I looked in the fridge and there was an open can of baked beans. In the corner was a yellowish greenish ball of something else, but I figured it wasn’t fit for human consumption. That was it. I waved my hand inside the fridge, lukecool, and then it clicked, the light wasn’t on which meant the electric had gone off. Let’s just say it wasn’t a power cut.
I took the beans, went over to the sink, stood on my toes, peed in it, then washed my face with cold water. The stack of dishes in the sink gave off a curious odour. I grabbed a spoon and went back to the bedroom where my girlfriend, Marie, was lying naked on the bed.
What did you get?
Tesco Value baked beans, I replied.
Shit. I thought that’s what we had for supper.
That was baked beans and cheese.
I’m sick of beans.
We should go shopping, I said.
Marie groaned. She was a skinny little thing. We’d only been going out three days. She turned up at my door with a Rottweiler, knocking like crazy, looking for her sister’s place. I had a bottle of cider in my hand and invited her in. Anyway it turns out her sister didn’t live with me, but after a few swigs of my booze, Marie decided it wasn’t worth the effort and she’d rather chill in my place.
The Rottweiler, Spaz, raised his head, looked at me just as I was about to take my first spoonful, and lay back down on the floor. Now, I didn’t know too much about dogs, but the last thing I needed was a hungry 160 pound canine watching me feed. I mean, what if he decided it was too much and he wanted some meat? Obviously Spaz wasn’t gonna to start with his mistress. I put the spoon back in the can and decided I wasn’t gonna tempt fate.
Let’s go shopping, baby, I said.
Fuck’s sake, it’s too early, she replied.
You got any cash?
Great, just great, of all the whores on the estate, I just had to wind up with the broke one. That’s the last thing I needed. I’d quit a well-paid job to become a writer twenty four months ago. In that time, I’d burnt through my savings and got nothing but a ton of rejection slips in return. I’d railed against the conservative establishment that didn’t get my shit, but, the truth, is I knew my work was shit. I was the king of typos. I wouldn’t know an original plot if it hit me on the head. Try as I might, and I certainly did try, I was simply a crap writer. This of course is unfair; most writers working today are crap except for Junot Diaz and Haruki Murakami. That’s right, a billion writers working on the planet today and only two half decent ones, and even they aren’t that great compared to, say, the Russians of old. What irked me was the fact that my shit was so much crappier than the other shit being churned out there. Depressing.
Are you going to get us something to eat?
I’ve got three quid in the bank, Marie.
You can get that out of the Post Office. And please get me a pack of B & H Gold.
Expensive bitch had burnt through my skavers. I had the tremors. She’d had my last rollie. When was she moving out? Did she even have a place of her own? What was her last name? I thought about this shit as I dressed up and went down to Hermiston Gait. I’d been barred from the corner shop and most stores at the Westside Plaza, so I had no choice.
I picked up a butt on the pavement. Must have had a third left on it too. I lit up and smoked it, scanning the ground for cash or more butts, but all I saw was litter and dog shit. The smoke felt good in my lungs, I felt half human again. An OAP was toddling up the road with his Zimmer frame. I briefly though of robbing him, but I decided that, in my emaciated state, he could easily overpower me.
I felt lightheaded after my wee smoke. Walked into Tesco and grabbed a basket. Tried to look like a respectable citizen. Went to the canned section and grabbed this and that. Went to the booze section and stuffed a bottle of Smirnoff and a bottle of Jack in my jacket pockets. A bomber jacket makes you look puffed up at the best of times but with two bottles you look like… well a guy with two stolen bottles in a jacket. I stuffed this and that down my pants, somehow walked on trying to look normal, got to the till and paid for £1.69 worth of goods. Needed a pack of skavers but impossible to get to behind the counter. Walked past the security guard, looking like a respectable citizen.
I reasoned it was a victimless crime. It’s a well-known fact that the large supermarkets waste millions of tons of food each year, so I was doing Gaia a favour. I went back to the estate, rocked up to Mousey’s house, gave him half my bottle of Jack for a twenty pack of Dunhills.
Got back to my place and gave Spaz a pack of raw venison.
Don’t be giving my fucking dog raw meat, Marie shouted from the bed.
You wanna cook it?
It’s gonna make him sick.
It’s natural, that’s what he’s evolved to eat. Got him a can of Butchers’ too.
It’s gonna make him sick, you cunt.
And I got these for you, I said, dangling the Dunhills in front of her.
