Saturday, November 13, 2004

Day 11

I don't know who's been reading my little story so far but I've had 20 odd hits on the blog. No-one's left a comment so if you do want to encourage me or tell me it's a load of crap, please do, I welcome any feedback, as long as it's constructive.

I was knackered when I left home for the Book Exchange the next morning, I hadn’t slept very well, even after I’d gone to bed around two, I was turning over what had happened to Shuggs in my head, trying to work out some way of getting him off the charge, or at least lessening his punishment in some way by finding a mitigating circumstance. It seemed like every time I got tantalisingly close to a possible solution, a counter argument presented itself. I didn’t know the legal position well enough to speculate on what a jury would think, to be honest, I didn’t even know if it would go to a trial by jury. I did hope the solicitor would be able to get him acquitted before then. You read every day in the papers about all sorts of scumbags who were obviously banged to rights, getting off on a technicality and walking out of the court with a big shit-eating grin on their guilty faces. Although I had no doubt that Shuggsy was only guilty of being dumb in a built up area, I don’t know whether a jury would take into consideration his previous reasonably good record and his character. Maybe I could stand in the dock and give him a good character reference, but then again would they necessarily believe a second-hand bookseller who had known the defendant nearly all his life and lived with him for the last six years?

I must have dozed off sometime around four, but it only seemed as if I had closed my eyes for a second when the alarm went off. I staggered around, getting ready for work, and bumped into Shuggsy on the landing.
“Are you alright big man?” I asked. He looked worse than I felt, and his eyes were red and puffy as if he’d been crying.
“Ach, not too bad, didn’t sleep so good though.”
“I’m not surprised, maybe you should get something to help you.”
“I’ve had enough of drugs George, I’d rather get drunk or something,” he said.
“We’ll do that tonight if you want,” I said, “it’s Friday tomorrow, only one day to the weekend.”
“That’d be good. Look, thanks for all you did last night, I don’t know what I’d have done without you.” For a moment, I thought he was going to hug me, and I took an involuntarily step backwards, but instead he shuffled off towards the bathroom. I made a mental note to ask Marlene to make sure he didn’t do anything daft, she could talk him out of anything.

At the shop, Grant was thankfully conspicuous by his absence. Sean told me he’d gone off ‘on a mission’. With any luck it would be some sort of mission impossible that would take him away from the place for months, even years and I could have as much XTC on the shop stereo as I wanted. In fact, I’d just slotted ‘Skylarking’ in for it’s first outing for several months, when she walked in.

I thought I’d stopped breathing for about the first five minutes she was in the place, then I realised I had actually stopped. She was standing with her back to me, looking at the travel section, but every so often would turn round slightly, as if checking that she was being watched, a habit I find intensely annoying in women normally, but I felt as if I could watch her all day and not be bored. She had quite short, dark hair and was wearing a dark blue denim jacket over black pants. I was straining to see her hands though. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve got a bit of a thing about women’s hands, mostly their palms, but the whole hand package is important to me. I’m not bothered if they’re large or small, as long as they have soft skin on the palms. I’m not too keen on veiny backs of hands, and hair is a definite no-no, unless it’s that downy sort of fair hair. I’m not too fussed on rings either, especially showy or chunky rings, and I can’t see the point in thumb or index finger rings, and obviously wedding or engagement rings were a little off-putting, but generally I’m cool with most things. Oh and not chewed nails, either, probably because I chew mine. When she did turn round and make her way towards the register, carrying a copy of Tim Moore’s excellent account of a trip to the Arctic Circle, “Frost On My Moustache”. I prepared to congratulate her on her choice, but for some reason could only manage something between a squeak and a croak, when she put the book on the counter and said “I’ll take this please.” OK, so I’ve also got a thing about women with North Eastern accents and hers was from somewhere around Durham, I guessed. Hands and Durham accents, that’s not too weird is it? I could think of worse kinks. She looked at me, as if I’d coughed something up on the book, and asked how much she owed. I looked in the inside cover (one pound fifty) then made the error of starting to tell her why the book is called what it is, then realised that it had something to do with a seal and oral sex. So I clammed up and just asked her for the money. Now she was certainly going to think I was some kind of unholy moron. She proffered a five pound note and I accidentally, honestly, brushed her palm when giving her change. She didn’t even give me a second glance as she picked up the book and put in her bag. She didn’t even say thanks, but gave me a tight, non-mirthful smile and then walked out of the shop. I thought about asking her for ID, but couldn’t work out why she should have to give it to me. Anyway, it was too late, she was gone and so was I.

Marlene rang me later that afternoon and told me that Shuggsy had come home early and then gone out for a walk. I stopped short of asking of he’d said where he was going because I was aware that we were beginning to sound like his parents. She sounded a bit down, so on a whim, I asked her to meet me after my shift for a drink and to get dressed up a bit. I’d bell Shuggs later on his mobile and get him to come into town as long as he wasn’t walking back to Glasgow. Then I rooted out Be Lucky! and turned to the chapter on luck in gambling again. Frustratingly there wasn’t much in the way of specific advice but I did take no notice of one passage that bloke-with-dead-wife had made a point of underlining twice. It said;
* Lucky people are highly aware of opportunity. They know a deal quickly when they see one and take FULL advantage of it. Sometimes by acting too quickly they do make mistakes. The mistakes they make are easily outweighed by the successes they have. Let your successes guide your hand and make every situation turn to your advantage, winning is an easy habit to get into.
I wasn’t sure how it was going to work in the situation I had in mind, but I was going to give it a try anyway.

In the taxi home, Marlene was laughing her head off and wouldn’t stop, and it wasn’t just the champagne that she’d put away. For some reason, the fact that I’d walked away from the casino with just over four grand in cash was amusing her. Can’t think why. Even Shuggsy cracked a smile and kept patting me on the back. I was quite calm, surprisingly. If I’d thought about the events that had led here, I couldn’t say why I’d been lucky, it had just seemed to happen. Most of the winnings had come from Blackjack, but I’d also won on the Roulette and taken a jackpot from one of the fruit machines. My original plan had only been to try and distract the other two from their woes, but it had turned out better than I thought. Marlene had membership of the casino from a raffle prize she’d won at her works Christmas do, but had never taken it up until now. When I’d put the plan to her she didn’t seem that keen either but a couple of glasses of wine had changed her mind and now she was planning on another visit. I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea, the management weren’t exactly congratulating me on my good fortune as I cashed the chips in, they weren’t unfriendly, it’s just that I got the impression they wouldn’t welcome me back with open arms. I half expected some goon to ask me to accompany him to a back room and give me a working over, but Shuggsy reckoned I’d been watching too many films. In the end, we jumped in the first taxi we saw outside and as I looked out of the rear window, there weren’t any shady guys in dinner jackets, running up the road after us and shaking their fists at our departure. I was slightly disappointed to be honest. I gave the driver a tip he was made up with when we reached home and we fell out of the cab, still drunk with success and casino spumante. I’d already decided what I was going to with at least some of the winnings, in a sort of good karma gesture, I’d decided to hire a private detective to find Tony. I wasn’t going to tell Shuggs or Marlene, I didn’t want to get their hopes up, but as I lay in bed with the room spinning slightly, I imagined their faces when a Philip Marlowe type handed us a dossier with surveillance photos and an address for Tony that we could pass to the police. Now I knew I really had been watching too many films.

Word count: 1,683
Word of the day: tantalise


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November 3, 2005 at 9:51 AM  

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