James walked into the bar closing the door with a bang. He stared at the two men sat in front of him. The room was empty now: all the customers had long gone. Mark was currently sat astride Greg’s lap, rocking his hips gently back and forth, their hands slowly exploring each other bodies. They seem totally oblivious to the man standing watching them.
James, annoyed at his own anger and looking for someone to take it out on, snapped out “Can’t you two wait till you get home, you’re like dogs on heat.”
Greg looked over at him and smile lazily, his body relaxed. He was not at all put out or intimidated by either the comment or the manner in which it was delivered.
“Jump up, Pet, and give the Lion Tamer a few minutes with the lion.” Patting Mark’s behind, he indicated with his head towards the staffroom door.
“OK, but don’t be to long I want to go home.” Mark demanded, and then leaned in for one last kiss before disappearing into the other room.
Greg rose from his seat and walked over to the bar. He watched for a few minutes as James prepared himself drink; his movements clipped. “OK, so who’s rattled your cage? Or don’t I want to know?”
Knocking the drink back in one go, James slammed the glass down onto the counter.
“I don’t know why I bloody bothered. Irritating little sod. Actually I’m surprised someone hasn’t tried to knock his block off. No. I’m surprised I didn’t knock his bloody block off. I have never met anyone so annoying in my life.” James said as he waved his hands around angrily, barely concealing his frustration.
“Ah.” Greg said with a wry smile.
“Ah? What’s the Hell is that’s supposed to mean? James demanded, his face now set in a scowl.
“I presume you’re talking about our Mr Cooper, what’s he done to upset you this time? Been sick in that nice car of yours?”
“No he hasn’t been sick in the car, and you can take that grin of your face too, it’s not funny.” But Greg’s grin was infectious, and James’s couldn’t stop himself smiling. “Would you believe it? I’ve spent half the night running round for him and he had the damned cheek to dismiss me”
This time Greg couldn’t help himself and burst out laughing.
“Is that so, it’s about time someone took you down a peg or two: you’re too used to getting your own way. Must have come as a bit of a shock to the old system when he didn’t jump when you barked.”
“Excuse me, when have you ever jumped? And I most certainly do not bark.” James replied with pretend indignation.
“No? Maybe I’m immune because I’ve known you for so long,” Greg raised an eyebrow in a questioning manner. “Come on, its late, time we were away home or I‘ll have my own mini catastrophe to sort out. Mark’s an irritating little toad if he hasn’t had enough sleep.”
“Yeah alright, I think you’re going to have to find someone to cover his shifts for the next couple of days at least: he’s got a chest infection. May be that’s why he such a miserably little sod.”
Both Men walked towards the staffroom, Greg switched the lights off as they went out.
Jay spent an uncomfortable night tossing and turning. His body ached all over and it felt as if someone had kicked him in the ribs. He had only just managed to get himself a drink of water to take his tablets, he felt so weak. He was conscious of the fact that he should have been working at the petrol station, but he hadn’t even got the energy to walk downstairs to the pay phone in the hall to ring and tell them he was ill. He remained like that for several days; drifting in and out of consciousness, only waking for a drink, the toilet or to take his tablets.
Although feeling slightly better he still had no energy and it took all of his effort to answer the persistent banging on the front door. It turned out to be his landlord demanding the rent. After a quite heated debated it was agreed that he could pay the following week. He still wouldn’t have all the money then, but he’d cross that bridge when he came to it. He needed to put all his energy into getting himself back to work.
For the first time in several days he felt hungry and walked over to the kitchenette to see what he could find. His inspection revealed half a loaf of mouldy bread, the remains of a pint of milk, which now contained lumps and a tin of soup. Opening the tin, he tipped the contents into a saucepan and placed it on the cooker, turning on the heat. After several minutes he noticed that the soup didn’t appear to be getting any warmer. Walking over to the light switch he flicked it on: nothing happen. Turning his back to the wall, he slid slowly down until he was sat on the floor. Placing his head on his knees he allowed the tears to run freely. What the Hell was he going to do; he didn’t have enough money for the rent and no one to ask for help. A feeling of utter hopelessness and despair washed over him.
Taking a deep sign, he lifted his head and wiped his eyes with the palms of his hands. There had to be way out of this. Jay considered phoning the club to see if he could speak to Mark, he might lend him some money. He soon dismissed that idea; Mark was one of life’s worriers, even if he did get him to promise not to tell, Greg would soon cotton on that something was wrong. He wasn’t the sort of person to let it go and wouldn’t be satisfied until he found out what was bothering Mark. The last thing he wanted was anyone feeling sorry for him or trying to interfere for that matter. No, he was going to have to come up with a better idea.
Standing up, he lifted the soup from the cooker and started to eat it cold using a spoon from draining board. He didn’t have any money, so unless he was able to walk to the Petrol Station to collect his wages, he was going to be without electric tonight. Finishing his meal, he dropped the saucepan into the sink and ran some cold water into it. Picking his coat up from the back of the chair, he struggled into it and walked out of the front door, locking it behind him.
It was bitterly cold outside and pulling up the collar on his coat he walked slowly down the street. People glanced at him as he passed by, and he suddenly thought what he must look like. He hadn’t shaved for days or even brushed his hair, lifting his hand up he ran his fingers through the unruly mess, trying to give it some order.
