The next morning I’m woken up by Danny peeling back one of the filthy sheets that covers the dust-encrusted window. I’ve got the usual headache which is pretty much my normal state of mind these days, only with the added plus of a throat so dry it feels like I’ve swallowed a packet of iron filings.
Good morning! goes this deep voice right by my ear.
I let out a desperate screech and bury my head in the reeking cesspit mattress.
Rise and shine sleepy head! goes Danny with a big smile, standing over me.
He’s obviously just got back from the gym, and is wearing jogging bottoms and a tank top that’s practically sprayed on, emphasising muscle groups that’d make a vicar blush. Despite this I’m not even a flicker of interested. It’s amazing what one lousy blow job can achieve.
I’m like, You do know I’m allergic to mornings?
Danny’s like, It ain’t morning darling. It’s two o clock in the afternoon. You’ve sure been out of it.
I look over at my phone, which has one bar of battery left, two missed calls and a voice message. The clock confirms that it’s two, and I remember with a spasm of joy that I’ve got a shift starting in a couple of hours at the Old Vic.
Danny’s like, Coffee perhaps?
I’m like, By injection.
He like, bustles off to make some, whistling away and looking like he just got back from a luxury spa rather than whatever regime he punishes himself with to get those walnut crackers. I pick up my phone to listen to the voicemail. It’s from Barbie of all people, and for once instead of sounding her usual overwhelmed-with-pleasure-at-simply-being-alive self she actually sounds kind of serious. And by kind of serious I mean seriously pissed off.
Hello Jarold, she goes, using my full awful name to accentuate the offensive, I’m calling because I want you to know how extremely disappointed your father and I are. Bob met you as a special favour to me and I think the least you could have done was be presentable...
She ad nauseates about what an important man Bob is and how he’s extremely busy and I was incredibly lucky he even saw me at all. She’s obviously loving the sound of her own lecture since she misses the voice telling her there’s no time left and is cut off midway through some never-ending sentence about some people not knowing where to draw the line, which is pretty funny. But obviously she’s also right, and the fact that I’m probably destined to end up acting in the upstairs rooms of obscure pubs and maybe infomercials if I’m lucky is the last thing I feel like facing up to right now. I delete the message, wishing I could delete the memory of the whole adventure as well.
Here you are darling, says Danny, hanging me a grimy Power Rangers mug with a big brown-stained chip in it. I turn the chipped part away from me and take a sip, How about I make us something for breakfast?
The thought of consuming anything else from that kitchen is pretty fucking revolting, but I nod like I’m a guest being really given the works.
I’m like, Cheers. Dunno how I’m gonna get through my shift tonight.
Danny cocks his head to one side.
Reckon I can maybe help you out with that, he goes, producing a little vial of pills from his jogging bottoms and shaking them at me with a naughty smirk.
I get to work feeling great. Whatever it is Danny takes for the gym has not only cancelled out my fallout but seems to have given me the sort of energy boost you definitely can’t get from Red Bull. I’m ready to fly, fight crime and take on an entire army of evil Barbie-bots if I have to.
Twiggy looks at her watch when I come in, but I’m basically dead on time so she can’t say anything apart from an uber-bitchy, Nice to see you before your shift finishes.
I’m like, Hello Twiggy! giving her a big smile like she’s my favourite person in the whole wide world and then humming Whistle While You Work to myself as I take a seat opposite her. I get a couple of grins from my deadbeat fellow ushers, about as close to liking me as they’re ever going to come.
Twiggy gets her own back by putting me on sodding confectionary duty in the interval for like, the fourth time running, and by making me watch the first half in the Baylis circle, which I hate because I’ve never been crazy about heights, and the Baylis is a total head fuck for vertigo freaks. But I suck it up like it’s exactly what I was hoping for, since I’m not about to give that old collection of toothpicks the satisfaction of asking to be swapped around so she can go and say no.
Unfortunately even Danny’s super speed is no match for the awesome tedium that sets in while watching Waiting for Godot for the trillionth time, which is something I reckon I could definitely sell to the government as a guaranteed strategy to crack terrorists. I make it to the interval practically ready to blind myself if only it means I never have to watch two tramps converse ever again, then trudge downstairs to collect my tray of shame before trudging back up. But before I can even get back into the auditorium, I’m accosted by these two old woman at the top the staircase.
How much are they? demands the first one, peering at the tubs and looking worried, like maybe they’ll come alive and leap at her if she doesn’t get them first.
I’m like, Three pounds.
The woman lets out a little squeak of horror like I’ve just told her it’ll cost her liver and turns to the other woman, who gives me a calculating look and points towards the vanilla.
Two, she says.
I lift out two and then hold out my hand, and she plants three pounds in it with a cunning look. It’s like, What the fuck?
I’m like, It’s three pounds each.
You said three pounds, goes the old biddy, You didn’t say each!
