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He’s got that new song by The Streets stuck in his head, the one with the music video filmed up the road in Chicken Village. Mike thrums his fingertips on the desk, in time with the beat. He’d throw his hood up over his head if the fat security guard hadn’t taken his coat. The guard went out to make tea ages ago.
Hi hat, hi hat, snare. Then a little base line walk, fingers up and down a fret board. Mike’s got a Love-You-Lots Teddy Bear in his jeans, in the pocket of space created by wearing them low on his hips. There’s a melted Twix shoved down the front of his boxers; the serrated edge cuts back and forth on the soft skin at the base of his dick every time he moves.
The guard reverses in, his fat arse pushing open the door, a mug in each hand. Mike grins his shit-eating grin, reserved for teachers and authority figures. The guard, badge says his name is Dale, places a mug in front of Mike and takes a seat. The plastic chair groans under his weight.
“Thanks, Dale,” Mike says, in a high-pitched nasal voice, drawing the name out so it sounds like “darl,” the way Mum says it. Dale grimaces – literally – he looks like Grimace, the McDonald’s purple blob, with his ridiculous mustache and his shirt buttons straining across his stomach.
“Righto, righto, righto,” mumbles Dale, playing the Hollywood bodyguard, the maverick cop, a fat fuck Bruce Willis, “Michael Hopkins. Ms. Hopkins’ boy huh? How is your mum?”
Mike can’t help himself, lets out a little half laugh. Tries to disguise it as a cough. Dale’s eyes get even wetter and more pathetic.
“You say hi to her from me, yeah? Tell her to keep fighting.”
Love-You-Lots Bear is holding a red heart in his arms, with a white frilly border made of some sort of lace. It’s tickling the inside of Mike’s leg something fierce. He’s got a nice old gob of spittle building up in the back of his throat. Turning his head, he spits straight onto the white laminate floor. Some of it dribbles down his chin. Fuck it, he doesn’t wipe. Dale’s looking at him like that dropkick boyfriend of Mum’s did for a couple of months.
“C’mon, Mike. It’ll be me has to clean that.” The little puddle on the floor has a green sheen from the fluorescents. “What’s all this about then?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about, Dale.” Mike says with a sneer.
Dale sighs, like a whoopee cushion deflating. He takes a sip of tea and licks the drops from his mustache, leans across the desk and clicks play on the video up on the screen.
There’s Mike, all alone with his hood up, running his hands along the tops of all the flowers, until he gets to the last bouquet, where he pulls the head off a rose. He walks down the aisle of cards trailing rose petals with each step. At the end of the aisle he disappears from the top right screen but immediately reappears on the bottom left. There’s Mike eyeing up the teddy bears, the little teddy doctors and nurses, the Get-Well-Soon Bear with a bright red bowtie. There’s Mike pulling a Love-You-Lots Bear off the shelf and shoving it down his crotch. He wanders over to the counter, with its array of bars and sweets, Congratulations-On-The-Bouncing-Baby-Boy boxes and organic 80% cocoa. There’s Mike taking a Twix and making it disappear into the dark recesses of his boxer shorts.
“What’s your point, Dale? Could be anyone. You can’t even see their face.” Mike’s tapping on the desk again, his tea is going cold.
Dale’s mustache bristles, one of those walruses on a David Attenborough special ready to defend his stretch of beach. He reaches for the phone and picks up the receiver without taking his eyes off Mike.
“Hey, Trina, Dale in Security. Could you put me through to Palliative Care?” You can just tell he wants to whistle while he’s transferred, his fat lips pout together, but no sound comes out. “Hey, Denise, sorry to do this, but could you pop Ms. Hopkins on the line?”
Mike shifts in his seat.
Dale’s listening carefully. His eyes drop.
The shit-eating grin returns. The card Mike slid down the back of his pants is in a protective plastic cover that has stuck to Mike’s arse as he’s sat, the embossed “I Love You, Mum” imprinted on his pimpled white cheek.
Michael Burrows is an author and poet from Perth, Western Australia. His debut novel 'Where the Line Breaks', shortlisted for the Fogarty Literary Award, is out in April. His short stories have been published in magazines such as Fudoki, Aurealis, Voiceworks and others. He lives in south London.