I give up smoking to do the running race – because I only enjoy running and smoking – and in the race I hurt my leg so now I can’t run. Clearly I should start smoking again. That’s the obvious solution but it’s been nearly three weeks. Jesus fucking Christ. I just…

I’m telling you, the rewards for this life had better be great.

“What?” I snapped. God damn idiot talking to me while I’m thinking about how depressed I am. If Enrique says the wrong thing I’m going for a cigarette, I swear. I’m going to turn around, grab a packet of Marlboro Lights and a lighter and I’m going to go around the back and smoke the shit out of it. Give me reason to do it, Enrique, I thought to myself. Do it!

“Huh?” He asked. He was standing next to a light switch some man had just installed. “Huh?” He asked again, this time flicking the switch.

“Sweet,” I said.

“You like?” He asked.

“Yeah, love it. Wooo!” I was being very sarcastic. I shouldn’t start smoking. But my leg could be better by the weekend.

“H’open!” Said Enrique. He flicked the switch. “Close!” Said Enrique. He flicked the switch. “H’open!”

“Dude!” I urged.

“What?” Asked Enrique.

“You’re going to give me a seizure. And it’s wrong.”

“Is wrong?”

“Yeah, it’s wrong.” I said that through gritted teeth.

Enrique squinted at me and then walked at me, stopping well within my personal space. Well, he may have been just outside it but I knew how Thatcher felt when she heard that the General Belgrano was dicking about. He then leant even closer. “Why is wrong?” He asked. He was particularly foreign today.

“You’ve got ‘open’ lit up in red and ‘closed’ in green. That’s wrong.” I’m not going to smoke, that’s what he wants.

Enrique wheeled around on his heels and faced the back of the sign. He stared at the back of the sign. A black oblong. It was now saying ‘open’. Some dots of red light were visible through small holes in the back of the unit but if that wasn’t confirmation enough that it was displaying, OPEN, you could see the words reflected on the window because the new light wasn’t flush against the window. It was set back. Set back. A set back, like the one I’d suffered in the race. I’ve pulled my calf, that’s a set back but if it’s not better by next Tuesday I’m smoking. Fair warning, leg.

“R’red, s’good. H’open!”

“Red means closed,” I said slowly as if to an idiot from Colombia. “Red! Danger, go away, fuck off, we’re closed!” Surely this shit is international? “Green? Happy! Come in!” I explained. Enrique studied my face with his head tilted. He looked up at the light and then he started wagging his finger at me before turning his head back to me. So he started wagging his finger without looking at me. I didn’t like that.

“Gah!” He said. Not even a fucking word. Dick.

“I’m telling you.”

“Red? I know! I know dis! Is stop!” He said really popping the p.

“Yeah, stop coming in,” I said but with little conviction. Well, I’d started off that sentence with a lot of conviction – maximum conviction – but as it went on the conviction faded like my hopes of running a good marathon. On average, over its whole duration, there was little conviction in my statement. It didn’t sound quite right and yet I was certain I was correct. You wouldn’t have open in red but Enrique was somehow explaining it quite well.

“And green is go! Go away!” Enrique flapped both his hands forwards. “S’right? Yes?”

“It’s not but… whatever.” I turned the page from the crossword that was too difficult and unwittingly set my pen rolling across the counter. I decided if it was to roll completely off I was going to grab a packet of Camel Lights and go around the back and smoke the shit out of them.

“Hey!” Shouted Enrique. I looked at him. He was pointing at the top of the counter and looked worried. I looked at the counter.


“Pen was rolling!”

I looked at the pen which had stopped rolling about a second earlier. “Yeah, about twenty minutes ago,” I said.