And I’m blushing… Spam.
I sometimes even have a full fat Coke.
The thing is, when you’ve been blundering around in the dark since 4.30am, breakfast at 8.30am is more like lunch when you’ve skipped breakfast, or is that brunch even though brunch isn’t really a thing, or…
What I’m trying to say is that my body clock is permanently fucked up. Shifts do that to you. They shave years of your life, by fucking with your sleep patterns and by messing with your serotonin levels until you don’t know if afternoons are evenings or mornings are lunchtimes or if wine is a good idea when you’ve got to get up in five hours time or if Spam and Coca Cola are a wise breakfast choice.
I once knew a kid at school who didn’t like the way his eyebrows met in the middle. One day he took his dad’s razor and shaved a little here and a little there until there was fuck all left on his face and he had to go to school looking like a freak of nature.
That’s what shifts do to you – they make it so you keep trying to correct things, get it right, add something to one side of the sleep/fuel balance then take something from the other side. A nap here, a snack there, coffee here, booze there, until your heart’s beating like a fucked clock, as Marwood once said.
One time I stopped drinking for a week and got a hangover… on the Wednesday. It took three days for it to kick in.
So now it just feels easier to keep adding things here, taking things away there, blundering in the dark trying to remember if it is 4.30am or 4.30pm because it’s just as dark at both ends of the day and wether I should be necking pints of tea or pints of wine.
And here I sit with my eggs and my beans and my hash browns and my toast and yes, my Spam and yes, a can of full fat Coke.
And a book.
The canteen at work is half filled with similarly bleary blokes shuffling in shabby uniforms that are as creased as their faces, jaundiced below the fluorescent tubes fluttering in the grease-stained suspended ceiling.
So rather than look at them I look at my book, champ down on the greasy salty slab of pink in front of me, try to remember if there’s any wine left in the fridge at home, and judging by my blurred senses I come to the sad conclusion that there is none.
A scrape of a chair, the clatter of an overladen plate, the shifting of the table where heavy arms rest, ready to eat.
A battle scarred table knife tips my book up so the front cover is facing the man now sitting opposite me.
“What you reading.”
It’s Rampton. He’s eating Spam too. A big, thick, pink slab of a man eating a big, thick, pink slab of a breakfast.
I say, “The Fallen Idol, by Graham Greene. He did Brighton Rock. The Third Man. They were made into films. The Fallen Idol was too. It was…”
“Never heard of him.”
Rampton shovels a piled fork into his mouth.
Books are like magnets. They either repel or attract. The reaction is sometimes positive, sometimes negative. I read in the canteen to repel people but sometimes they attract people. Some people look at a bloke with a book and think, ‘look at that poor cunt sat on his own with nowt better to do than read a book – I’ll go sit with him and cheer the sad fucker up’.
Which is the polar opposite of what I want anyone to do.
“I got a book for my birthday,” says Rampton around a mouthful of processed meat. “Lee Childs. He’s a proper writer, he is.”
He winks at me like he’s given me a valuable tip, like I can thank him later.
I sigh and put down my book. “When was it your birthday?” I ask, just for something to say.
“Sunday,” he says.
“How old were you?” I say.
He pauses. Frowns. Shrugs. “Does it matter?” he says.
“Not really,” I say.
We fall silent, apart from the sounds of eating.
After a bit I say, “Did you do anything nice?”
Rampton stops eating. He says, “When?”
“It was your birthday. Did you do anything nice, on your birthday?”
He tears at a slice of toast, looks up at the yellow lights, frowns, then smiles.
“Yeah, I did actually!”
I say, “Lovely. What did you do?”
He says, “I had a brilliant wank.”
I say, “Oh.”
Rampton becomes a bit more animated. “Nah, it were a bit special. Y’see, the missus got up and left us to have a lie in, y’know? Got the kids breakfast an’ all that. So when I woke up I were on me own an’ I had a right knob on. It were like a horse’s handbrake. Thing is, me an’ the missus’ve been ‘avin’ a few rows about shaggin’. I’m not gettin’ enough, y’know? Since we ‘ad the young ‘uns she’s gone right off the boil. Not bothered for it. Me though, I’m still randy as fuck! What’s your missus like? She still like to fuck?”
