New Fiction: Sharp Dressed Man by Rhys Milsom
Finish work at 6 pm. Home by 6.30. Shit, shave, shower and eat by 7.15. Out of the door and into the night by 8. This is my Friday routine. It’s been the same for years now.
Monday to Friday I work nine hour shifts, 9-6. I have an hour for lunch at 12.30. So I don’t really work nine hours but actually eight hours. Nine hours sounds better than eight though, so I tell people that I work 9-6 shifts, five days a week instead of – ‘Hi, I work 9-6 Monday to Friday but have an hour’s lunch break during that time, too, so actually I work eight hours. Not nine.’ Just makes me sound a better person than I actually am, saying I work nine hours a day. More of a valuable asset to society. I tell them what I do, the job description, and how I work so much harder then everybody else. I tell them I like to work for my money. They see me as a driven person. I pay my bills and my rent every month without fail.
I don’t tell them that I sometimes access other employees’ accounts so that I can delete clients’ details on their databases. I don’t tell them that when the office is empty, I rub my cock all over Janine’s chair and keyboard.
I work in an office, for an insurance company. My basic job description is to phone people up i.e. you, and then ask you what current insurance company you are with, and then tell you we have a better deal. I forget to tell you that our deal only lasts for a month, and after that we are ridiculously expensive. For every person I persuade to change over to us, I get a bit of extra cash in my wage every month. I get paid monthly, you see. I also write letters to people who have left any of our policies, detailing how sorry we are to have lost their business and that we hope they may be part of our family again, in the future:
‘Dear Mr / Mrs. Somebody,
We recently received notifications of you choosing to no longer be a part of Johnson and Co. Insurance. (Fuck you, you cheap bastard.) We would like to thank you for choosing us as your insurance provider in the past but we would also like to express our disappointment in you leaving us. Enclosed you will find a free post questionnaire (free because you won’t have to get up off your fat arse and buy a fucking stamp) that enables you to tell us what you liked / disliked about Johnson and Co. Insurance.
Yours sincerely (hope your new insurance provider is a scam),
Johnson and Co. Insurance.’
Sure, I sometimes get bored writing these out but when I feel my mind fading and slithering away to open mouthed daydreaming, I pull myself out of the fast approaching abyss and take a brisk walk around the office space or spin myself around in the chair or see how many types of underwear I can make out when my female colleagues walk past my desk. I slowly peek my head out from the plastic encasing that separates me from Mike, who occupies the desk next to me and observe some of the female derriere that strut past – the most popular are French briefs, then thongs, then plain old boring knickers (more than likely their time of the month). French briefs outnumber thongs by a 2:1 ratio. Then, when my mind is fulfilled, I get back to work.
At 5 o clock sharp, the place will empty until it’s just me and the buzz of computer screens. They’ll all go home, probably, to their partners, their kids, their dog, their TV, their bathroom, their life. On their way out of the office, they walk past me, like ants, all following each other, happy as fuck to be going home. I just stare right though them, reclining, staring out of the huge window that faces me at the other end of the office, watching the world go by and the occasional bird fly past until the last person leaves and then I get down to writing more letters out. It’s this peace that I work best in. Sometimes it’s like as if I’m in a dream because I write the letters out so quick and my fingers are careering around the keyboard like I’m fucking possessed or something. It sometimes aches my hands, but I don’t care. I want to be employee of the month. And I never have been. Even though I do much more work than everybody else in this god forsaken place. I’m not appreciated, but I’ll show them all one day what it’s like to REALLY work. I’ll show them.
Friday night and I’m preparing for the night ahead, I eat a quick meal (usually beans on toast – carbohydrates, good stodge food), take one last, prolonged look in the mirror and stare at myself until I have to leave my reflection fixed there. I then check my wallet and leave my house, slamming the door behind me and putting the key in the crack in the wall next to the drain pipe.
