WindScream and Other Delights
Alan lived in a house with no cream crackers.
Interminable? Had that something to do with terminal?
airport. Airport? Festering heap of
concrete. The only place with possibly less welcome was Terminal 4.What a great
first impression of Brexsterity Istanbul
that was, he could tell you. UK
Stupid country. Meaningless life.
The referee blew up. Alan realised he was in danger of dozing off. Or starving. Whichever came first - so he slouched downstairs where his wife was slumped in front of Antiques Road Show looking at and like an ancient plant pot.
Nothing was growing in either.
“What’s for tea?”
“Well, I’m not making it. Now you’re home from abroad I look forward to you making me tea.”
“We’ll have bloody cream crackers then.”
Alan stumped into the kitchen, opened the fridge and pulled out a wedge of cheddar, the crumbly kind with the hot tongue tangy bits in it. Nice with tomatoes.
“Where’s the cream crackers?” he blazed, looking in dismay at the empty cheesy biscuit tin. Well empty save for a few stale looking crumbs. And black bits. Black bits that could be mouse droppings…
But how could they gnaw their way through tin, anyway?
…or just some crackerbread sesame seeds that had fallen off from being bashed around a bit. Alan rubbed his fingers in the bottom of the tin, then licked. Yes. Sesame seeds alright.
“Bloody hell! I didn’t come half way across the world for this!” he yelled, kicking the empty tin into the garden, where it sailed into the brambles, resting alongside two punctured footballs and a pork pie hat. “Now I’ll have to go down to Spar.”
“Well pick up some salad cream.”
Bollocks, bollocks, bollocks. Alan cursed his luck. Well he had 15 minutes, but still: he always kept a well filled jar of cream crackers back in Kwatar, didn’t he? Typical. Bloody house gone to rack and ruin. If she’d any sense of grace, she’d have got off her arse to go to Spar.
He opened the car door. Never much luck in love, he reflected, turning the ignition and picking at a scab on his arm. If he kept picking it would become a wart. Well, good. That’d teach them. Perhaps if he died of cancerous warts, then they’d finally realise the sacrifices he constantly made…
That’s if people missed walking warts.
…lowering his warts into the ground, throwing a handful of gravel on the coffin: “from warts you came, to warts you shall return.”
Yes, never much luck in love. Indicate right. Look left. Pull out. Wife on an elongated sexual holiday at a resort called Menopause, and as for the mistress. The mistress. Damn her if he didn’t nearly hit the kerb. Damn her. It hadn’t been much, true, just the odd afternoon’s comfort – but how dare she? How very dare she? Concentrate on cream crackers and salad cream.
Still it left a bitter taste, though, it really did. He never wanted to see her again. He’d said as much in a thousand messages from the sandpit over the last year or more. Never. Again. No more. Ever. And if he ever did, well, well, well…there would be a reckoning, certainly there would be. Reaching Spar, Alan spat, indicated right, pulled smoothly across the centre lines, arced to the left and parked kerb on.
Just as another car indicated left, arced left and smoothly halted kerb on. Bumper to bumper. Windscreen to windscreen. Face to face.
Crackers. Cream. Salad cream. Windscreen. Windscream.
Time stood still for who knows how long. A sunglassed woman. Mouth emotionless. Pale? Hard to tell through tinted glass.
Of course it was her. Of course.
Fight or flight? Both faces frozen in time.
Alan felt himself literally shaking with shock as he stared without staring at a face he’d known so well. Shaking. Reptile brain pulled keys from ignition. No. Put them back in. But what about the cream crackers? Salad cream? Returning empty handed – there’s the problem defined in that empty biscuit tin.
In the other car, still no movement. It was her birthday on Tuesday, too.
Funny the things that pop into your mind just before being executed.
As calmly as he could, Alan broke gaze and got out. What if she followed? Spar was small and empty. Just nowhere to hide at all. Even the racks of sliced bread offered next to no camouflage. Fuck the racks of sliced bread, oh fuck, fuck, why can’t you be bigger? Bigger like some giant curtain closing on the final act?
Alan did not rip open the nearest Hovis and begin flinging slices hopelessly at the shop entrance. Instead, still shaking, he picked a packet of cream crackers and went to the counter.
“Thank you, sir. Would you like a bag? Five pence.”
“A bag? For a fucking packet of fucking cream fucking crackers? Of course I don’t want a…er…no bag, thank you.”
He left the shop.
The other car hadn’t moved, still bumper on, and her face was still there, emotionless and fixed. Alan got in, slinging the crackers on the passenger seat, turned the key and pulled away in front of a transit van that slammed its brakes on.
Then he began to laugh. He gazed at the heavens and roared. Uncontrollable howling, tears rolling, until he pulled over and subsided into chuckles and the occasional snort. His heart sang.
Once home and, he noted, well in time for the second half, he stumped back upstairs after putting a plate of crackers and cheese in front of the slumbering wife. “No salad cream?” she grumbled as he’d kissed her on the forehead.
Alan sat down in his study; pulled open a drawer and reached for the birthday card he’d had no intention of sending. He addressed the envelope then began writing.
“Kismet. It’s all kismet. My name is Alan. And I live in a house with no salad cream. Have a great day.”