Wednesday, 17 July 2013
It’s a capacious black bag with three compartments. It is stuffed with books, board pens, post-its, typewriters, wax tablets, mummies and dust. There's evidence of a breeding population of Bic biros down there, but only ultrasound will prove that. I scrabble about searching the blackness for a small navy-blue wallet. No ticket. I’m getting angry now and sweating like a horse. It’s not here. Swining bloody rotten fuck. Fortunately my debit card is there, and I just have to shell out £19.00 on a day return.
I decide on the train home that I must have put the ticket on the kitchen counter when I emptied my pockets on Friday evening prior to shoving my clothes into the washing machine. These days I check my pockets carefully, having washed several season tickets over the last five years. (They stand up to this treatment remarkably well, but obviously get too soggy to go through a ticket barrier.) It’ll be sitting there when I get home, no sweat. However, the ticket is not on the kitchen counter, or the mantelpiece, or the living room windowsill, in the knife drawer, behind the CD player or under any of the many cushions. It's not under the microwave, under the sink or in the CD tower. Shitty rotten damn. I’m getting rattier and sweatier as I fail to turn it up. It is not on the bloody bookshelves or in the fucking fridge.
Did I leave it at the check-out of Tesco or Marks and Sparks, or Adnam’s wine shop on Friday on my way home? I call Adnam’s and end up talking to a machine. I call Tesco and end up talking to some bloody uncomprehending half-wit in some central office miles from Stamford. He says he’ll put me through to somebody or other, and then the line goes dead. I don’t call Marks, because the computer freezes and I can’t find the website to get a number. Every fucking bloody thing is fucking bloody rotten useless when you bloody bloody want to get something bloody well flaming done. I’m livid. The moronic, hysterical whooping of pigeons, that curse of the high summer, is now like the Chinese fucking water-torture and I could cheerfully wring their necks.
Did I put the ticket along with my plastic into my carrier bag at Marks, or Tesco, or Adnam’s? I do, sometimes, if I’m too laden to open the black bag. And Jesus fucking wept, did I throw the damn thing out with the carrier bags I stuffed with rubbish on Saturday morning? I put a pair of food bags over my hands and go outside and down to the big communal bins. It’s 32 degrees C, and throwing back a bin lid, I release a cloud of flies and a hot blast of putrefaction. It appears somebody has thrown away a Chinese take-out, as the oozing, soggy bin bags are covered in rice. I look closer and see that the rice is retreating from the sunlight - I've disturbed a maggot rave. I start rootling through the putrefying mess, while mentally conducting a telephone row with an obtuse fucking bimbo at Crosscountry trains.
‘No, I haven’t kept the receipt. But I have the debit card number and the bank transaction code.’
‘We ainley accept receipts?’
‘Why in bollocking hell can’t you accept the transaction code, you silly bitch?’
‘Bear with me?....’
I rip open old M&S ‘bags for life’ and rifle through green bread, blown fish skins and suppurating chicken bones. Get on with it, woman.
You have to gay to the station where you bought it? And fill in a form?’
‘And how bloody long’s that going to take?’
‘Bear with me…’
Next door’s chucked out a pizza which now looks like a septic scab that dropped off a rhino. You silly cow, don’t keep me stuck here much longer.
‘I’m afraid I dayn’t neigh.’
Useless bloody rotten arses. I mentally hang up, give up, and go inside. I’m drenched in sweat and feel soiled in body and spirit, as if I’d been exhuming the week-old corpse of a murder victim. I want to move house.
I decide to look in the swing bin in the kitchen. In it, there’s a plastic carrier. It’s full of old receipts, and there among them is the little wallet with my season ticket, clean, dry, unharmed.
After peeling off my sodden clothes and a shower, I reflect that the swing bin should have been the first place I looked. I should have started with the simplest, most accessible, most obvious place. I realise that I unfailingly go for the worst-case scenario in any situation.
‘You’ve got a fan,’ a colleague told me this morning.
It’s one of the new teachers, hired for the frantic summer courses, and to whom I’ve been assigned as a ‘buddy’.
‘Oh, she thinks you’re great - you’re always so calm and relaxed, and really helpful and reassuring.’
I saw myself on Monday evening, Mr Calm-and-Relaxed, the Helpful, the Reassuring, dripping in sweat, furiously riving stinking, maggot-blown bin-bags apart, effing, blinding and fantasising the slaughter of pigeons and innocent call-centre kids.
I wonder if those people who crack up and go on shooting sprees are like me? They’re usually polite loners who shock everybody: ‘he seemed so normal!’ I just had a look at the mugshot on my rescued season ticket, though, and I reckon the reaction wouldn’t be ‘he seemed so normal’ from anyone who saw it, but more on the lines of: ‘God, he looks a cold-hearted bugger, doesn’t he? It’s just what you’d expect’.