Jeff’s patio.

Jeff rolled lethargically into a patch of sun. The trouble with the Sun was that it moved. If it could just stay where it was at about 1pm for eternity, life would be so much more satisfying than it currently was. That’s not to say that life was bad, it’s just that a cat is never truly happy and with an owner like Susan, you never know how long it’s likely to last.
The heat made him sleepy, covering him like a blanket, relaxing his muscles inviting a sweet paralysis to consume him. This was better than food, better than sex, better than taking a shit in next door’s flowerbed or leaving a dead sparrow in unreachable parts of the house.
The purrs rumbled out of him like the ominous sound of an approaching motorbike gang. He loved it like an estate agent loves himself; this small patch of sun drenched patio. His Babylon, his Eden, his Toys’R’Us, his paradise.

A sudden eclipse brought the solar bath to a halt. The sudden intrusion of shade sent a chill running from his ears to his tail, intensified as he slowly opened his eyes to be greeted by the toothy grin of a beaming Susan.
“AWWWWWWWW” she roared, forcing Jeff’s eyes to widen as he adjusted to the wall of noise coming out of Susan’s mug. She stretched out a hand and ran it roughshod over his belly. This was too much. You don’t touch any cat’s undercarriage. Moments ago he was in a near zen like state and now all sorts of unpleasant shit was occurring. He sprang up and trotted away to compose himself. He completed his stretches and glared at Susan.

“You’re a bloody twat Susan Jones” is what he would have said if he could say anything. His anger was evident from the rigidity of his body, the volume of his tail fur and the death stare fixed at Susan’s rotund face. Humans were only supposed to have one chin yet Susan, in her greed, seemed to be hoarding them, stacking them one on top of the other in a seemingly endless quest to rid herself of a neck.
Violent thoughts teared through his mind, visions of clawing and biting and gnawing until it began to ebb away and subside. He calmed himself and realised she wasn’t worth the stress. The sun wasn’t going anywhere and with Susan’s increased calorie intake, she’d be dead within the year. Besides, he could get back at her in so many different and subversive ways that wouldn’t compromise his living situation. He could piss on her pillow, he could refuse to eat the food she buys, he could encourage other cats in the area to fight and make weird meowing noises outside her front door late at night. She’d have to get up to shoo them away only for them to return for round five twenty minutes later. He could root through the bins for no reason or chew plastic bags during Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. He could chew so loudly it would drown out the dribbling, moronic audience screaming with pleasure at the concept of product placement as a competition.

As Susan clambered into a hammock like a hippo trying to climb a boggy river embankment, still chuckling to herself, Jeff strutted off. His revenge was already planned. If he couldn’t enjoy the sun outside, he’d enjoy it inside.

Those curtains would look so much better shredded on the floor.

Susan in Primark.

Susan was out and about shopping. On the way out of the door this morning, she told  Jeff she was just popping out for a few bits and she’d be back later. She said it as if it meant anything to him but Jeff just yawned and immediately began to enjoy his life a little more. Any time away from that sack of shit was time well spent. He felt invigorated and decided to head next door to start a fight with the neighbour’s cat.
“What a time to be alive” he thought.

Susan was clothes shopping, rooting through sweatshop sweaters and unfathomably thin t-shirts. She was full zombie, wandering about from rail to rail, mouth wide open, pawing at clothes and shoes just to see what they felt like. On occasion, she’d pick an item and hold it up to analyse it. She’d feel it, sometimes chew it, screw her nose up and then chuck it on the floor just to add to the health and safety nightmare that is Primark.
She particularly enjoyed their range of t-shirts with the names of European cities printed on them. She thought that, by wearing an item of clothing declaring “Stockholm”, it made her seem as if she’d “found herself” travelling rather than being the drone totally enslaved by trends that she actually was. She’d never been to Sweden.
She had a whole wardrobe full of clothes emblazoned with various brand logos that’d make an ad exec rub his hands and cream his pants with glee. From Disney to Pepsi; Bob Marley to Harry Potter her clothing represented the best and worst of Western society and she had no idea. She just thought it looked nice.

