I’ve been nice to Paula today because I’m a nice guy. But I’m just nice, you know? Don’t need shitty gestures or anything. So I was being nice to her, talking nice to her and Enrique comes over all awkward and shuffling because of his lack of interpersonal skills.
“Here!” He near shouted and thrust a small white teddy bear into Paula’s personal space.
“Aw, thanks,” said Paula taking the bear. I recognised it straight away. It was from the pile of small white teddy bears that we’d got in for Mother’s Day. The bear, which was only about three inches tall, was holding a red heart shaped card. On the front of that card was the word ‘Mummy.’ “It’s lovely,” said Paula. Enrique gazed upon her and smiled like a foreign Jesus.
It was not lovely at all. “Enrique, what does that say on the card?”
“Mummy?” Replied Enrique.
“Well?” I asked. Enrique is so stupid and tactless it is literally amazing. “Mummy? You’ve given Paula a small bear holding a card that says ‘Mummy’? Did you really just do that?”
“I just did dat,” replied Enrique.
“After what she did? You think that’s right?”
“You think she wants to be reminded of it?”
“No!” Said Paula, she sounded like she was getting upset again.
“It’s okay, Paula, I’ll handle this,” I told her.
“It’s just thoughtless, Enrique, you gotta think more before you act.” I tapped my head when I said the word ‘think’. Paula was moaning. “Paula, look at me, you’ve done nothing wrong,” I told her, and I firmly believe that. I wasn’t just saying it. How can it be wrong to destroy something you’ve created? Nobody gave her that baby, she made it. How can it be wrong for her to kill it? If I built some shelves and then smashed them up I wouldn’t expect the police around to arrest me. “Paula, I firmly believe you should be able to kill your own kids,” I stressed but she was full on crying now, because of Enrique. “Nice one, dickhead,” I told him before turning back to Paula.”Up until they’re five years old.”I looked at Enrique, he was gazing out of the window. “Or six. Yours might have died on its own anyway.”
“What is that?” Enrique was squinting. I looked out of the window just in time to see the police tractor fly past at 18mph. One could have been ignored but then another one went past and another. Three went past in total, all bright red with blue flashing lights on that bit in front of the massive steering wheel. What added more gravitas was the policemen sat atop them with determined expressions fixed upon their fearless and formidable faces.
“Something big is…” Should I say ‘going down’ or ‘up’ I asked myself. “Something big is up,” I said but it didn’t sound right. “Something big is going down.” As I was in protective mode towards her I said, “Paula, stay here!” And rushed out into the car park. Fucking hell it was hot and my buttocks started sweating instantly. I fucking love the hot weather. The police tractors pulled into the road next door. I watched them. They stopped and their drivers jumped down. I thought about going over. Enrique had followed me out.
“Wha’ chu think?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” I told him. I hadn’t seen a police mobilisation like this in my life. It was the sort of thing you expect to see on TV in America. Old men were hurrying up the main road on foot, following the path of the tractors. I went over to the wall. “What’s going on?” I shouted. The first few ignored me or were so out of breath they could only wheeze and so I hopped over the wall and repeated my question. “What’s going on?” I asked a hurrying old man.
“Colorado Beetles!” He shouted in a shrill breathless voice.
Colorado Beetles? I’d heard of them. Them and Dung Beetles. I’d heard of Dung Beetles because they rolled up balls of poop. Stag beetle. That’s another beetle I’d heard of. But Colorado Beetles? Why…
Oh yeah, I’d heard of Colorado Beetles because in about 1987 or 88 they got to Jersey and ate all the potatoes, crippling Jersey’s then 97% potato-based economy. It was THE big news in Jersey from the 1980s. Nobody who grew up in Jersey can hear about Colorado Beetles without thinking of those terrible few years when we couldn’t eat local potatoes. Some people turned to pasta but over a thousand people starved to death, mainly people from the older generation too set in their ways to adapt.
“That’s a coincidence,” I said turning to Enrique.
“What is cow… cowsin…?”
“They’ve found Colorado Beetles just over there. In that field. And this morning. The beetles in your office…” Enrique was staring at the police presence. “You emptied the hoover bag over there, yeah?”
We both stared at the large crowd.
“Colorado? Where is?” Asked Enrique.
“Just over there, I said pointing to a field. That’s Colorado.” A policeman had produced a loud-hailer and was trying to calm the old men who were stamping about. Enrique dropped his head and went back inside. “Fucking idiot,” I said out loud as I watched Enrique then after a few seconds, and one last look, I followed him. I went back to Paula.
“So, where did you get it done?” I gestured with my forehead towards her womb.
“Gertrude did it,” Paula replied.
“For real?” I should have guessed. “Where?”
“And? what was it like?” I asked and then, because I’m thoughtful, “do you mind talking about it?”
“It was painf-“
“I mean her house. What was it like inside.”
I heard a coughing from behind me and turned and was loomed over by a large red-faced policemen. He was holding twelve bottles of Oasis in his strong arms. “Quick!” He said and I ran to my till and scanned them in. I scanned them all because I was panicking. I could have counted them and scanned one that many times. 12 times, as it turned out. I said he was holding 12 bottles but I didn’t know that then. Everything is easy with hindsight.
“Colorado Beetles?” I said as he put the bottles in a bag. “Bad shit.”
“Well,” he sighed, “hopefully it’s localised and we contain them but they’re really belligerent little buggers. Guy from the zoo has seen nothing like it.”
“Perhaps they’re high on heroin!” I said and laughed because I was hiding in plain sight. The policeman didn’t laugh and I panicked further. “She had an abortion,” I said pointing down the aisle. The policeman didn’t look where I pointed, he just looked at me more. My buttocks were very sweaty indeed. “Actually these are on the house,” I said, handing him back his ten pound note. The policeman took it and rushed out.