No Saviour In Sight by Zack Wilson
Another early run out to Earl Shilton, dropping off pallets at two or three different places there, and I’m bloody starving. Looks like I’m stuck with Morrison’s at fucking Coalville again as there’s sod all in the way of snap wagons or greasy spoons round here.
It’s still early though, only 7.45am, so Morrison’s isn’t open when I get there. I park up in the almost empty car park and go over to the doors to wait for it to open. There’s a little knot of old people already there, all preserved plastic carrier bags, flat hats and strange clothes in dusty shades of brown and grey. They seem to be forming a loose kind of queue because as I walk over a couple of new arrivals, after greeting the others with friendly waves and antiquated exclamations, take up careful positions to those already in place. Then they all turn so that they’re facing the same way. The line they form runs from the cash points and trolley park up to the first white pillar that forms one side of the doorway. I decide I want nothing to do with this lot and after walking past and enduring the hostile and enquiring glances of every single wrinkled face I take up a position on the other side of the doorway.
I fold my arms, smile at the lead pensioner, and then turn away to watch the grey white light of the morning grow over the car park. It’s turning into a nice fresh day with a hint of clean moisture in the cool air.
The discontented mutters are what I hear first. A couple of pointed questions exchanged, judgmental pettinesses pattered out from thin, dry lips. “What’s his game then?”, “Who does he think he is?”, “He can’t be from round here, can he?”, “Do you think he’s one of them Poles? He looks scruffy enough.”
I put my head up to have a look round, scanning the empty car park to try and work out who they’re talking about. From the way the thin sunlight glints evilly off the lenses and frames of all their little square glasses in my direction and some of their hand movements I eventually work out that it’s me. I can’t work out what their problem is though until they start to get louder and a bit braver, encouraging each other as their mutual outrage and sense of injustice grows.
“He shouldn’t be stood there,” one old chap remarks, a pointed loudness in his tone. He’s at the front of the line, facing across the doorway at me. He’s a little bent backed chap who’s trying to straighten himself up aggressively. He clearly fancies himself as a combination of village elder and Ray Liotta in Goodfellas. He’s talking loud enough so that I can hear him as well as can the other oldsters at the end of the line.
I sneak a fearful glance over at them and they immediately turn their hostility inwards, eyes flicking away from me and back towards each other, their hateful mutters now back on the edge of my hearing.
I fold my arms and wish I had a watch to look at. Why won’t the fucking shop open? I actually feel more threatened than I did when the fair came at the Ashby Statutes last year and me and Casual Keith had a kicking off them Pikeys behind the hot dog stand.
I can sense their conspiracy, these oldsters with their stumpy grey bodies and faces the shade of faded curtains. They whisper and point and Ray Liotta keeps trying to give me his hard man stare and then looking down at the floor when I glance back. He’s talking earnestly now and pointing at each one of his comrades in turn, accompanying the jabbing fingers with a gaze into each face like a football manager counting the hearts as his team leaves the dressing room.
One of the females turns from the group suddenly and stumps off to fetch a trolley from the linked line of them between the bike rails and the cashpoints. One of her twisted sisters seems to be discouraging her but I can hear Coalville’s grey Rosa Parkes adamantly state, “No duck! I’ve ‘ad enough of it. ‘E’s not gettin’ away with it.” She struggles with the trolley, but eventually frees it from its fellows. There’s a harsh rattle as she pushes it across to the group.
I have to stop looking and wish I had a watch again. The rattling of the trolley picks up in intensity and I sense it just before I see it. Then I feel it.
“Ooooh,” I groan, indicating mild surprise and discomfort rather than pain. I look to my side and there she is, the grimy looking pensioner with the shopping trolley. She’s banged it into me and has now reversed it and is challenging me with a pugilistic stance, gripping the handle of the trolley with both hands, ready to ram this giant aluminium uppercut into me again.
“What was that for?” I ask, with the humiliated tone of a bullied adolescent.
“I think you know,” my attacker sneers, the maroon scarf at her throat trembling with irritation and contrasting nastily with the French mustard brown of her fluffy overcoat.
“No. I don’t!” I assert, voice raised in pitch by my stress dried vocal chords.
“I think you do,” the Goodfella at the head of the rest of this handy little mob pipes up from where he’s stood. The mob hums and mutters its sinister support, the morning sun blanking the lenses of their specs with a dehumanising sheen.
As I look over at him, the lady with the trolley pulls back and rams her weapon into my side again. I tense up my fifteen stones and she stops dead. She cries out, whines pathetically and then starts limply waving her wrist around.
“Oo! Ooh!” she whines, “Emmanuel! Emmanuel! Look! Look Emmanuel at what ‘e’s done!”
“I haven’t done owt!” I protest, thinking that Emmanuel’s a right daft name. I mean, who the fuck is called ‘Emmanuel’ these days, even in Coalville?
“Oh yes you’ave!” shrieks my attacker, whirling round with her wrist in the air and emitting a high-pitched ululation of fake pain. “You’ve ‘urt my bad wrist! The pain is awful! Ooo, Emmanuel!”
Emmanuel is being looked to by his little crew. They’re expecting leadership from their Top Boy.
He stumps over on his little legs, patting my assailant’s shoulder on his way past her, comforting her with the words, “Don’t you worry Edwina duck, I’ll sort this villain out.”
He comes right up to me and stands in silence, looking up into my face and shaking his head in disapproval.
“We don’t act like that round ‘ere, pal,” he informs me, “and we don’t like people who do.”
“I’m from round here,” I assert, my voice all strained and high again. I can’t help noticing the other oldsters, shuffling and grouping round Edwina, noses lifted as though ready to bark and pointing in my direction.
Emmanuel clenches his fist and slams it into my chest. I barely feel it, but step backwards anyway. I’m actually quite frightened. There’s summat really weird about this now. As I step back, the little mob shuffles forward again, closer, absorbing Edwina into their nasty little cloud of hostility.
“We don’t do things like that round ‘ere,” Emmanuel repeats, “you’re out of line, sunshine.”
“So’re you, you old cunt, you just hit me!” I protest, in the high pitched voice of a child.
“Emmanuel turns back to his mob, shaking his head with the slow disapproval of a copper.. “Did you hear that?” he asks, rhetorically, “Did you hear that?” Then he turns back to me and states, “the vile language. Just like the scum you are.”
I can’t quite believe this. I protest, blurting, “It’s a fucking supermarket, not a…not a…not a frigging post office! You don’t have to form a queue for a supermarket!”
“We live here!” Emmanuel roars and the mob concurs with a collective nod, “and we’re going to tell the police on you. We don’t like you!” There’s a hum of ‘No!’s and ‘We don’t!’s from the mob and I turn away and I’m fucking running, running away from a load of pensioners, my head up and looking for help, but there’s no one, just this cold car park on a clear morning and me running through it.
I reach my truck and open the door, hands fumbling with the keys, trembling with cold and hunger and nerves. I swing up into the cab and slam the door, relieved as fuck to put a barrier between me and them. I start the engine and drive away, trying to avoid looking at the little knot of grey evil with its spec lenses twinkling and threatening, protruding limbs.
I’ve missed breakfast again. No wonder I feel like shit all the time.
Filed under: Fiction |