The woman was pissed off. She wanted the truck to park outside her shop. She had a hairy chin and two daughters that looked like cats. I told her the driver wouldn’t allow it, her shop was too small and she didn’t order enough anyway. She said her order shouldn’t matter, she wanted to be treated the same as the supermarket up the road. Just because she wasn’t spending millions didn’t mean she…so I took her order, said I’d see what I can do. Asked the driver if we could pull the truck down. Explained the situation. He went for diplomatic with: ‘Tell her to go fuck herself.’
I went back. Carrying her order in my right hand. Six yoghurts and a small chicken. The yoghurts were for the shop. The chicken was for her and the feline’s dinner. Walked back in. Smell of stale sweets and cardboard stuff in a fridge that doesn’t work. She looked at me expectantly, then stared out the window. ‘Where’s the truck?’ She asked.
‘He said the traffic was too bad to turn it around.’
‘He did not. You’re lying. You’re all the same oul latchicko’s…’
‘Sorry about this, it’s just so busy.’
‘Stock them yoghurt for me, please. And gimme the chicken here.’
The daughters were sitting on makeshift stools made from cardboard boxes. They rocked back and over slowly, playing with their hair, stonewashed jeans and anoraks for the cold. They had the kinda teeth that overlap and twist around each other. I stocked the yoghurts and brought the invoice to the counter. (€6.47) The old woman scanned it, prayed for an error, didn’t find any, then pulled an old USA biscuit tin from beneath the counter and counted out the money. When she was finished, she thumped it to some yellowing newspaper.
‘There.’ She said. ‘Will that do?’
‘There was a time here when they were begging me for business. All they care about now is them other crowd up the road…’
We were somewhere in the far west. Irish speaking country. Sheep on the road. Big hills and dangerous bends around stony mountains. The truck roared, like a motorised horse in pain. The gears struggled to keep up. The driver was chewing on a ham sandwich. White bread. I said: ‘What’ll we do if we see a sheep on the road?’
‘Fuck that, run the bastard over.’
‘Yeah sure, we haven’t time, the day’ll be gone, leave him there with his guts out…especially this time of year, the Irish Schools are startin back here and them kids are fuckin mad for Ice Cream…what time did we leave this mornin?
‘See? And it’s eight now and we’ve only two shops done, and that daft bitch wants us to pull up outside her place, and then pull up again down the road, and twenty yards to the next shop again. Stop the truck, start the truck, open the door, close the door, for what? Six yoghurts and a small fuckin chicken?!
Beat. Then he asked: ‘What’s the tallest woman you’ve ever seen?
‘Yeah, like how tall was she?’
‘Jez, I don’t know.’
‘Wait til you see this one comin?’
‘How do you mean?’
‘She’s like a telephone pole.’
‘Not back here. Sure how could the Guinness book of records find anyone back here? Wait til you see now, it’ll blow your head. First time I seen her, nearly cracked my neck tryin to look up. It’s like trying to talk to a skyscraper… here tis now…this place comin up…’
It was a desolate shop on a remote corner with nothing around for miles. Gravity was doing it’s best to knock it over but it was somehow clinging to the hill at an angle. The truck went quiet as he killed the engine. I hopped out. No birds singing. ‘Go in and get her order.’ He said. ‘I’ll open up the fridge…’
I walked in. A fan whirring overhead. Stacks of salt and teabags and crusty penny sweets on the counter. A fiddle playing on the radio. A calendar with a picture of Pope John Paul. It was one of these places that was a house too. Like they’d converted their sitting room into a shop. After a few seconds, I could footsteps but couldn’t see anyone. Then a voice from beneath the counter asked: ‘How’re ye fixed for Choc Ices?’
When we were pulling away, the driver was laughing as he asked me. ‘Did you see her?!’
‘The dwarf? Yeah, the eight footer? No.’
‘Fucked up, isn’t it? How do they end up like that I wonder?’
‘So there was never any eight footer?’
‘Was there Fuck!Christ, things are bad enough…’
‘Where we goin next?’
‘Oh wait til you fuckin see….do you want a ham sandwich?’
‘Fuck it, we shoulda got two Choc Ices for ourselves…great day for it…..’