This Friday is no different to any other. I’m wearing a new shirt that I bought from Zara Men last Saturday. The jeans I’ve got on are fashionably tight, not skin tight, and my package looks impressive. Skin tight jeans make your legs look too skinny, like you’re anorexic or something. Jack and Jones are usually the brand of jeans I wear but tonight I chose Levi’s – a change is good now and again. I’m wearing John Lewis Chelsea Boots in black. They cost me £100.
The sun is starting to set but there is still sufficient light. This pleases me because it allows me to check my reflection in car windows when I walk past. My hair looks incredible. I used Frederick Fekkai Full Volume Mousse to style it. The product is probably the best I have ever used, you just add a squirt to your dry hair and it will last all night – it gives your hair increased texture and lift like no other. It is superb and I’m thinking about e-mailing the company to express my admiration. They might send me some coupons if I do that too.
I’m halfway into town and I’ve just passed K & M’s off license, owned by a couple in their 50’s named Keith and Mary. I used to buy a packet of chewing gums and a bottle of water from their shop before work but Keith, the hideous, obese prick, accused me of putting a Snickers bar in my pocket when I was in there one morning, about a month ago. I told him I didn’t do any such thing but he refused to believe me and I had enough of his ugly face talk-spitting to me so I unscrewed the bottle of water I had in my hand and poured the contents over the rack of newspapers they have. Fair to say, he wasn’t happy and he grabbed me by the collar of my new shirt. Like in slow motion, I imagined his chubby fingers, greasy and dirty, clutching on to the white collar and I went fucking berserk. I swatted his hand off me, pushed him back onto the shop counter, brought my knee into his balls and whispered into his ear: ‘If you lay your stinking hands on me ever, ever again, I will kill you. And once your wife has finished grieving, I’ll be here to comfort her. Because of your stupid, unfounded claim that I have stolen from you, you’ve managed to lose a customer.’ He was breathing very heavily at this point, his breath smelt like stale coffee. I then proceeded to tell him: ‘Now I’m going to fuck off, and if you mention me hurting you to anyone, I will know. You’d do well to keep quiet.’ I then released my arm from his throat, brushed myself down and left the shop. The little tussle had spoilt my hair a bit, so I adjusted it when I got back in my car, which was parked directly outside the shop. I ate the Snickers bar during the drive to work.
I spit on the shop window as I walk past. I’m in need of a drink now, I really had to wrench some saliva from my throat just then. The local pub, ‘The Four Kings’, is just around the corner. A quick drink in there won’t hurt, as long as I can stand being around no hopers, alcoholics and people in their 50’s who still think they’re young enough to go out drinking. That’s got to be one of the most annoying personality flaws in anyone. Making an effort, thinking the clothes you’re wearing are fashionable when in fact they’re last year’s collection, mutton dressed as lamb. It really fucking annoys me. They’re just embarrassing themselves. They don’t realise they look like fucking idiots. I check my watch. 8.21 pm. I might be lucky and early enough to miss the rabble. I push the oak door open and I’m greeted with the smell of tipped cider, old furniture and wood polish. ZZ Top’s song, ‘Sharp Dressed Man’, is playing on the jukebox; it can barely be heard over the drone of people talking.
Groups of people crowd around tables that are cluttered with pint glasses and bottled alcoholic drinks. There are two young lads playing on the fruit machine. They glance over at me when they hear the door closing. I’ve never seen them before and I stare back at them. They quickly turn away. I walk up to the bar, there are a few people waiting. I wait patiently while the guy next to me asks for a pint of Beck’s. I watch the barman pull the pint. His fingernails are dirty and he has a scab on his right hand. This guy seriously needs a haircut, his hair’s so long that it’s nearly dipping into the pint. He’s got a beard too. Fuck, he must be covered in bacteria. I feel sick. He’s turning me sick. I swear, if he tries to serve me, I’m gonna grab his greasy hair and rip it from his thick head.