Should have seen how her eyes lit up. She smiled exposing the gap where her top incisors should have been. Marie was thirty four, had six kids, all in the care of social services coz of a dope habit. She was skinny as a needle and had sunk-in cheeks. Her skin was a pale yellow. All that said, she was the most beautiful girl I’d been with in years. She gave me a kiss and I felt her wet tongue slither around my mouth. It felt like an eel.
Me and Marie measured out a half a mug of Jack each and washed down our pepperami sandwiches with it. Feeling generous, we poured out a shot for Spaz too. Sexy how Marie turned her head to the side and bit into the bread with her canines. I felt warm and content after our meal. Then I hit a skaver and cut it with Marie.
I could stay here forever and ever, she said.
Will you marry me?
You fucking with me?
Nope. I’m for real, I said and took a swig.
Yeah. Alright then. I’ll marry you.
Maybe we can even get your kids back from social and start a real family, you know.
That’d be nice, she said, swaying back and forth. I think I’d hit the spot. Best man she’d ever had.
And I’d have married her too, on the spot, if we could be arsed to get to the registry. Didn’t even know what day it was. Had a vague idea I was somewhere in the 21st century. Truth is I was in the last chance saloon. It’s funny how Hollywood cranks out this crap about the infinite bachelor, handsome, forever youthful, happy. Bullshit. Blokes are just looking for love too, like everyone else. We’re cold and lonely, we wanna be held at night, shed tears and watch Romcoms.
I’d fucked up so many good relationships in my day. Boohoo pity me. You know how when you’re younger, something better’s just around the corner. I’d been in and out of love so many times, I probably didn’t even know what true love felt like. Beautiful women, good women had shed tears over me. I read Nora Roberts, bullshit prose, cliché run amok, but I was a sucker for fairy-tale happily ever after endings. The airbrushing of the complicated bits of life; the fact that your partner shits, snores and farts more than you do. How do you get around that? The fact that she is only human.
You want some? Marie said, getting her gear out.
Nope, that shit ain’t for me, I said chopping up my lines.
I let her hit a bump, then watched her dose on prescription meth. Fucked if I knew how anyone had an H addiction this side of the new millennium. She stared at the ceiling, mystic like, glazed eyes. I was sure she was seeing angels or something like that. All I saw was bumpy paint and cobwebs.
Penny for your thoughts, she said.
I was trying to see what you were seeing.
You looked lost, like you were someplace else.
I hate women.
I love fucking them. But I’m a, what’s the word, a misogynist.
A motherfucker who hates women.
You hate me.
I love you, baby, I said, and meant it too. Blood moved through my sclerotic veins.
Marie reached for the bottle. I pulled it away. What the fuck, she said or something like that. I took a swig and stared deep into her eyes. You didn’t buy this, so you not getting any, I said. Felt like the Wolfman, Gregor Samsa, Megatron, a sudden transformation, like, who was this bitch in my fucking house? Fuck the dog. Fuck her. Drinking my booze like it was going out of fashion.
Baby, she said, flashing her toothless smile.
Fuck off, I replied.
Give, she said, reaching for the bottle.
Pulled it away and shoved her hard. Hey. Hey yourself, bitch. What the fuck? The next thing I knew, Marie was on top of me, screaming, cursing, trying to gouge my eyes out. I punched her square in the jaw. Knew it was gonna bruise. Jumped on top of her and started punching her in the face. Take that, bitch. You like that, ha? You like that?
Spaz, fucking Spaz; felt lightning pain in my calf. Next thing I knew I was sliding off the bed like Jason Voorhees is dragging me. Felt my gastrocnemius rip out of me. Spaz is growling. Get off me, you fucking mutt. Kicked Spaz in the snout, but he’s too busy making mincemeat out of my calf. I screamed like a motherfucker. Marie jumped on me, grabbed my head and started banging it on the floor. Thank God for the carpet.
Marie tried to bite my ear off. Caught it between her bottom teeth and her soft jaw. I was kicking at Spaz. Then I started laughing, laughed like a mad man. I finally saw the joke. Here I was, the worst writer of my generation, and I was gonna get killed by a junkie chick and her mutt called Spaz in my shitty council flat. I just had to laugh. Pa always told me to look at the funny side of life.
Tendai Huchu is the author of The Hairdresser of Harare. His short fiction and nonfiction has appeared in Wasafiri, The Africa Report, The Zimbabwean, The Open Road Review, Kwani?05, A View from Here and numerous other publications. In 2013 he received a Hawthornden Fellowship and a Sacatar Fellowship. He is currently working on his next novel, The Maestro, The Magistrate, & The Mathematician.
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