She smiles triumphantly like she’s just made some amazing point. I give her a look like she can go ahead and die of old age right here on the spot and nothing would please me more.
I’m like, Each.
She’s like, Too late now. And wipe that look of your face, it’s young man, very rude!
She makes as if to sweep back down the steps with her friend, but I’m not about to let this slide, as I’m the one who’ll end up paying for this bitch’s extra tubs if she doesn’t cough up. I step between her and the stairs, using the ice cream shelf to gently buttress her away.
I’m like, How about you put back the stolen merchandise before I make a citizen’s arrest, OK?
The woman lets out a totally disproportionate scream as if I’d just threatened to disembowel her and backs away, still clutching the tubs, her face this ridiculous mask of terror. I advance slowly, giving her ample opportunity to drop the goods.
What’s going on? demands Twiggy, materialising from the small crowd that have gathered around us and planting herself between me and the biddy. The Criminal Mastermind before me doesn’t hesitate.
She’s like, He just threatened me! And he hit me with his tray too!
Twiggy gasps and turns to me.
I’m like, I totally did not. She stole ice cream.
The Wily Bandit draws herself up.
She’s like, Are you going to believe that boy over me?! Over a couple of tubs of ice cream?!
Twiggy looks confused for a moment, loyalty towards the company product obviously at loggerheads with the desire to see me go down.
Seeing her wavering, The Aged Crook appeals to her fellow biddy, Are you going to just stand there and let them accuse me like this?!
The friend looks between her and then me like she doesn’t know which side to choose, Good or Evil, then makes up her mind and puts her hand on the arm of The Pirate.
She’s like, Theodora’s right! That boy’s a disgrace to your theatre!
Twiggy instantly starts apologising for my existence, acting all sympathetic and nodding like she’s taking it really seriously as this old hag starts clutching her chest and going on about how she’s probably traumatised by the whole thing and will surely need therapy and maybe a pacemaker. Of course it doesn’t occur to the stupid Twiglet that she could verify my side of the story simply by counting the money in my pot, something I point out to her only for her to tell me in an icy voice to wait in the staff room. I’m being ogled by the entire audience of the Baylis circle now, who’re probably getting more enjoyment out of this live drama than they are out of bloody Becket, that’s for sure. Probably I should charge for it, but people are all shaking their heads at me like I’m some sort of serial menace to old age pensioners so I’m like, Whatever, and start to head off. Behind me I hear Twiggy assuring the Dastardly Duo that she’ll be taking appropriate action and that they can be sure nothing like it will ever happen again.
I hit the staff room where the others, those who aren’t being made to watch the second act of Waiting Forever, are all chilling out. They all fall silent when I arrive, news of the scene having travelled faster than my feet could carry me. I hold my head high, like I’m too good for this place anyway, which is true of like, anyone really.
Twiggy is right behind me, and any hope she’ll have actually bothered to work out what really happened fades as soon as I see her bitter old face, which is lit up with pleasure. In a split second I know what’s coming.
Jaz, declares Twiggy, not even bothering to disguise how much she’s enjoying this, I regret to inform you that as of this moment you are no longer employed this company. Please turn in your uniform and leave the premises immediately.
It’s pretty bleak. I lift off the ice cream shelf and gently put it down on the bar. Then I take go to my locker, grab my stuff and change out of my tee. The whole while everybody watches in silence, as if I’m an accused man going to the gallows, and Twiggy folds her arms like she’s some sort of dictator who won’t be going back on her decision. It’s like, Who even gives a fuck? It’s an ushering job, man. But the weird truth is I do, since it’s yet another example of something I’ve failed at, and probably means the only thing left I’m good for is cleaning toilets.
As I pass her by Twiggy opens her mouth.
And I just want to say – she goes, but is stopped because I toss the company tee at her, getting it neatly right over her face. There are chuckles from those behind me, and I turn around at the stairs for a quick bow. Seems like the only fitting way to leave.
By the time I get back to Danny’s dump in deepest darkest Peckham, I’m thoroughly depressed. I let myself in and basically collapse face first on the hideous mattress, not even caring anymore if I’m ingesting lice. I hear Danny walk in behind me.
Hey bro, he goes, What’s up?
I tell him about my newly acquired joblessness, and somehow this turns into telling him about my messy night with Eli’s parents, followed by my one night stand from Weirdsville, followed by my audition from hell for Bob Hope, followed by my nightmare lunch with Dad and Barbie. Danny listens in silence, nodding every now and then, like a shrink or something. I’m almost in tears by the time I’m done, and he gives my shoulder a squeeze but doesn’t say anything, and it’s like this is the nicest thing he could have done, because it’s like the reason he’s not saying anything is because he gets it, and because there’s nothing to say.
Finally I’m like, So where’s the nearest window?
Danny grins and pulls my up to my feet.
He’s like, Tell you what. How’d you like to help me shift some product?