I see a barmaid and flash one of my dazzling smiles. She walks over, looking.
“Pint of Stella please, love,” I say.
She looks around 20. Fairly big tits are pressed tight against her shirt and she’s got a nice arse that I take a look at when she bends over. Her face is off-putting. She’s got a jaw like a fucking horse.
“2.50,” she says, as she places the pint in front of me. She’s got brown eyes.
I swipe a twenty from my Louis Vuitton wallet, loaded with notes. She snatches eye contact with me for a brief moment, takes the note and struts to the till, moving her arse as she does so. £17.50 change. She places it in my hand and I scan it quickly, making sure I’m not being short-changed.
“Thanks,” she says after I’ve put my change back in my wallet. I glance up, and she’s standing there smiling at me. What the fuck does she want? I haven’t asked for anything else. She looks me straight in the eyes – you’d swear she was studying oculesics. I look at her right back. She has to pull her eyes down to the floor. She doesn’t make any effort to walk away though – she is desperately trying to get me to talk to her. What a fucking cheap slut. I shake my head and walk off to find a seat, my pint dripping a trail behind me.
I’m sitting in a worn corner seat. I’m assuming that it was once green but now it’s a grey colour. I have a small table in front of me and it’s covered with sticky beer rings. I’m afraid to put my pint down on the table, it might get stuck and tip over when I try to pick it up. My outfit would be ruined. There’s no way I’m letting that happen so I cradle the pint in my hands instead. The pub is filling up. Everyone seems so happy. Talking, laughing, hugging, shaking hands. The happy couples are walking in, smiling, hand in hand. Happy couples. It’s all a fucking masquerade. Behind closed doors, I bet they wanna kill each other. Resent each other. To the outside world though, they’re perfect. It’s surprising how many people are living a lie. Two old men are at a table near me.
“I painted the living room yesterday.”
“Oh, yeah. What colour?”
“Cream. Betty says it goes with the furniture.”
Who the fuck would go out to talk about paint? Fucking sad, lonely people. That’s who. I’ve had enough. I’ve got a quarter left of my pint. I down it. I need to piss and check my hair.
The toilets reek. The smell of stale piss festers in my nostrils. There’s small puddles of piss on the floor where some dirty bastards missed the urinals. The mirror is smudged with god-knows-what and someone’s rubbed the remnants of a bogey on it. It’s left a dirty path where the finger was pressed against the glass and the thicker parts are intermingling with the liquid mucus. ‘T.M. loves ‘P.T.’ is etched onto the sink counter. Classy.
I can just make out my reflection in the blurry mirror. Jesus Christ, it makes my heart jump. I am so good looking. My hair is still set in place. No need to touch it, even though it’s hard for me not to. I might ruin it if I do. I curl my lips back, teeth are absurdly white and they are perfect. I brush my teeth five times a day – oral hygiene is very important. I also use breath freshener spray when I am out, women love a man with fresh breath. I once hit a man because his teeth were ugly as fuck. I probably straightened them out for the poor bastard.
It’s really annoying me now. I’ve tried to ignore it but the top of my skull is starting to grate. Stop fucking giggling! There are two guys, from what I can make out, in the cubicle. They must be coke-heads or something. Maybe even a couple of queers. I’ve tried to ignore it but it’s impossible for me now. If I hear any more then I’m gonna kick the door through and stamp on their fucking faces. Who’ll be giggling then? Me. There’s an empty pint glass by the bin, what a spot of good fortune. I pick it up. I still haven’t pissed yet – my reflection distracted me. My cock is burning now. I really need to go. I choose the urinal that hasn’t got a puddle of piss underneath it, although it has got a lone pube stranded near the hole where the piss goes. A snigger floats out from the cubicle. I piss in the pint glass, shake him off and zip up, being careful not to get my little man caught. The pint glass is warm as fuck. Uncomfortably warm.
