Mind Games

“Good evening,” he said.

“Alright mate?” I replied and watched him walk confidently to the alcoholic beverages. I watched as he perused the wine. A bottle caught his eye and he picked it up and studied the label. After a moment he nodded and replaced the bottle. Whatever had been written on the label of the bottle he liked, but not enough to purchase it.

He looked around, went to pick up another bottle of wine and then – and I could see this from just looking at his back – all cool left him. Instead of picking up another bottle of wine he jerkily picked up two 2 litre bottles of cider from the floor.

The bottles were nearly as big as he was and he had to hold them with one under each arm. If I’d shaken him and then chopped the lids off with a samurai sword he’d gone at 1000mph through the wall of Enrique’s office. He brought his improvised jet pack over. As he did I saw he was trying to set his face to give off the correct vibe. The, ‘man just buying cider’ vibe. As he did I tried to set my face to display the correct vibe. The, ‘shit, kid, give me some credit’ vibe.

Kids buying alcohol from me is one of the parts of my working life where I feel I’ve the upper-hand over the people I interact with. The other is teaching Enrique to drive but he reckons he’s too busy for lessons at the moment.

I watched as he struggled over with the cider. I didn’t say anything, I just watched, to increase his stress levels. Often at this stage the child will just put the alcohol on the counter and walk straight out and lie to their waiting, disappointed and thirsty mates.

This guy didn’t give up. He’d gone to some effort. He was wearing a shirt and had combed back his hair. He was also wearing spectacles. He’d clearly downloaded a check-list of what adults look like. They wear shirts, sometimes they comb back their hair and and often the wear spectacles.

“That everything?” I asked as he unloaded the pressurised plastic bottles onto the counter. I like saying that because they relax. He’d been waiting for me to laugh in his face or call the police.

“Yes, that is all I require this evening,” he replied. He was certainly talking like an adult. He didn’t look at me and instead produced a wallet. I whistled.

“Cool wallet,” I said. He still didn’t look up. He was looking at the wallet and nodding. He opened the wallet and I saw there were no cards in the card holder parts. He produced a ten pound note. He paused very briefly after removing the money and then he did look at me and smiled. I smiled back. He held the money out and I continued to smile. I smiled into his face for ages. He adjusted his spectacles and then looked out into the dark car park and then back to me.

“So, two bottle of cider,” I said scanning the cider. He lowered the money. He felt bad offering the money too soon, before I’d even scanned the items. LITERALLY A SCHOOLBOY ERROR! Ha, that’s great.

After I’d scanned the bottles I told him the total. “Five pounds sixty pence please,” I told him and again he thrust the note at me. I didn’t look at the money, I’d already seen it. I was squinting at the kid and I was no longer smiling.

He held the money out, I slowly put my hand out and then just before taking the money with my hand I made the fingers of that hand click by rubbing the longest finger rapidly against my thumb. “Gonna need to see some I.D.”

He looked up at me and smiled weakly, “oh really?”

“Yes really,” I said still clicking my fingers. “C’mon, c’mon.”

“I don’t think I’ve…” he said before adding, “oh yes, of course, I’ve got my driving license.” From his back pocket he produced a very tattered driving license I grabbed it and looked at it.

“This is very tattered,” I told him. It was his picture on it but it had clearly been de-laminated then badly re-laminated. “You been fucking with this license? It’s a mess,”

“Yes, I really should get a new one but I’ve been busy in the office where I work,” he chortled. I stared at him for twenty seconds.

“I’m-“

“Well this all checks out,” I told him, returning him his license. “Five pounds sixty please.” He held out the ten pound note and I grabbed it by the corner and pulled it free. “Here’s what’s going to happen,” I told him. “I’m going to take this money and I’m not going to give you any change, capisce?” He was now squinting at me. “Capisce?” He didn’t fully capisce. “I’m going to close my eyes and when I open them I want you and the cider gone.” He nodded, finally capisceing. I closed my eyes and heard him pick up the cider. I heard him move towards the exit. I heard him put down the bottles and steal some chocolate. Four, maybe five bars of Turkish Delight. I squinted and tilted my head but didn’t open my eyes until I heard he was at the door.

“Oi, and don’t tell the police, I know where you live, you little prick!”

“How?”

“Dur, it was on your driving license, dumbass!”

“That’s… fake.”

“Oh yeah,” I replied. I thought about pretending to chase him, to speed him out of the shop but I wasn’t going to do that. My leg’s still fucked from the marathon. The kid left.

I looked at the ten pound note that lay flat on the counter. It was clearly fake. I turned it over and saw it was blank on the back. I rubbed my forehead very hard.

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