to close the door. I was incredulous. I stood watching as he closed the door, his head bowed. Just before it closed completely I pushed it hard.

“Hold on a minute,” I said forcing the door open and barging in. I looked around for the woman but I couldn’t see her and Enrique’s garage house doesn’t have anywhere you could conceal a woman. It was pretty dark. The candles were arranged on a table as if on an alter. I saw the one place where the woman could be concealed. His large luggage chest with Colombian stickers on it and then I understood and felt like an idiot. I breathed a massive sigh of relief. “Is she in there?” I asked him while walking over to it. Enrique nodded again looking to the floor. I knocked on the chest and shouted,”hello!”

“Help!” cried a voice from inside. I laughed.

“Fucks sake, Enrique!” I exclaimed. “How long have you been doing this?”

“Bout ten… fourteen years.”

“Ten or fourteen years!” I marvelled. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Enrique shook his head a muttered something that could have been the word ‘shame.’ I took it as him saying the word shame.

“Nothing to be ashamed of!” I told him chuckling. “I think it’s brilliant. You’ve been a magician all this time and not said anything.” I heard the woman shout help again. I knocked on the chest and said,”don’t worry, he’ll have you out in a minute!”

I looked at Enrique, he was eyeing me suspiciously. “I mean it, Enrique, I fucking love this shit. You got any balloons?”

“Balloons?” He asked. “No.”

“Shame, I can do balloon animals. That’s not really magic though… go on, do a trick!” I urged.

“No.” He said.

“Okay,” I told him. “But when you’re happy with it you have to put on show for us. For the shop. Have you got a stage name?”

“Yeah,” said Enrique following me to the door but not saying what his stage name was.

“I’m not even going to tell you what I thought you were doing,” I told him and took one last look around, shook my head and returned to my kitchen. I nearly choked on a sausage while chuckling when I heard a shriek from the garage. And then it was silent.

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