She found herself in the shoe section, though so totally absorbed by the colourful lights and tactile objects she couldn’t remember how she got there. It was like being trapped in baby book designed to help a child develop their senses.
The shelves were empty, the shoes were everywhere and there were women on all fours hurling footwear over their shoulders trying to match a pair.
In a physical display of irony, Susan tripped on a pair of boots and fell over, a small girl sat on a stool confused because she had one Croc on coupled with a giant stiletto and the customer advisor was curled up, crying in the corner because she’d literally just tided the whole place. She went to work everyday knowing she’d be fighting a losing battle.
Susan picked herself up and moved on. She needed some underwear and, given that one breast was significantly lower than the other (like the scales of justice tipped in favour of injustice) she found that the wire work of a nine year old slave was just what she needed in order to support her jaunty chest.
She picked up a few more items and headed to the checkout. When she got there, she joined the worlds longest queuing system that, in itself seemed to be a shrunken version of Woolworths, laden with products to suit any impulse. Perhaps you want some sweets with your clothes, and an umbrella, and a bucket and spade, and a lip balm, and a plastic lazer gun, and a pair of microwaveable socks and maybe, you want a piece of wood that says “home” on it just to remind you where you are overtime you manage to make it back there.
Whilst she made her way down the line to the sound of “CASHIER NUMBER THREE PLEASE” she pulled out her phone and began catching Pokemon like everyone else. She had thus far been frustrated in her efforts to catch them all. She thought that you caught real life animals that corresponded to their avatars in-game so she spent an evening throwing her phone at Jeff’s feet hoping that it’d light up and he’d be trapped in there for a bit. A thought so mental, even Jeff understood, as he eventually walked off, bemused by the whole affair.
As she got to the till she failed to make eye contact and accept the greeting of the persons serving her. She was enraptured by her phone and this display of blatant rudery did not go unnoticed. She said nothing throughout the entire process and walked out with her bag to the sound of a pissed off cashier sarcastically shouting “YEAH THANKS”.

She got home and none of it fit her properly so she dumped it on the floor, and got herself off to the sight of Alex Zane presenting Rude Tube like it wasn’t a cheapskate, rip-off of You’ve Been Framed.

Making friends. Part 1.

Jeff sat on the arm of the sofa and glared at the new friend Susan had acquired. She was a worryingly frail, goblin like creature with disproportionately long arms that unnerved him. She wore glasses and an expression of unwavering enthusiasm. She went to scratch his head but he recoiled and frowned. He was unimpressed. She had boney little fingers and he’d really rather not be fondled by them. He’d eaten a Twiglet once and the unpleasantness of the experience never left him, so rather than bite marmite flavoured digits he opted to move away and scratch his post.
Jeff was only vaguely aware of the concept of evolution (he’d seen Richard Dawkins on TV arguing with a Vicar like he does), he understood it in as much as there was a food chain of which he was head. He’d use his raw power and intuitive hunting techniques to slay creatures smaller than him and his raw sexual power to extort food out of larger creatures, such as Susan. He pondered that, in the case of this woman, an allegedly superior being, why didn’t all of it’s teeth fit inside it’s mouth? She didn’t appear to be an elephant or a wild boar and yet she had a whole row of tusks protruding from her bottom jaw. Regrettably, that also meant that a lot of saliva would collect on her bottom lip and hang there, just threatening to release itself and drench whatever was beneath it. Potentially him if she got a hold of him.

“That’s it” said the friend in agreement to some bullshit that Susan was banging on about. Something to do with having a bizarre fantasy in which Keith Chegwin takes her on a weekend break to Centre Parcs. They’d stay in a villa and lounge on the sofas listening to 80’s pop and marvelling at how close the squirrels get to the patio doors whilst suppressing the knowledge that the squirrels go there for food not companionship.

He decided he’d had enough of looking at this monumental meeting of minds and retired to the kitchen to only eat the brown variety of a bowl full of multicoloured biscuits.

“That’s it” he heard again, this time in agreement with some rubbish about ghosts. He could hear Susan mumbling away about a haunting she’d experienced, the story seemed to be going down an absolute storm as all Jeff could hear was “that’s it” said repeatedly and excitedly in reply. This was enough to pique Jeff’s curiosity. Can’t she say anything else? Just what is it that “that” is? He returned to the doorway of the living room and peered in, after about thirty seconds and hearing the phrase “that’s it” eleven times, he realised it was just a reflex. She didn’t care what Susan was saying, she was just ecstatic that whatever it was, it was being said to her. It was almost as if “that’s it” was encouragement, this woman actually wanted to Susan to talk.
The realisation was enough to baffle the fuck out of Jeff and he went back into the kitchen to mull it over.

