Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Remains of Ribena

"They just decided they didn’t want them and dumped them there.” the mid-forties checkout-girl who must have been called Sue replied to the Security Guard in a voice so exasperated it made me want to take out a notebook and rewrite the definition of the word exasperated. The subject of this lady’s distress? Three big bottles of Ribena sitting just in front of the conveyer belt of her checkout.

The bizarre parallel universe that is the Sommerfield Convenience store near my flat continues.

The security guard who was quite rightly named Steve, himself unbelieving of the scene of, I repeat three bottles of Ribeena cordial sitting on the end of a shop check-out slowly shook his head. “I don‘t understand why someone would do that.” he solemly enparted as if he was looking at the body of a kitten that had been set alight by teenangers.

There then followed a long pause. Steve and Sue stared at the bottles unsure what their next move should be. They hadn’t signed up for this, this is not why they had joined the Sommerfield family. And because they never envisaged something like this would happen, they were ill-prepared to handle it when it did.

Finally Steve decided the only thing he could do was to take action. “I’ll take them back and put them on the shelf.” he said.

Sue shook her head once more, “You shouldn’t have to.” Her eyes rose up from the bottles and met Steve’s. Before Steve was just someone who threw out drunks or chased people that stole cheese. Now he was a more than that, he was a man that dealt with the horror of Ribena abandoning, and that made Steve a man Sue respected.

“When you’ve put them back Steve”, she whispered, provocatively playing with her dusty sticky hair, "...maybe we could get married, start a family. We could be happy, you and me Steve. Happy like other people are.”

Steve reached out his arms slowly but confidently and picked up two of the Ribena bastards. He winked at Sue and off he went to find the bottles home.

But because this was Sommerfield, Steve never could find where the Ribena belonged. Noone can ever find anything in a shop so randomly organised as to put yoghurts next to James Blunt Cds. Because of his dedication to Sue, he never stopped looking. His unwavering resolve to finish his mission of returning those boys home, ended in the only way it could.

Steve’s body was found in the Socks, Cat Food and fruits of a light green colour isle with a jar of Colmon’s mustard lying beside him. Steve had finally succumbed to starvation on day forty-two of his mission. How he had starved in a food-store noone knows, especially me who hadn’t thought of that till now, but fuck it. With his last lonely breaths, he had pushed his finger into the mustard and smeared the simple, although not quite simple enough to be believable “I’ll take your love with me Sue” in the peppy yellow sauce on the cold blue floor.

Sue continues to work hard, serving the people of Bristol with kind words and a cheery smile. But the bottle Steve never picked up still stands at the end of her checkout and when she catches sight of it as she swipes yet another tin of karma-sutra spaghetti shapes over the bar-code reader, a lonely tear falls onto the conveyer belt; and it sparkles in the artificial light until it disappears at the end of the line.

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