Cracked wooden spoon splintering through the bolognaise, forget to use a wet sponge to hold the pot- there’s now an angry pink flesh burn ready to accept the customer’s small change.
Stack it up the stairs with full arms of chink clink smash crash, smear the roach-bodied floor with a herb-seasoned red. Instead of getting up, I lay there, on the stairs, made eye contact with the critters under the oven, felt the cool kitchen floor on my cheek, felt the cool pool of grey dishwater soak into my clothes.
“Hello, my name is Annette. You right there?”
Peel myself off the floor.
“I’m from the Council as your local area Food Inspector. Is the boss around?”
I’ll most certainly be on the look-out for a new job.
The year, I saw red I took up Muay Thai boxing from a family friend who was a Buddhist Monk-turned Thai masseur by day, Thai Chef at The Star by night.
“Yhu hap tu be strung, in here” he tapped his temple. “Ip yhu wan really hurt, yhu muss use deir own porce agains dem. Push op deir knee, fly tru de air, elbow up, elbow up! Crack deir head lik a watermeron. Walk away. Try. Yhu try.”
Friday nights, he taught me Muay Thai boxing for free and I became the body bag for all the stumpy Irish guys training for their MMA championships on weekends. Thump. Readjust the kick bag, it’s fallen with the sticky sweat. Whump. Shooting pain though the hip. Thump. Stand your ground, tense the muscles. Whump. Don’t blink or You Dead. Thump. Ice pack later, get back up now. Whump. Inked shamrock and a tribute to Belinda flashes left in a haymaker. Eyes water, hot streaks tear down my cheeks. Christ. Taste salt and Spit red. Drink break.
I only stopped when I felt my pelvis give out. My chiropractor told me that if I didn’t stop, I’d be needing steel robs in my back.
An ultimatum like that helps demist the windscreen.
A grand tour of the knobbly terrace. Paper cup ashtrays with coffee stains still glistening, beside pyramids of dirty dishes. Scattered tissues, hardened where they landed. Nail clippings scurry under couches.
“Don’t mind Pip, she won’t bite. She only eats pillow stuffing. Do mind the rabbit, though. Captain Carrot will poop when he’s nervous.”
Indeterminate growths on the floorboards in a place where cans of baked beans are currency.
I was squeezing the marinara once, when I met the new driver. Gotta squeeze the mussels, or the pizza’ll be too gluggy. Sharp, pungent ocean entrails, gag reflex, dead bodies squirt between your fingers, often think they’re still wriggling. Turn down Alex’ introductory handshake. He reeked of kerosene and stared at my tentacle fingers with orange cat-eye lenses.
Alex used to come take the butcher’s knife from me- he’d come straight off the vespa and onto my chopping board. He’d mound up the bacon and schick schick schick, no worries. He loves cutting meat, he told me, just the feel of the flesh under his nails, the limp bounce of a metallic body.
As you wait in line, the person using the machine pulls a long, wet sniff and pinches the very tip of their pimply nose a few times, rolls something between their forefinger and thumb while they decide whether they want cheque, savings or credit. They choose savings and as they mark their preference, they leave a glossy sheen over the touchpad. They sway from side to side as the notes are counted, and once the bills are actually dispensed, they lick their thumb a few times and swipe through the wad- better safe than sorry.
bodice busters pile to the ceiling, reference number F BOLI 791.32, dog-earred corners, broken spines, blistering contact, browning edges smell of something coughed up and hardened, smears of coffee splutters, tea cup circles, hair-dryer’d pages.
Muffled cries from the boot. Whimpers, grunts, she was obviously awake. Was she struggling? Probably. Shouldn’t have taken that speed bump so viciously. Earlier, there had been a snip snip click thwokk and there had been no fuss, no mess, no fuss.
Long stretch, “California Dreamin'” playing on loop. One hand on the wheel, window down. Not ideal, the red dust gets in, see. But my flannie was a muddy tinge from before anyway. Air-con broke about 147kms ago. Woulda been stuffy back there.
Passed through a small town, incestuous things those. Couldn’t make a new start there, no, no. Couldn’t go back either, they’d have realised she was missing. Should really stop to fill up.
Petrol fumes reminded me of another time. Not this time, she was quiet enough.
Killed the motor, walked around the bowser, just about to refuel when-
Back headlight gone. Smashed out from the inside. Walked around to inspect when-
Blonde hair wriggled into the backseat.
Keep calm, don’t make a scene.
Another car pulled up, raised eyebrows.
“‘Mornin'”. Flashed a smile.
Refuel in the next town, decision made for me.
To be honest, that was the closest I got to CCTV, and I didn’t even get convicted.