Susan first met Julie in a charity shop. Neither of them had gone in to buy anything, it was just pissing it down with rain and neither of them wanted to get wet. As they both made it inside, Julie said “that’s it” and Susan nodded and tutted as if to say “bloody weather”. She contemplated shaking her fist at the sky until she realised it wasn’t 1804 and such a gesture could me misconstrued as an act of aggression.
Susan immediately noticed just how difficult Julie was to look at. She was like a Magic Eye picture, she almost felt as if she should squint in the hope that a normal face might suddenly appear through the Dodge RAM of a grill she had going on. They stood for a while in politely awkward, quintessentially British silence whilst Susan repeatedly reminded herself not to stare. It slowly became clear that one of them would have to speak lest they stand in the doorway of a charity shop for the rest of their lives.

“That’s it” Julie said

“That’s what?” enquired Susan, smiling as politely as she could

“Rain” said Julie

“Yes. It is. They did say it would rain” replied Susan, using ‘They’ to describe the seemingly anonymous group of people that make weather predictions

“They did. They said we’d see some hail at some point” said Julie, immediately understanding ‘They’ and their role in weather prophecy. In their world, ‘They’ is any large group of people, the name and function of which they cannot be bothered to learn/remember.

At that moment, it began to hail.

“That’s it” said Julie

“Still, it’s always good to have a bit of rain. If you don’t have rain, you don’t get the grain” continued Susan, not a having a fucking clue what she was talking about.

“True” said Julie

It was narrow in the doorway and, as it wasn’t Susan’s shop, there was a constant stream of customers ready and willing to rummage through mothballed clothes and old books that smelled like dust. A man with a swollen neck entered and there was an awkward shuffling as the sheltering women rearranged themselves, their bags and their umbrellas. He politely excused himself and made his way to the counter.

“That’s it” said Julie as if to signal that the rearrangement had successfully come to a close and that both her and Susan were happy with their new positions.
They resumed their silence.
“He’s got a big neck” she noticed loudly “could be a goitre”
Susan nodded politely, worried that the man heard and saw her nodding at the suggestion, she looked over at Julie but as she was staring out of the window, she was unsure whether the comment was for her benefit or not so she just said “yeah”.

The back and forth of stunted politeness continued until they eventually ended up in Susan’s living room. Susan couldn’t ever recall actually inviting Julie back to her house but there she was, sat on her sofa, dribbling like a child with learning difficulties. She offered to make them both another cup of tea, something which Susan readily accepted.

Jeff sat on the sideboard and watched like a scientist studying a lab animal. Julie had, of her own volition, decided to make a cup of tea. In someone else’s house. Susan didn’t tend to have that many guests, she’d get a weekly visit from a medium but that woman always drank some kind of homemade brew out of a floral thermos and would always decline a cup. Jeff was aware of the social convention with regards to tea making but, on second thoughts, it didn’t really surprise him that much to see Susan content to sit on her arse whilst someone else did the work for her.
He was intrigued by Julie’s technique. She seemed to find it necessary to narrate every step in the tea making process, signalling the end of each process with “that’s it”.

“Yep, just get the cups out, that’s it, put them down there. Got to get the milk, pour it in there, yeah, that’s it. The kettle’s boiling, DON’T PUT YOUR FACE OVER THE STEAM JULES, that’s it, wait for it to click”

The kettle clicked.

“That’s it, pour it in the mugs, give it a stir, THREE DINGS ON THE SIDE OF THE MUG JULES, ding, ding, ding, that’s it, DON’T FORGET TO TAKE THE TEA BAG OUT, that’s it, remember what happened the first time? Thought it was a little meal but it wasn’t, no. Take the cups into the living room that’s it”

Julie returned bearing two freshly made cups of tea, she gave one to Susan “that’s it” and sat down with one herself “that’s it”. They sat in silence for a moment whilst Julie tentatively sipped away at her boiling mug of tea. It didn’t occur to her to wait until the liquid had cooled slightly, no, she’d much rather get her massive gums around it whilst it was still molten regardless of whether the slurping was rude or not.

