I walked across the car park fine. Absolutely fine. I’d walked to the car park fine. No problems whatsoever. I cut across the disabled bay. With Enrique’s car gone that shaved about two metres off my morning commute and so far that now vacant primo spot hadn’t spawned the feared massive influx of disabled people.
I got inside the doors of the shop, still walking casual and loose. It was only when I got fully inside the shop that my feet went in different directions. I hid it as best I could and anybody not seeing the confidence with which I’d walked to work probably wouldn’t have noticed my tiny Irish jig. I noticed it though.
Entering the shop my right leg had made for the counter. My head had seen the back of somebody behind the counter. Somebody who wasn’t Enrique or Paula. And so my left leg had swung off, heading to the office. I felt the person behind my counter turn their head. So I turned mine, down towards the back of the shop and let my left leg, with the help of my right one, take me to the door of Enrique’s office which, after a bit of fumbling, I managed to open.
Inside Enrique’s office I shook my hand for a while. Twisting my wrist rapidly as if I was trying to dry it. It wasn’t wet and my movements weren’t involuntary. I was doing it on purpose. I do it with my toes when I first wake up. Just move them a lot. I don’t know why. It’s liking ridding my body of excess energy or something. I did it with my wrist for a while, inside Enrique’s office, before looking at my moving hand, stopping it with my other hand and taking my coat off. I hung it up. Then I stood there for as long as I could. I didn’t want to stand there for a mental amount of time but I wanted to stand there for as near as damn it.
A few seconds before what could be deemed a mental amount of time I took one big slow blink and stepped back out into the shop, hoping to convey the casual laissez-faire demeanour which had been on display to any passing motorist who had driven past me on my way to work.
I should have done some thinking when I was in the office because in the shop it felt like the fluorescents were all trained on me and I had nothing. So I stood there and sucked on my upper front teeth. The guy behind my counter turned to me and smiled. I nodded. Then he turned back and continued to restock the cigarette display like an idiot. At the rate he was doing it he’d be finished in about three minutes. What a chump. Then what was he going to do? He was cradling a 200 carton of Lambert and Butler Menthol to his chest and was carefully placing a packet from it in the correct spring loaded slot.
I just jam them in.
That’s what I do. Just fucking jam them in there. When I’m doing it. And I do it. It’s my job. I clicked my fingers and said, ‘oh,’ which suggested I had forgotten something and then I turned and went back into Enrique’s office. This time I didn’t ignore him.
“The fuck is that?” I asked.
“Daz Steve,” replied Enrique.
“He’s the new Paula?”
My hand started going again. It’s like when you’re sitting there and you bounce your leg up and down. “And?” I asked.
I wasn’t going to get any more sense out of Enrique. And so I stopped my hand and once more stepped out into the shop. Steve was onto the Marlboro Reds. He looked over and again I nodded. I smiled and headed to Paula. She nodded. I flicked my eyes to the side. We were so comfortable with each other we didn’t even need words.
“That’s Steve,” she told me.
“I know that,” I whispered. “I don’t like him,” I told her.
“Aw, he’s lovely,” She said convincingly.
“Nah, he’s a dick,” I told her.
Oh my fuck, she was shouting at Steve.
“Nooooo,” I groaned at her with narrowed eyes.
“Come here!” She shouted.
“Nooooo,” I groaned. It was the same groan, the first one hadn’t ended, but if I’d kept typing it I’d have nowhere to put what Paula said.
“He’s lovely,” she said again and I closed my eyes and listened to Steve’s approach. When he was quite close I opened them and slowly turned. “Have you met Jamie?” Asked Paula.
“Sort of, the other day at the interview?” Steve was the guy with the goatie beard.
I pretended to think and then shook my head with a, “maybe.” Steve nodded at this and we stood there for a while. Paula broke the silence.
“Jamie’s got autism,” said Paula. “Really bad,” she added.
I laughed at this, smiled anyway, “I haven’t,” I told Steve and he smiled. “Paula’s fat,” I told him. He didn’t laugh so I tried to funny it up a bit. “She’s got fat in her brain,” I told him. Still no laughter. “And she’s had… countless abortions.” Steve, somewhat amazingly, wasn’t doubled over laughing. He was just standing there. “I haven’t got autism,” I told him and he nodded. “So… Steve?” He held his hand out and when I registered the act I shook it. He had a tattoo on his wrist. He was hard as fuck. Probably been to prison.”You’re doing the cigarettes.”
“Nearly finished,” he replied, brightly enough. Steve was approximately 25 and could beat me to a pulp very very easily.
“That’s good,” I lied. It wasn’t good. It was bad. I could have made that last all day. It would have been an excellent excuse to ignore Steve. You, Steve, you! I could have taken all day filling that display up. All day. And you could fuck off. But you ruined it, Steve. You fucking ruined it.
I looked around the shop. “You’ll be mainly working down here… if things go well this week,” I told him. I then tapped the top of the hot food counter.
“Yeah, you will be,” I said reassuringly, “if things go well. I wouldn’t worry, if Paula can do it…” That didn’t even need finishing, a chuckle said a thousand words. He could finish it, I’d leave that to his imagination. “An idiot could do it!” I said anyway.
“Enrique just wants me to do a bit of everything this week,” Said Steve talking of Enrique like he had the right to even mention his name! He had his feet under the table already.
“Total shopkeeping,” I said and laughed at my own cleverness. I said ‘shopkeeping all weird. “Well, finish those cigarettes, eh? Then we’ll see how good you are at making coffee!” I leant towards him a bit when I said coffee – into range of a roundhouse hay-maker, I realised when I saw he also had a tattoo on his neck. “Actually I’ll make them, do you want one?” I asked.
“Erm, yeah?” He said.
“Got a cup have you? Brought one?”
“Ah, no,” replied Steve.
“Oh dear. Well, how do you expect a coffee?” I asked him.
“Shall I bring it…” I made my hands into a cuppy shape. He looked at my hands. “Ow, it’s hot!” I told him.
“I…” Steve was looking past me to Paula. I turned to Paula.
“No cup,” I told her gravely. She was staring at me while holding out a paper cup from the big paper cup dispenser. I took it from her while nodding then turned back to Steve. “Well, bring one in tomorrow, yeah?” I told him. I’d probably made a coffee two or three times in the whole time I’ve worked here. We take it in turns. I’ll have one if Paula’s making one but when it’s my turn I never really want a coffee badly enough to make one. So I don’t bother. I made one today, though. To get away from Steve for a bit. I even made Paula one too. I drank mine down near Paula, lifting my cup to Steve when he looked my way. “Tomorrow, don’t forget!” I said. He nodded.
I spent the rest of the day tutting and sighing at every single thing Steve did. He got a lot of things wrong and at one stage he told me to stop laughing at him. “I’m not laughing at you,” I told him as I leant past him and pressed the correct button on the till. “I’m laughing with you.”
“I’m not laughing,” he told me and I didn’t like what I saw in his eyes, it was the reflection of my frightened face.
“I know, it’s just a figure of speech, relax, it’s your first day,” I said. Then I was nice to him for a bit. Because tattoos. He won’t last though. And nobody’s leaving anyway. So he’s fucked.