Stony faced, the pensioner stared straight ahead as he drove his mobility scooter at walking speed in the exact centre of the road. Behind him, the queue of cars was backed right up to the roundabout, clogging up traffic coming from all directions. In front, vehicles were mounting the curb in an attempt to get past in the morning rush hour.
As he trundled past me at the bus stop, he patted his handlebars and said: ‘good morning’. He didn’t take his eyes off the road, he didn’t even smile.
It was like watching a butterfly flutter across a battlefield.
The café owner was chatting to a regular customer who was on a break from promoting his book. The regular asked if he could put a poster in the window. ‘Sure! No problem,’ the owner replied.
The regular produced one of his posters. The book was about Nazism and Hitler’s face loomed large from the A4 sheet. The owner went pale.
‘Look at the condensation in that window,’ he said. ‘We have real trouble with that. Could you could get it laminated and bring it back?’
I looked at the other posters in the window. None of them were laminated.
A conversation between my polite friend and a drunk. My friend mentioned he was a writer.
‘What do you write then?’
‘But non-fiction is still fiction.’
’Not really. It’s kind of the exact opposite.’
‘It’s still fictitious though, right?’
‘No, the clue’s in the title. Non-fiction covers a vast array of genres and the only thing that links them is the fact that they are not fictitious. Non-fiction is defined by the absolute, categorical certainty that the one thing it isn’t, is fiction.’
‘So, it’s like a latin thing then, yeah? What’s your novel about?’
I was buying a broadband USB stick. The young female assistant talked me through the package – she seemed relaxed and approachable.
‘I’ll remove the filter controls,’ she said.
‘Some sites have restricted content.’
‘You mean pornography?’
I almost said: ‘are you calling me a wanker?’ but I instantly realised I’d misjudged the situation. I wasn’t joking with a friend; it was this girl’s job to be relaxed and approachable, part of her sales patter. I’d breeched the customer/supplier relationship.
There was an awkward silence and both of us blushed. Pornography hung in the air like a fat owl.