Jeff sat in the doorway observing, waiting for the conversation to resume, intrigued as to how it was going to play out.

Spring Susan.

Spring in the garden was always an exciting time for Jeff. It was difficult to tell just by looking at his face because, as with most cats, his face was perpetually tuned to vicious contempt. Living with Susan had made him a cynic but when the sun shone on dry grass, he could feel joy.
There was nothing he liked better than dancing from one patch of sun to another, punching bees out of the air and attacking blades of grass that had the temerity to wave at him in the breeze. He would sit, studiously observing the transit of a troubled snail, wondering what the creature was, why it seemed so helpless and why it reminded him so much of Susan. Why was it so slow? Why did it appear to lack direction? All questions he would happily pose of Susan if he were able to meow coherently enough. Jeff locked eyes with the snail and they shared a moment of understanding, he took pity on it and lightly tapped it’s shell as if to say “keep going son, you’ll finish your flower pot pilgrimage one day”.

As the weather was on the mend, with less rain and more heat, he joyfully returned to his favourite outdoor activities, namely sitting on the wall and tormenting the old man across the street. He knew perfectly well the codger didn’t like seeing him strutting up and down on his property but he was in a wheelchair so there was fuck all he could do about it. Jeff would just gaze in through his window, nonfucked, occasionally digging up his plants to hide a shit before hopping off to challenge some ridiculously large seagulls recently returned from their winter holidays.

For Susan, seeing the first day of spring reminder on Facebook meant that she felt justified in immediately cracking out the factor 50 and flip flops. After all, it might still be only be 7 °C at midday but if it says it on Facebook, it must be true. In fact, at the first glimpse of the naked sun, she’d squeezed into a pair of hot pants and summer shimmied her way down to work in amongst hatted and scarfed people wondering if she’d lost her fucking mind. It didn’t matter that she could see her breath condensing in the air before her with goose bumps so large, her thighs resembled bubble wrap, it just didn’t matter, the sun was out, therefore summer had arrived.
When she arrived at the shop, she booted up her laptop and began working on invitations to the “first BBQ of the year” party. It was incredibly important to her that she was the first person within a six mile radius to have a BBQ (and the first person to drone on about it constantly) because she valued the pointless shit in her life more than anything else, like, for example, her stationery shop which hadn’t been in the black since the hole punch was invented.
A lot of people who passed by the shop and saw the poster up saying “first BBQ of the year” would question amongst themselves why you’d even contemplate having a BBQ in March unless you lived Down Under, which none of them did. They could tell that a March Barbecue would end up being less “Barbecue” more “come eat burnt burgers inside my house-ecue” and so dismissed the idea entirely before heading into Iceland to stock up on disposable grills, compounding their hypocrisy further by buying hot dog rolls as a “taste of things to come” purchase.

She spent the rest of her day getting to grips with Mobile Strike. She considered herself a Candy Crush girl (and everyone else given the mountain of invitations she sent out) but there was something about Arnold Schwarzenegger poking a large red button containing the word “strike” that she just could get out of her mind. She found it as fascinating as she did arousing and so wound down the day annihilating villages full of civilians with cruise missiles.

Then she bought a lava lamp on eBay because she forgot it wasn’t 1998.

When fools meet: Susan and the customer.

A customer had found it’s way into Susan’s shop. A rare occurrence for her. She did nothing to welcome it in, she just let it roam about whilst she tapped away rapidly on her smartphone. She liked to blame her lack of profit on the global downturn; “a nice excuse” thought all of her neighbours and fellow business owners. They agreed, as they smoked, that in order to absolve Susan of blame for her failure, the global downturn would have to have been so bad so as to reduce the free market to a system of bartering for objects. As she usually whiled away the days “at work” downloading apps onto her smartphone, smashing digital sweets and inadvertently allowing third parties access to all of her private information so they can tailor adverts for novelty cushion covers and plaster her Facebook page with clickbait for weight loss regimes, she literally had no idea there was another person in her shop.

