Sometimes you can tell

This is a teaser. It’s the beginning of a story that will ultimately be quite a bit longer, though I hope it stands up on its own as a bit of flash fiction. However, if anyone has any desire to see it take off in any particular direction please feel free to make suggestions.

If I’m lucky it will be part of a story cycle based around the sexual adventures and misadventures of a bunch of deadbeat characters, small-time criminals, their friends and enemies.

***

Sometimes you can tell, can’t you?
I got this job, stacking shelves and working the till in a hardware store. It’s not part of a chain. It’s owned by my half-brother’s uncle’s boyfriend, which is how I got the gig I guess. He looked at me and says he don’t go for girls himself, but it’d be nice for the customers to see a pair of tits around the place. Plus, he says, we won’t need to close for lunch.
Arnie, that’s the owner, comes in each day about eleven. Smelling of aftershave. Wanders around a bit like he’s in charge, wafts his man-scent around the place. Goes to the tiny upstairs office and does a line of coke around midday, which I know because his dealer comes by the shop. Ten minutes after that, Gideon goes up there. Gideon’s same age as me, nineteen, fit guy with a sloppy grin and razorcut hair and a six-pack. What he says is he needs to go over the accounts with Arnie. Something like that. Different excuse for each day of the week. And I know what they’re doing because the shop’s part of a street of old terraced houses that’ve been converted, and the floorboards up there creak like fuck.
So: yeah, sometimes you can tell. You can tell what’s going on in the customers’ minds. Because for some people – and I’m not ashamed to say I’m one of them – a hardware store isn’t just a place that sells hardware. It’s a place that sells sex. It sells toys and possibilities and fantasies.
This guy comes to the till, and he’s buying:
– thirty metres of 7mm diameter polypropylene rope
– four mouse traps
– a pack of huge cable ties, the kind you’d use to hold plants to a garden trellis, or secure someone’s wrists and ankles
– some D-shackles and snaphooks
So where does your imagination go with that? The same place mine does?
The guy smiles at me as he hands me money. He’s maybe in his thirties. Not old enough to be my dad. No, wait, he probably is old enough because my dad was seventeen when I was born. And my mum was fifteen. From where I’ve come from, not having had a kid by the age I am now is more fucking miraculous than a virgin birth. My dad’s thirty-five this year, which is about what this guy is.
“Hope you have a good time with this stuff,” I say. My voice has got an I-know-what-you’re-doing kind of tone to it.
And he eyeballs me, long and slow, pupil to pupil. Maybe more like teacher to pupil. Hangs it out, like the fantasy he’s going to make with all this stuff is just hanging in the air between us in a little bubble and we’re both watching it. Hangs it out so I get the taste of sex in my mouth. And he says: “I’m planning on having a very good time with you.”
Hear that? That’s no Freudian slip, is it?
“With me?” My voice has gone all squeaky.
He looks at me, at my face. “I said I’m planning on having a very good time, thank you. But I could have it with you, if you like.”

***

I don’t have much out in this kind of style at the moment. There’s First Day at Work, which has a work-based theme (obviously) but doesn’t have such a grungy feel. It’s one of my earlier stories but it has the advantage of being sold as a long short story in its own right. Or there’s a free story, Transference, on my other blog. It does aim at a similar kind of feel. Or for something a little stranger albeit not in quite the same vein, try ‘Filthy White Dress’, in the Making Her Pay five-story collection and also the 20-story Tricks For Kicks collection, both published by Xcite.

-F

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