So, there we were. It was another buzzing morning in my little shop and almost all thirty one seats were filled. Marilyn’s mum was sat brooding over her fourth mug of tea of the day, probably unable to understand why she hadn’t managed to seduce me away from the loving, pendulous bosom of my family into the arms of her daughter who works in an office down the street from Chez Graham. Marilyn’s sweet, we have great chats, but apart from the fact that I’m happily married and there are already two or three others who would snatch me away from my little Juanita given half a chance who have already staked their places on the list of women who will one day elope with me if ever I weaken, poor Marilyn has the most horrendous squint.
I don’t like to sound like I’m being squintist here or anything, but I simply can’t imagine shagging a woman who, when it comes to that warm special moment when the vinegar stroke has come and gone and I’ve just enjoyed the enormously enervating task of hosing down her innards with piping hot man milk, we look into each other’s eyes in that magical moment before I roll over and start snoring like a fucking steamroller with kerosene in the fuel tank, to whisper our respective apologies and set about loosening each other’s restraints and I realise that one of her eyes is peering into mine while the other is simultaneously checking out the dust on the overhang on top of the wardrobe. It would spoil the moment for me. So that’s why I’ll probably die without ever becoming Marilyn’s mum’s son-in-law.
Daydreaming thus, I was gradually dragged back to the here and now, or as it now is the there and then, because I’m sitting at home in my office slash library slash music room slash place where Juanita dumps stuff she can’t find another home for in a fucking house the size of a small branch of fucking Wickes that now has two spare bedrooms even though there are three of us living here in addition to frequently visiting offspring and grandchildren. At the moment I’m listening to This Is What Makes Us Girls by Lana Del Rey damn, but she cheers me up. I was dragged back to reality by accidentally eavesdropping on a convo taking place at the retired seafarers’ table. There are four or five of them, elderly men with an inexhaustible store of tall tales, most of which are likely true, about seaways travelled, countries visited, shipmates maimed, women loved and lost; stuff like that. It’s great to listen to them. It’s great to remember that I never went to sea. Because then I’d have been imprisoned on board ship with people like these. Hence I’d rather drip concentrated battery acid into an open wound in my own gums than go on a cruise.
I digress. Now I’ve finished listening to Born To Die and Lindi Ortega’s new one, Tin Star has started. Damn but I love that girl. Anyway, one of the retired seafarers is Curious Bob, one of the late Les the Part Time Villain’s many surviving brothers. Curious Bob, in addition to sailing the seven seas, has worked as an elephant handler in the circus as well as having enjoyed a long and mostly anonymous career in the movies. Behind the camera, needless to say. He has also been a concrete shutterer, a fisherman, a snake skinner and a stalker of young mothers. Fruit picker, donkey driver across the cordilleras and a boilerman’s second helper. Fuck me, but he’s done pretty much everything, has Curious Bob.
Anyway, he was telling Clouseau, Ernie the Stick, Johnny Opera and Albert the Git all about the time he’d worked on a film, probably in the 50’s or 60’s, which featured Rod Steiger driving a truck containing a dangerous cargo across a bandit infested mountain range. Lived and Died Alone is where we are now, it’s probably my favourite track on this record. Or CD I should say. Let’s get modern. Anyway, Curious Bob got on quite well with Rod Steiger. But not as well as he apparently did with Ray Milland, they were best buddies. Bob often tells stories involving his famous movie star friend Ray.
“Anyway, Rod Steiger, he was driving this truck. It was my job to put the dust and stuff on it, make it look like it had been driven through the mountains for I don’t know, days. I had to clean it first mind you. Black and white film. It’s different colours.” It can be quite an achievement to be proud of, following Bob’s train of thought. “Yeah, that Rod Steiger. He suffered from manic depression, you know.” I had to ask.
“Was that before or after he met you then Bob?” He thought about it for a minute or two.
“Dunno. I didn’t know him before he met me did I? So how would I know? Anyway, I don’t expect he’d remember me.” Much like Ray Milland probably.
Then Fretful Mathew phoned the shop to ask if we were busy or if he should wait until later before calling a taxi to come into town because he really doesn’t enjoy it when the shop’s crowded and he can hear lots of voices in the background, and he may have to call the fire brigade before he comes out anyway because he’s sure he heard a branch fall from one of the trees on his neighbour’s land and he hasn’t heard any sirens yet so it probably hasn’t caused a tragic accident yet and he’s sure it probably fell onto the road. I said okay Mathew we will stay open for a little while yet but I’m not about to start asking customers to leave just because you like an empty shop to worry yourself to death in and I wouldn’t call the fire service about a possible broken branch because it’s simply not the done thing and they’ll probably start invoicing you at the very least, if not seek a legal injunction against you if you don’t stop dialling 999 every time you hear a fucking tree rustle in the breeze and I’ll see you later Mathew.
I love my customers. Every damned one of the fuckers.