The customer continued to browse, it wasn’t looking for anything in particular, much like Susan, it had a vague idea of what it wanted but it wasn’t able to adequately describe it to another living being either because it was too much hassle or because it just didn’t know and so found itself wandering about aimlessly always missing out, getting frustrated and blaming others for it’s problems. The customer, dressed entirely in beige and looking so boring that to look it in the face would cause stomach cramps, ambled up to Susan’s counter and said “excuse me”.

Susan shit herself, she was so shocked she nearly fell off her stool. Somebody was shopping. Shopping in her shop. The last time someone other than her stepped into her shop they said “oh, wrong shop” and immediately walked back out again. She did little to hide her surprise, in fact, the customer had startled her so much that she shouted “oh fucking hell” which is always useful when trying to lock in first time shoppers
Luckily for Susan, the customer was so thick, it didn’t really notice, instead it just blinked once and shook it’s head lightly like a retarded dog that’s been physically punished for shitting where it shouldn’t but still struggles to understand it’s error.

“I’m looking for those things that you can sort of stick two pieces of paper together with” said the customer, articulate as ever.

Susan was stumped immediately. She hadn’t completed a stock take in six years, in fact, the last one she did was still incomplete and the computer she used (covered in dust) still had the post it note stuck to the screen upon which she wrote “it’s probably all here somewhere, check tomorrow”. She didn’t check tomorrow.

“I’m sorry, what is it you’re looking for?” replied Susan, trying not to sound confused

“You know, those things that you sort of slide at the top of a few pieces of paper, you know” the customer said, frowning, clearly looking agitated and waving it’s hand in her face as if saying “you know” and wafting her with stale air is going to make her remember what it is she does for a living.

“Glue?” she replied optimistically if not entirely convinced the description accurately matched the product she suggested.

“No, not glue, I know what glue is, I’m not an idiot” lied the customer

“What does it look like?” she asked

“Oh I can’t remember, they’re like little bits and you stick them at the top of the paper and the paper sort of sticks together for a bit” the customer gave Susan the benefit of a mime in the hope that some vague hand gestures of how the object worked would help her understand what it was talking about

“Perhaps if you tell me what it is you want it for, I’d be able to narrow it down” she said. She was already tired of this and she couldn’t be certain that she had the patience to follow through with it.

The customer huffed and began to spell out exactly what it’s need was “I have two pieces of paper that I need to link together without them getting stuck, there’s an object that allows me to do that, I want to buy it. Where is it?”

This was testing Susan to the limit. The prospect of making some money was certainly appealing but she’d just received a notification that her fort was under attack on Clash of Clans, she couldn’t help this moron and defend her honour at the same time.

“I’m fairly certain it used to be an annoying help mascot on a computer” added the customer. That triggered Susan’s memory, she remembered having a strange crush on the little digital paper clip because it was the only thing in the world that would ask her if she was ok.

“Ooooh, you want paper clips” said Susan dramatically, the customer nodded as if it’s description had been plenty of information and the drawn out nature of the enquiry was entirely Susan’s doing. “Follow me” she said optimistically.
Her optimism was short lived however as it’d been so long since she’d actually looked at what it was that she sold that she’d forgotten where she kept them. She scuttled around for a bit, muttering “I’m sure they’re around here somewhere”. The customer remained unimpressed, not because it felt like it’s life was ebbing away on an as yet fruitless search for paper clips but because that’s just how it was all the time. Like an episode of Coronation Street.

Eventually the customer piped up again smugly “you know, paper clips are a fundamental item for any stationery shop to sell”

“Yeah, and I have them, it’s just that I don’t seem to remember where I’ve put them, just give me a minute and I’ll be right with you” she retorted, she wasn’t going to be told how to run a stationery shop by someone who didn’t know how to run a stationery shop. Which was both of them at this point.
“Ah, here they are!” she exclaimed triumphantly. She’d succeeded at something, finally. She took the customer to the till and struggled through yet more memory puzzles as she attempted to get the till open. It’s a miracle she even accepted the cash she was given as it had been so long since she’d had someone else’s money in her hands she could have mistaken it for an intricately designed cloth.

The customer left the shop with what it came in for and Susan returned to her smartphone. She was happy that she’d made 15p but when she saw the devastation wrought upon her settlement she wondered if it was worth it.