The cubicle door gives way at the first kick. It catches one of the guys in the head when it swings open, the dull thud is satisfying. He flops to the tiles; don’t know if he’s knocked out so I press my weight against the door, constricting him to a tiny space. The other one turns his head quickly from the toilet seat.
“What the fuck?!” he shouts in a high, reedy voice.
I throw the pint glass at his face. Piss and glass shatter everywhere. He’s dazed but still manages to get up and he blindly staggers towards me. Like a zombie from an 80’s horror film. I kick him down. He gasps a little. Winded. I force his head onto the toilet seat while still pressing my weight against the door. There’s still no resistance from the other side but you can’t be too careful. I bring the toilet seat cover down onto the piss and glass guy’s head. BAM! BAM! BAM! Nice blunt sounds connecting with his head. His body wilts back against the wall. I lean off the door to see if his fellow coke-head is pretending to be knocked out. He’s not. His head is pressed against the wall, nice amount of blood coming from his nose, body curled like a fucking foetus. I expected more of a fight, gotta be honest. Some of the piss landed on my shoes. Fuck’s sake. I go back to the sink, letting the cubicle door fall shut and then splash some water on my shoes. Then, with a paper towel, I rub down my shoes just to make sure they won’t get stained. As good as new.
It’s much colder then I expected it to be. I’m walking briskly, not too fast, I don’t want people to think I’m in a rush. The streetlights make my reflection a blurry existence, my body and face seem to morph with every window I walk past. It’s quite revolting. The hazy yellow beams shift my shadow around me as I walk. I’ve got to say that even my shadow looks good. I’m really close to town now, just about to walk through the shortcut which is a lane next to Denise’s Café. Denise may be getting on a bit, early 50’s I reckon, but she has got the biggest pair of tits I’ve ever seen. I don’t think they’re fake either. She may be old enough to be my gran but I still wouldn’t say no.
Just as I’m about to turn into the lane I notice a woman walking up the street. Two kids. One in a pram, one walking, holding its mother’s hand. I turn into the lane quickly, ducking into a shadow. I stay silent, hiding, listening to the footsteps and the wheels of the pram upon the pavement until they’re close enough for me to see them. She’s mid-30’s, dark hair, around 5’4. Not bad looking, huge forehead though. Body is her best asset. Long legs, slim waistline, perky breasts. Not bad for a mother of two. The kid, old enough to walk, looks like a boy. They don’t see me. I wait till they walk past and rise from my crouched position, peeking my head out from the lane entrance. She’s got a nice, shapely arse. Wearing a thong by the looks of things. I’m tempted to wolf-whistle but I don’t.
Town is busier than usual. Students must be back. Mist Club looks packed and people are queuing outside. Can’t be bothered with the hassle of that. Not yet anyway.
Jim Beam Black Label is an elegant, smooth and refined bourbon. It has a complex, almost sophisticated taste which is owed to its aging process of 8 years. It has 69 calories in a 25ml serving and has 43% alcoholic volume. It is the perfect bourbon. Jim Beam White Label, the more popular of the two, has more of a sweet taste with vanilla and caramel flavourings. Compared to the taste of Black Label, which is semi-sweet and has notes of oak, White Label cannot contend with it. It is more of a crisp and gentle bourbon and has 57 calories in a 25ml serving. Less calories than its brother but that is evident in its taste. It has 40% alcoholic volume.
The last quarter of my sixth glass, with ice and coca-cola, slides down easily. Can’t really taste it anymore. Head’s a bit lighter, my nerves are on edge and I can feel adrenaline pumping through my veins. Deep breath. Been here for about an hour and a half and it’s full now, can’t get to the bar. I’d have to wait ten minutes just to get served, there’d be no alternative but to listen to strangers’ conversations. Idle talk. Nothing talk. Talk about their lives that no one really gives a fuck about but listen and nod and smile and laugh to be polite and friendly. I’m watching the crowd at the bar now. An ugly, unformed queue of hands patting backs, fake smiles, laughing mouths, cheap girls embracing anything with a cock. Then there are the men with too-tight-shirts, red faces and cheap shoes bustling and elbowing their way to the front past people too afraid to tell them to fuck off. If they tried to push past me I’d carve ‘CU’ on one cheek and ‘NT’ on the other. Perhaps some loss of blood would relieve the redness.