I swallow a dry mouthful of toast and take a sip of Coke. “I’d rather not say…”
Rampton shrugs. “Suit yersen. Well, we’ve had words, the missus ‘n’ me, just so’s we know where we stand. She said she’d make more of an effort in t’bedroom an’ I said I wouldn’t shout at ‘er so much. Anyways, I’m in bed an’ I thought I’d just crack one off, y’know? I didn’t reckon there were much chance of jump so I reckoned I’d better just sort miself out.”
I try not to picture the scene but I fail. I push my plate away.
“Not eatin’ that?” He says.
He stabs the piece of Spam left on my plate and drops it on his own.
“Well I’m at the half way mark an’ suddenly I realise I’m not alone. Our lass has snuck in under the covers! It were proper sexy. She comes up from underneath, like, between me legs. I slow my stroke a bit, thinking she’s gonna take the reigns, like, but no! Next thing, she’s lickin’ me knackers!”
Rampton leans over the table towards me. “You ever had your lass lick yer knackers when you been havin’ a tug?”
I avoid eye contact. “I… well…”
“Well I have!” he declares, triumphant. “An’ it were fuckin’ magic. So there I am, wankin’ away, getting me bollocks all sucked an’ nibbled, an’ our lass has got lovely long hair. Body’s a bit fucked since she put all that timber on after the kids were born, but y’can’t ‘ave it all, can yer? So her hair is ticklin’ me thighs an’ all that, an it feels fuckin’ ace, but then she starts lickin’… well… lower.”
“Oh…” I say.
Rampton leans even closer. In a hoarse whisper he says, “I know. Sounds a bit gay all that, don’t it? But let me tell you, Luci – you ain’t fuckin’ lived unless you had a lass lick yer arsehole while yer pullin’ yer pud. I were amazed. It were a fuckin’ revelation! I couldn’t help wonderin’ where she’d learned all these new tricks, like, but who the fuck were I to complain? There I am at half nine on fuckin’ Sunday wi’ me legs in the air, wankin’ wi’ a tongue half way up me arsehole while some sad twats are kneelin’ in church!! Best fuckin’ birthday ever!”
“That’s quite the picture you’re painting there, Rampton,” I say.
He looks smug and says, “I know! So anyway, I couldn’t last long like that. I shot me bolt an’ it felt like it came from me fuckin’ boots! Never felt owt like it! An’ y’know what? Our lass only comes up an’ licks all t’jizz off me belly! Honest, it were like a porno!”
Rampton doesn’t notice. He frowns slightly. “That’s when it went a bit weird.”
I say, “All that wasn’t weird enough for you then?”
He shakes his head. “Nah, that were all fuckin’ brilliant. Our lass kind of shuffled up the bed, an’ I must have dozed off a bit, coz next thing I know our lass is comin’ through the door wi’ a mug o’ tea for us. An’ she’s laughin’ an’ callin’ for the kids to come an’ look, an’ in comes the kids an’ on goes the light, an’ they’re laughin’ cos I’m all tucked up in bed wi’ the neighbour’s dog.”
Time seems to stop.
Then it starts again.
I say, “What?”
He says, “Yeah. Neighbour’s dog. I didn’t know but ‘e got taken into ‘ospital that mornin’ an’ ambulance blokes ‘ad knocked on t’door to see if we’d look after ‘is fuckin’ dog while they carted ‘im off to ‘ospital.”
I say, “So, you mean… all that… with the… you know… under the covers…”
Rampton shrugs. “Dunno. I could ‘ave sworn it were our lass, but then again, that dog ‘as a lovely shiny coat.”
Rampton wipes his plate with a bit of toast. “Anyway, we got a call later. Bloke next door had only gone an’ died. Dog had no ‘ome, did it? Our lass an’ the kids were pleadin’ wi’ us to keep it, so I gave in. Said it could stay on one condition.”
His chair scraped across the floor as he stood, sucking bean juice off his fingers.
I said, “What condition was that?”
He said, “Kids weren’t to ever let it lick their faces. Dogs are dirty fuckers – never know where they’ve been.”
Rampton lumbers away.
I make a note to get two bottles on the way home that afternoon.
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