The walk to the petrol station was slow and painful, he had to keep stopping to rest and catch his breath. The cold wind hurt both his throat and chest and he wished he’d had the fore sight to wear a scarf, which would have least given him a bit of protection from the harsh wind.
Walking through the self opening doors of the Petrol Station he made his way straight to the office, only raising his hand briefly to acknowledge the girl behind the counter. Knocking on the door he waited for it to be opened.
George, the Manager, came up behind him and asked abruptly, “What do you want?”
Turning round, Jay gave a faint smile. “I’ve come for my wages and to see when my next shift is.”
“You can have the money you’re owed, but that’s all. We need people who we can rely on,” wrinkling his nose he stated “God, you stink.” Pulling a face, he walked past Jay and opened the office door with a key.
Jay just stood there with his month open, totally shocked by the conversation and unable to defend himself.
“Here, that’s all you’re due. Now, get out of here, before someone complains” He thrust the envelope into Jay’s hand and started to walk away.
Jay stood there for a few minutes rooted to the spot, staring at the retreating figure. How dare he treat him like that, the bastard. Anger coursed through him, burning deep into his stomach and without thinking, he picked up the nearest object, a can of lighter fluid, and chucked it at the manager’s head. It missed and went sailing past, landing at the feet of a customer, who jump in fright.
Reaching out he swiped everything off the shelf in front of him onto the floor, kicking the objects with his foot they cannoned across the floor, hitting whatever they came in contact with.
“You little Bastard,” the manager shouted and lunged towards him “I’ll fucking kill you”.
“You’ll have to catch me first, ass hole.” Jay grabbed the display of crisps and pulled. The contents spread across the floor as the stand tipped over. Dodging passed the manager as he jumped backwards out of the way, Jay ran out of the door.
“I get the Police to you: you won’t get away with this”
Jay turned and stuck his two fingers up. The adrenaline still pumping through his veins ensured he got away quickly.
Walking over to the sink, Jay filled a glass with water and took two aspirins as well as the antibiotics. As the adrenaline had left his body, he’d become shaky and a headache had starting to develop. He needed to decided what to do and quickly. The Manager was bound to ring the Police and as the Petrol Station had his address, they soon come looking for him.
Pulling a holdall from under the bed he quickly filled it with his clothes and his few personal belongings. Removing the blanket from the bed, he folded it and placed it into a carrier bag. Taking a quick look around the room to see if he’d forgotten anything, he left the key on the sink unit and walked out of the door.
Even through it was only Five O’clock, it was already getting dark so Jay was able to leave the building without anyone noticing. Walking to the phone box on the corner of the street he stopped and removed a twenty pence piece from the envelope in this pocket. Lifting the receiver and placing it in the crook of his neck, he inserted the money and punched the buttons, ringing the only person who he knew would help him.
“Yep, Hello.” Mark’s chirpy voiced answered within a few rings.
“Mark it’s me, I need your help”
“Jay is that you? How you feeling mate, any better?”
“Listen,” Jay insisted. “I haven’t got much money and I need your help, can you meet me by the café, down the road from the Club? And for God’s sake, don’t tell anyone.”
“OK, When?” Mark voiced had changed and there was a distinct edge of concern to it.
“Twenty minutes, make some excuse, don’t tell Greg whatever you do. Promise.”
“OK, but this had better be good, I don’t need any trouble, Greg would go barmy.”
The café was empty and the woman behind the counter was clearing up ready for the next day. She’d poured Mark a mug of tea and told him she’d be locking up in ten minutes.
He sat by the window, looking out into the darkening street. The wind was blowing the empty crisps and sweet packets around. He watched as a crisp packet was lifted into the air and carried several feet along the pavement coming to rest in a shop door way.
The cafe door opened with a rattle and Jay walked in, Mark’s smile froze on his face when he saw his friend’s appearance.
“Can I have another cup of tea, please” Mark turned to the woman. She was currently looking Jay up and down with distinct displeasure.
Before she could say anything Mark spoke “Please, we’ll only be a few minutes, I promise.”
The woman nodded and turned round. After pouring another mug of tea she walked over and placed it on the table, along with a piece of sponge cake.
“Here, you may as well have that too, it will only get thrown away and the tea’s on the house, you look like you could do with a bit of luck. Five minutes mind and then I’m locking up.”
Jay smiled and said “Thanks, we won’t be long.” Placing the bags on the floor, he sat down.
Waiting for the woman to walk away before he spoke, Jay turned his tired face to his friend.
“I’ve had a spot of bother and had to leave the flat, I need a bit of help.”
“OK, I’m sure if I speak to Greg he’ll let you stop with us for a while”
“NO” Mark jumped at the sudden changed in his friends voice and then glanced over at the woman. Although she was tidying up, she was still watching them.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout” Jay let out a sigh “I don’t need anywhere to stay. I just need to tidy myself up so I can come back to work. Can I come round to your place tonight, when Greg's not there and clean up?”
Mark hesitated, he wanted to help his friend, but didn’t fancy the consequences if Greg found out he’d been keeping this from him.
“OK, but you’ll have to wait outside until he leaves.”
“Thanks, Mark, you don’t know what this means to me. Jay picked up the piece of cake and bit into it hungrily.