10.56 p.m. Time to leave. Crowds of people everywhere, gotta be careful that no one with a drink walks into me. My outfit would be ruined. There’s a group of three boys who’d been sitting at the table in front of me. None of them older then twenty, all look like they need a good meal. One of them has got hair like fucking Tarzan. As I walk past their table, my shoes gleaming under the lights, I notice Tarzan staring at me. He’s probably admiring my hair. Who wouldn’t? I keep on walking but I can still feel him staring, so I stop dead in my tracks and turn my head to see what his problem is. I lock eyes with him. His eyes are too close together. Thin lips, almost emaciated. He may as well not have any. He still hasn’t turned away so I take a step forward and frown and push my chest out, tensing my biceps at the same time. They strain against my shirt. Impressive. It’s then that I see him bring his eyes down to my crotch. He licks his lips and slots his tongue between his teeth. He locks eyes with me again. Shit. I’m gonna be sick, I can feel it marinating in my stomach. Must leave. Quickly. The fresh night air caresses my face as I crash through the doors and into the night.
“Two shots of Goldschlager and a bottle of Peroni,” I tell the barman. His ear is so close to my mouth that I could bite it off if I wanted to, but instead I shout louder then necessary – might leave his ears ringing for a bit. He should take better care of his hair. Good hairline, but some of the strands are dry and need good rejuvenation. Phyto Phytokarite Ultra Nourishing Masque would do the job but I doubt he’s even heard of it. Probably mistake it for a rare animal. He brings the shots back first and I down them one after the other. The Peroni is put down in front of me and I slide a twenty into his palm.
“Have a drink yourself,” I say.
“Cheers mate.” Insecure, not confident, hasn’t looked me in the eyes once and a smile that is more like a grimace indicates confidence issues. £8.40 change. The £5 note is crumpled and yellowed as fuck. It’s revolting. Imagine how many fingers have touched this, how many noses it’s been stuck up, how many times it’s been put in mouths, tongues brushing against it. Imagine the amount of dead skin attached to it, the germs breeding and multiplying every second. A whorehouse for bacteria. I put it in my empty pocket, all on its own. I’ll use it for my next drink or maybe later shove it down someone’s throat.
I’m going to stay at the bar until the dancefloor lures me in. The music is pumping so loud I can feel it vibrating the floor. The beat is like a tribal drum. The lights are patterning the dancefloor with fluorescent red, green, blue and the beams are moving so quickly it’s like the floor is too fragile and hot for them to stand on for two seconds. In half an hour it’ll be packed here. I’m gonna get some shots in to pass the time.
One, two, seven, eight shot glasses in front of me. Liquid pools around and in-between them. Three bottles of Peroni join the crowd. My head is thumping with the music and my forearm flexor looks superb, like as if it’s about to erupt from my skin. I can’t really feel anything anymore, a pinch on the tender skin on my tricep feels like a warm kiss.
Group of hot as fuck females on the dancefloor. One, in particular, I’d like to fuck. She’s swaying back and forth to the music, arms making shapes, arse jabbing like she’s taking it from behind. Tits jiggling with every movement. When she bends a little, they’re tantalisingly close to falling out. Long blonde hair, looks dyed. Blow-job pout lips. Cheeks tinted with blusher. Black high-heels accentuating her calves, skin colour tights. I need to talk to her. After pushing my way through the human blockade on the dancefloor, I slide myself in between her and her friend who’s been trying to hide her engagement ring all night. I place my hand on her back.
“I’ve been watching you from the bar. You’ve got great tits.”
