Sawn Off Tales
All mod cons
Jake invented a prescription glass windscreen for his car so that he could drive without wearing his corrective lenses. He enjoyed the feeling of freedom – no plastic pads digging into his nose – and it had the added advantage that car thieves couldn’t drive the vehicle unless they happened to have the same degree of myopia.
Jennifer needed a lift. However, she soon began to complain. She couldn’t see, everything was blurred, and to stop herself being sick she had to stick her head out the window like a dog.
‘You idiot,’ she said to him when he dropped her off.
He wouldn’t ring her again. A permanent relationship would mean grinding the windscreen to suit two different people and he could imagine the arguments – it would be the self-cleaning bed-sheets saga all over again. He went to bed, turned up the shipping forecast and drifted to sleep.
Last to know
He showed me the back of my head in a mirror and I nodded.
‘£6.50 then,’ he said, and pressed the foot pedal. The hydraulics sighed as I sank to the floor.
‘I normally pay five.’
He indicated the price list. ‘It’s been £6.50 for a while’
‘Yes, but. . ..’
What had happened? I was regular. Only new customers paid full. It was never spoken of, but that was the system. The barber could tell that someone else had cut it; the blending between the longer and shorter sections was poorly executed.
‘Look me in the eye,’ he said, ‘and tell me you haven’t been to anyone else.’
‘I haven’t been to another barbers in years.’
The barber sucked in his lower lip. ‘So we’re talking home clippers.’
‘Yes,’ I said, and felt my cheeks redden in shame.
‘Ok. Call it £5.50. I know you won’t do it again.’
Mum and Trevor were getting serious, what with her new glittery top and the way she stroked the sleeve of his knobbly jumper like it was a hamster. But you can put up with that. When he bought me new trainers my heart sank. The box declared in scrolly italics, Clarks, and when I lifted the lid, pink lights winked through tissue and my worst fears were confirmed.
Cica Lights. A Nike copy with pathetic flashing bulbs in the heels.
I was dead if I wore them. Like the boy who wore a Blue Peter T shirt on non-uniform day and had since developed a stutter and started hanging with the science-fiction lot.
So I told Trevor about the nights my Dad stayed over and Trevor stormed out taking the shoes with him.
My mum was insupportable. But relationships come and go. Your choice of trainer leaves an indelible mark.
The world won’t listen
Lucy screeched to a halt, jumped out and stomped down the street. I sat for a time watching her diminishing figure in the mirror then decided to catch her up. As I walked I noticed a sign in a shoe shop window; THIS IS NOT THE RAILWAY STATION and began to think about handmade signs. A lot of annoying things have to happen a lot of times to persuade you to make a sign. Company-made signs are obviously not good enough to communicate what the public need to know. They always have to get out their marker pens. Here was another, on a cake shop door; WE DO NOT SELL PIES.
I caught her up at McDonalds (NO ROLLERBLADES) and followed her into the toilets where she sat down and cried in a cubicle. Blu-tacked above a murky mirror a sign said THE TOILET BRUSH IS FOR STAFF USE ONLY.
New best friend
After the consultant left Tim called us into his office and handed round a packet of Marlboros. ‘Take one, light it, and inhale,’ he said. I immediately had a coughing fit, and Julie was sick in the bin. ‘I haven’t had a fag,’ she protested, ‘since I was fourteen.’ Tim ignored her and prodded on the powerpoint. Lines of text slid on and off. ‘Smokers,’ he said, ‘change things. Smokers are clued up on office affairs, know what staff think of the company, are less risk averse and more alive to the moment. They’re sensualists, pleasure-seekers and,’ he snapped off the machine, ‘never defer gratification. Smokers take action so from now on the members of this management team are smokers. Tomorrow we’ll look at lighting and holding, disposal of stubs, and when to offer and when to accept. And I have a few things to say about lunchtime drinking.’
When Debbie left I ate nothing but potato smiles with no-frills ketchup. One day I looked at the fluffy orange discs grinning up at me and decided to save one. I stuck it to the wall next to my bed and it cheered me up. The next day I saved another, but I’d had one of my funny days, so I stuck this one upside down, to make a frown. I did this for years and the pattern reminded me how well I was doing.
The man from environmental health had a big oblong body built for blocking doorways. ‘The neighbours are talking about a smell,’ he said.
I locked the door and made him sit whilst I removed the smiles and heaped them on a plate in front of him. The sauce bottle was rimmed with decaying ketchup scabs. I squeezed, squeezed hard till his plate was full.