Monday 4 June 2012

from The Canny Cyclist

‘What’s this?’ she said. ‘I told you I wanted a steak pie.’
‘They didn’t have any,’ he said. ‘I thought you would want what I got.’
‘But I told you I don’t like sausage,’ she said.
‘Did you?’ he said.
‘Yes!’ she said. She pushed the sausage to the side and stabbed a chip with her fork.
‘Sorry,’ he said.
The doorbell. Sean sat up straight in the chair. Her parents? But surely they would have keys?
Whispering in the hallway and a thin young man appeared in the kitchen. He was dressed like something out of the Tour de France, the zipper T-shirt, the lycra shorts, the whole bit. He was a skinny guy, but his thighs were like balloons.
‘I hope you’ve got a bicycle outside,’ said Sean.
‘Aye,’ said the young man. ‘A Peugeot Super Sport.’
Sean was getting stared at as if he’d committed a crime. Perhaps the whispering had been Rose giving the short version of the chip shop debacle. He knew it wasn’t that. He wasn’t stupid. ‘Wow,’ he said. ‘A ten-speed racer. I had one of those when I was a paperboy. You’re not a paperboy, are you?’
‘Sean,’ said Rose, ‘this is Kevin. Kevin, Sean.’
‘Fancy a sausage?’ said Sean. ‘There’s plenty.’
Kevin looked at Rose, who looked at the floor. ‘I’m not hungry,’ he said. ‘I’m on a diet, anyway. A few mo’ moonths trainin’ an’ ah’ll be a champion cyclist.’ His accent couldn’t have been any thicker. He was hamming it up to emphasise his local credentials. There was no need. It was obvious who the foreigner in the room was.
‘You’re right,’ said Sean. ‘It’s the kind of thing budding medallists should avoid.’
‘Aye,’ said Kevin.
‘Although I’m quite partial to it,’ said Sean. ‘Not just sausage, you underst...’
‘Can I see you for a minute?’ said Kevin. He shuffled out into the hallway. Thighs like balloons and a fat arse. He didn’t say goodbye. Rose was right behind him. She closed the door. They didn’t try to keep it quiet. Sean couldn’t make out the conversation, but he could hear the words thudding. Staccato with pauses. Something about Eleanor, whoever she was. Maybe it was the boy’s pet name for his bike.
Then a longer silence.
He would wring the bastard’s neck.
No, he wouldn’t. He knew he wouldn’t. It wasn’t in him.
The front door banged shut.
Rose looked worried.
‘One of your old boyfriends?’ said Sean. He’d played scenes like this before, more often than he wanted to think about.
‘He’s an old friend,’ said Rose. ‘We were at school together. He’s a bit clingy.’ She examined her nails. ‘But he’s been...never mind. He’s not important.’ She smiled, but he could see it was forced. ‘You’re not jealous, are you?’
Words, and how they deceive. All you could do was listen to them. ‘Should I be?’ he said.

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