She’d have to start again from scratch…

Christmas at Susan’s

It was 7am, Christmas day. Susan had broken from her daily mid day lay in to celebrate with a particularly unamused and underwhelmed Jeff. They sat opposite one another in front of an unimpressive tree with a collection of small gifts scattered underneath, most of which were addressed to Jeff “with love from Mum”.

As a cat, the only thing that interested Jeff about Christmas was the prospect of empty boxes and discarded twine, he was oblivious to the concept of gratitude and found Susan’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm disconcerting. What were all these objects? Why was she so happy about them? As he was contemplating the meaning of it all, a small object landed beside his paws, he recoiled gently and sniffed it, he looked up and blinked at Susan who implored him to “open it”. Open what? Usually when objects contain other, smaller objects there’s usually a hole or a lid that one can open and, usually, climb inside to investigate and/or fall asleep. This object had neither, he was unconvinced that it was worth playing with and concluded that, whatever it was, it was a waste of time. Much to Susan’s disappointment, he batted it away (she’d readied her iPhone in order to record a viral video of her cat going mental at a present intending to post it on the internet under the heading “when your cat loves Christmas as much as you”) and looked at the ornaments dangling from the tree.

For Susan, excitement was hard to come by but Christmas was one such time where she actually wanted to smile rather than being forced into it by institutionalised politeness and social conformity. Susan only tended to get excited when global phenomena occur such as the time she queued at midnight for the last Harry Potter and Twilight books and the subsequent films (all of them) or the time she sat at the back of a cinema theatre masturbating to Fifty Shades of Grey, wishing that there was a Christian Grey out there who would treat her as badly as she treated herself.
The irony of Susan enjoying a film entitled Fifty Shades of Grey was not lost on those who knew her best as they would often comment that it could also be a short film based on her greatest achievements.
In her mind however, in terms of pure excitement, Christmas ranked in between Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay part one. Not as exciting as a miniature, shortsighted magic boy but slightly more so than a rebellious, female archer using the scouting salute to advertise betting odds.
Christmas was also the time where she felt compelled to spoil Jeff, after all, it was the only time of year where being seen to treat a pet as if it were a baby was less frowned upon. She enjoyed walking around Poundland picking up all sorts of weird, plastic junk infused with catnip and other potentially harmful chemicals thinking about how Jeff would go nuts and not about how little she really knew her own cat.
On the slow days at work (everyday) she would wonder why her parents hadn’t invited her over on Christmas day, no doubt her sister would be there with her kids; she didn’t realise that they planned to invite her every year until they realised that the chances of Susan spending every waking minute of the day talking about herself or Jeff were so high, it endangered Christmas itself. So they just did as they always did, they sent her a Primark gift voucher worth £10 and a card that ended with “from Mum and Dad”. Susan never seemed to notice that the ‘love’ was absent.

Jeff continued to stare intently at the tree decorations. Now they were exciting. All of the glittery, shiny hanging objects from the brightly lit tree. He began to imagine how he might gather them all up at once and lay on them like a dragon on a bed of gold. He explored every avenue in his mind trying to come up with a way to collect them without disturbing Susan, he might stealthily grab them, one by one, but where would he store them? The only solution he came to was to just jump into the tree and grab as many as he could as quickly as he could. There was nothing for it. As Susan leant over and picked up another gift, Jeff leapt into the tree, knocking it over onto her head. He swiped furiously at anything with glitter until Susan emerged from underneath it shouting and swearing, Jeff gathered what he could and ran off, leaving tinsel and destruction in his wake. Susan looked at the tree, it wasn’t damaged and Jeff hadn’t taken too many ornaments, it was definitely salvageable. All she had to do was pick it up and put it back on the stand but, rather than put the effort into restoring the tree she decided that Christmas was ruined. She jumped into a nearby beanbag and fell asleep.

Jeff spent the rest of the day in a shoe box chewing on a fluffy reindeer.

Susan’s Coffee Morning.

