Evening shopping in Tesco. I kind of switch off, go on autopilot, just pointing the shopping trolley in whichever direction my wife, Jen, is heading for.
We were in the main aisle when my usual air of mundane despair was punctured by the sight of a man reacting to two young lads who passed him. They were about ten years old, full of swagger, owning the place like they do. He was middle-aged and a little off.
I saw him whirl and watch them go, then as they vanished from view down a joining aisle he went after them, but his delay proved fatal as he couldn’t find where they had gone. He walked up and down checking several other aisles with no apparent luck.
I can be quite discreet in my curiosity, but I made the fatal mistake of mentioning it to Jen who was caught in rabbit and headlights eye contact with him. Quick as a flash he was by our side.
“Did you see those kids? Eh? Did you? How disrespectful were they? Blowing their vape thing like that in the middle of the store. Right as they’re passing me!”
I neutrally inclined my head, but Jen encouraged him with an appeasing “They don’t care, do they?”
“Vaping in the middle of Tesco. I’m thirty-eight. If I say something to them, you know what happens then, don’t you?”
A few scenarios were playing out in my mind. Jen just advised, “You’re best just leaving them to it. It’s not worth the trouble.”
“I get sick of it though. You have lovely eyes, by the way.”
He examined mine. “You have old eyes.”
Yeah, thank you.
“I’m gonna go find ‘em,” he continued.
“Leave them to it,” Jen replied.
“ I can’t leave it. I know you could, because that’s the nice kind of person you are.” He looked at me. “And he couldn’t either, could you? I can see it in his face. In his eyes.”
That would be my old eyes.
“No, I’m off after them.” Then he gave me one final piece of advice. “You need to swap that,” he pointed to the trolley I was pushing, “for this,” he brandished his basket that had just a couple of items in it. “I’m going to twat them with it.”
I wished him good luck , which meant yes, you go and leave us now. Jen pointed out that that was the kind of conversation she had all of the time when she worked in mental health.
We spotted him once again, near the checkout, when his loud conversation drew our attention. He had indeed caught up with the two boys. Rather than “twat them” he’d bought them both an Easter egg. “But I’m not a paedophile!” he told the woman at the till.
We made a quick u-turn despite what was still on our shopping list and where it might be located, and managed to avoid him for the rest of our shop, me warning Jen that whatever happens she was not to make eye contact again with her lovely eyes.
But then, outside in the car park, we ran smack bang into him again.
“Fuck’s sake” I barely disguised beneath my breath.
He pulled the collar of his t-shirt down, baring his neck to Jen. “Here, have a sniff of this. What do you think it is?”
She dutifully did, “Hmm . . . I’m not sure. Creed?”
“RUBBER!” he shouted, then jumped into the car that he was stood beside and hot-rodded right outta there, engine revving, wheels screeching.
Next week I think we are going to give Aldi a try.