Mmm, juicy king prawns …
I’d managed to get away with just buying a prawn mayo on wheat germ, despite the Greggs assistant’s relentless pitch for me to add ‘anything else’.
On a bench by the grand, soon-to-be-opened Birmingham Library, a young woman sharing the seat looked along and said:
‘You sure that’s good for you?’
‘Hm,’ I said, pausing to consider the well-worthiness of the sandwich, and glancing between it and the woman. Before I could come up with something more original, she looked me straight in the eyes and said:
‘As long as you’re okay.’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m fine.’
The young woman smiled and turned away. As I homed in on the juicy prawns in the centre, which like the icing on a chocolate cupcake I’d held back for the grand finale, I sensed from her muttering that she might be unwell.
‘Do you know where they come from?’ she then asked.
‘Haven’t the faintest,’ I said, wiping away a run of Marie Rose from my chin and licking my hand. ‘The sea?’
‘Ha ha!’ she said, grinning.
‘Don’t you like prawns?’ I asked.
‘What?’ she said, tensing across to check my question.
‘Not even the giant ones? Mmm, juicy,’ I mused.
The woman shouldered her bag and stood up. As she walked past, throwing me a measured look, she lowered her head and I heard her mutter, ‘Some old bloke on a bench … no, I’ve just left,’ the wire trailing from her left ear, previously unseen like a newscaster’s, the only clue as to what had just happened.
Disjointed conversations were also commonplace in my Bed and Breakfast, visitors rarely getting to hear what I was actually thinking. In this part of my new book, Utterly Undiscovered, my alter ego (My Basil) gets to work as I check with four fat Americans that they’re happy with their rooms:
‘Is everything all right for you?’ I ask.
‘Rooms are a bit small, but they’ll do,’ says the fatter of the two men.
‘I think you’ll find it’s your obesity and the cases.’
‘The tap marked “H”, dickhead.’
‘It may take a minute to come through,’ I say, trying not to give away too much disdain; I’d like to hold some back for later.
Paul Costello © April 2013
Utterly Undiscovered – comic Bed & Breakfast Memoir by Paul Costello.
Illustrated by Emma Hames.
Publication: spring 2013. Fineleaf Editions http://www.fineleaf.co.uk