She looks at me, puzzled.
“Have I ever been to Graveditch? No sorry, never heard of it.” She walks off and dances with one of her friends. I follow her. I place my hand on her back again and she wheels around, giving me a blank look. I feel a hand on my shoulder and a bottle of Corona enters my vision, accompanied by a hand. A man’s hand. The girl takes the bottle and kisses the guy on the mouth. Tongues. His hand on my shoulder pushes me away. He looks at me out of the corner of his eye and gives me the middle finger. I feel anger boiling like hot water through my body. Mustn’t get angry though. Not here. I walk away and drift into the crowd.
I’ve been watching him and blonde-big-tits for twenty minutes. He’s an ugly bastard, goblin-like. He’s going outside. Without her. Now’s my chance. I peel away from the pillar I’ve been standing at and follow him, being careful not to get too close. I see him walking towards the right of Circa through the huge window that covers the length of the club. I walk outside and I see him standing by a refuse bin, lighting a cigarette. He’s all alone. All the other smokers have probably gone out the back entrance. Luckily enough, the refuse bin is next to an inset part of the building. He’s a bit shorter than me. I walk past him, head down. He doesn’t notice. Then, I quickly turn around and walk back to him. He’s not facing me. I grab him around the neck, kick his legs from underneath him and choke and drag him into the inset part of the building. I slam him down onto the floor and stamp on his diaphragm four, five times. One of the ribs pops and hisses. Then I kick him in the face till there’s blood pouring out of his mouth. He brings his arms up to shield his face, asking me to ‘stop, stop, please stop.’ I just kick them away and smash another kick into his nose. CRRRACK. More blood gushes down his face. He’s now whimpering like a fucking hungry dog. He’s curled his knees up to his chest. I rain punches down onto the side of his body, boy does it feel good. He’s crying like a little girl. What a poor excuse for a man, disgusting shirt too. The blood makes it look better. He’s had enough. He can’t even speak. Croaks just come out of his mouth. I walk away from him, checking my shirt for blood. None there. He’s done me a favour, won’t have to buy another shirt or throw this one away. Time for a taxi.
Taxi rank wasn’t busy at all. I hopped into a Vauxhall Vectra, a nice spacious car. Also a smooth drive. Sat in the back. Don’t like being in the passenger seat when I don’t know the driver. Why is that inside a taxi, it’s either silent or really loud? This one is silent. He keeps glancing at me in the mirror. He’s got kind eyes. I think he thinks he knows me. Don’t think he’s driven me before. The town whizzes past me in a blur. Nearly home, just passed K & M’s off licence. Not much traffic on the road. The car pulls up outside my house and I put a £10 note through the slit in the protective window. Can’t be bothered with the change. I wait till the taxi pulls off and I fish the keys from the crack next to the drain pipe. House is cold. Need warmth. Bed. I get a pint glass from the kitchen and fill it up with cold water. I make my way upstairs, cleaning my teeth for three minutes precisely. I fold my clothes neatly and place them on the chair in my bedroom. Down the water. Then, I get into bed. Shit, it’s cold. I look at the moonlight sneaking its way through my curtains and think about the night. It’s Saturday tomorrow. I’m going into the office to get some work done. A smile passes my lips and I keep it fixed there until I fall asleep.
Copyright © Rhys Milsom, 2015.
Rhys Milsom lives in Cardiff with his girlfriend and two cats. He grew up in the Rhondda Valley and has a BA in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of Glamorgan (now known as the University of South Wales) and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Wales: Trinity Saint David. He is the editor of www.wicid.tv – a website for young people aged 11-25 in Rhondda Cynon Taff, which showcases creative writing, poetry, photography, films, reviews and events. The website is also specifically designed for young people to make their first steps into the creative industries. His fiction and poetry has been widely published in magazines, anthologies and websites.
Image: Copyright © Constantinos Andronis, 2015.