by Chris Clark
Checking your watch won’t make it happen any quicker, Tommy told himself, dragging the ketchup bottle across the washed out navy blue table cloth. Removing a single paper serviette from its dispenser, and proceeding to clean the congealed blood-red crud from the neck of the bottle, he tried to ignore the unrelenting chatter from the mums behind him.
Like released drunks, unruly sugar sachets were spilling out of their white ceramic holding cell. Running his neat fingernails against the growing stubble on the back of his neck, Tommy rued missing his six-weekly visit to the barbers. Damn inconsiderate of Gerry buggering off like that, he thought, his fingers now flicking over the sugar sachets. Heart attack, apparently.
Whatever the reason, it meant a replacement barber hadn’t been lined up. He hated those ‘new barbers’, the ones with women cutting your hair. All those chrome and glass shelves stocked with ‘product’ – they were hairdressers, not barbers. Reluctantly, a new place would have to be trialled, and soon, it was nearly eight weeks since he’d had a trim.
With the little brown logo to the left, brand name proudly displayed to the front, the sugar sachets stood straight and firm like a row of red phone boxes. Tommy checked his watch: fifteen minutes. Thoroughly wiping his white plastic tea spoon on his handkerchief, and shaking his head, he began removing the crystallized clusters of tea stained sugar grains from their glass bowl.
Stopping, he looked up slowly. A blue tabard topped by an expressionless orange face greeted him. Severely scraped back hair the colour of dirty straw, her reluctant features embellished by an array of hoped gold earrings.
“Cheese and tomato on white?” she flatly accused.
He could barely make out what she’d said above the incessant metallic babble being forced through the tinny radio speakers.
Before he had chance to confirm or deny his guilt, the sandwich sat abandoned in front of him. Tommy checked his watch: twenty minutes, twenty bloody minutes for a cheese and tomato sandwich. Peeling it open, he reached for the salt whilst inspecting the tomatoes. They weren’t thin. He’d specifically asked for the tomatoes to be thinly sliced. To add insult to injury, the margarine, and he was sure it was margarine, not butter, had been abandoned in the middle of the bread, leaving the edges naked.
Distracted, Tommy shook the salt cellar. Too slowly, he realised the top had been unscrewed. A mountain of salt the EU would be proud of sat defiantly on top of the thickly chopped tomato. Salt grains scattered across the navy blue tablecloth. Livid, Tommy fumed, and silently bemoaned the loss of the ‘Tea Bar’ with its condensation-soaked windows and re-heated grease stench. The legs of his metal chair screeched out in protest as they were forced across the tiled flooring. Rising, Tommy grumbled. A new café, as well as a barber, would have to be added to his list.
Chris Clark lives in Leyland and wishes he had more discipline.