Having no friends didn’t stop Susan from going to the local coffee shop. She needed her fix of caffeine just like everyone else and, just like everyone else, she wasn’t afraid to let others know that her fix of caffeine was something she absolutely had to have in order to function in the morning.  In fact, it’d become a kind of catchphrase she’d deploy in an attempt to endear herself to the hemp draped hipsters that slouched on the new old-looking sofas. They would nod knowingly and smile politely, acknowledging the effort whilst simultaneously praying that she didn’t ask to sit with them. Something told them, quite rightly, that conversations remembering the plight of forgotten animals and niche websites selling multiple varieties of nut flavoured soya milk would be lost on her. They felt that it was for her own good, none of them wanted embarrassment to spoil their morning coffee.

The coffee shop, called “Simply Frappé” was a typically unique and nauseously pretentious establishment kitted out with “rustic” furniture and “retro” art. The sofas were tatty, the central heating pipes were exposed and breakfast was served on anything unconventional like a piece of slate or a chopping board or some foam picked out of an old man’s chair by a toddler. Breakfast itself was a collection of vaguely Italian ingredients thrown together by an “artisan”, who, rather than being a 57 year old, fully experienced, continental chef as the word artisan would imply, was in fact a 16 year old kid from a middle class family that felt it was beneath them for their child to post newspapers through letterboxes like everyone else.
For some suitably hip reason, the proprietor had decided to hang an old fishing boat from the ceiling and had allowed a bunch of fresh faced, Uni drop-out artists to design and paint an abstract mural to act as a “mood wall” on one side of the shop. Predictably, Susan liked to sit beneath the mood wall because she was always willing to believe some bullshit provided a number of other people liked it too. She said it helped regulate her stress hormones.

Susan made her way to the counter, she waited patiently whilst the barista connected an iPod to the sound system and selected the indie-folk compilation 3 playlist; she scrolled through the list looking for anything that contained the sound of a banjo being tossed into a well and pressed play. Susan looked around, she didn’t need to look at the menu, she already knew what she was going to have, it was a coffee. She watched as a strikingly tall man, dressed from head to toe in pastel shades of corduroy, paid for his items and made his way over to what appeared to be his usual spot. He sunk ungracefully into a large beanbag, next to it was an old table upon which he set his espresso and a well thumbed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. The old table, complete with leg wobble, was unreasonably small and as a result his book fell onto the floor, spilling out various bits of paper and half finished sketches of drainpipes. He began to struggle to get out of the bag like a clumsy giraffe stuck in marshland and in doing so he also knocked his spoon to the floor. The clang of metal on wood resonated around the shop and everyone looked in his direction as he flapped about like a frustrated crane fly bashing itself against a window. It was fascinating to watch, indeed the nature of his ungainly frame and his chosen seat made it a spectator sport with onlookers placing subconscious wagers on whether he’d have to roll out of the beanbag, whether he’d just give up or whether the beanbag would claim him, leaving behind a pair of moccasin style shoes and a sense of resigned inevitability about the whole situation.

With the spectacle having finished with the man gathering up his belongings and dusting himself down, Susan completed her transaction and was faced with a choice, does she take up her preferred spot under the mood wall near the struggling bean bag man or does she join the ranks of the multitasking women in the window, busily sipping their from takeaway coffee cups despite opting to sit in? For a change, Susan decided to take up a stool next to a professional looking woman in the window. She hoped to be able to strike up a relatable conversation about how important coffee was in their lives and about how she couldn’t possibly go without the taste of bitter-brown piss water first thing in the morning. The professional looking woman threw a glance at Susan as she sat down, Susan smiled and gave a slight invitational nod, the woman flicked her eyes up and down assessing and instantly judging her. The outcome was not good and the woman looked back down at her phone without batting an eyelid. Susan lost her smile and began staring blankly out of the window.

Opposite the shop was a bus stop, she found her wandering eyes fixed on a group of squat, elderly women dressed in equally horrific versions of the same wolf fleece. Amongst them was younger, fatter man wearing a similar kitten style fleece with a Slipknot t-shirt underneath. The juxtaposition of the cute and the abhorrent only served to make an already risible individual even more ridiculous. Susan was heartened by what she saw, as shit as her life was, she could at least be content with the knowledge that she wasn’t a roll-your-own grandma in a weird fleece waiting for a bus to take her to a sticky, chip pan fragranced flat in which one pull of red handle would bring a warden straight to her door, gloved to the elbows prepared to clean up all kinds of shit. Literally speaking.

Susan drank what remained of her coffee and skipped off to work.