Monday August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment
As the numbers on the pump ticked around, Kevin Howells surveyed himself in his reflection in the offside rear-passenger door of the muddied Nissan parked at the pump opposite. Its driver – a portly old hippy, ponytail and three days worth of stubble – was out of sight behind the pillar, and so Kevin felt comfortable motioning forward, resting a tired heel against the concrete step skirting the bottom of the pump, and striking what his dear old ma (as he always referred to her – it possessing that right blend of distance and affection for a man of his emotional means, and lack of ostentation) might refer to as, a pose.
It was not altogether discouraging. What with the gentle whisper of a breeze picking up off the open spaces of the forecourt brushing against his shirt, and the dimmed glare of the morning sun on the concrete, it was possible to believe that he was eminently plausible as the man he had set out to be today. Which was especially lucky for him, as the man he had set out to be today was a plausible one. He was plausibly plausible.
Sure, his whitest white work-shirt was a little bunched up around his midriff, where his body thickened, and the stubborn line of his middle-aged spread determinedly refused to budge; and ok, his plain black trousers, were a little plain. He’d had a pair like these during sixth-form (he dropped out of his Biology A-level – his only A-level – after two terms), and there was an unmistakable odour of schoolboyish conformity pervading his look. But this did not discourage him overly. He felt plausible.
There was a sharp click in the throat of the pump, and a judder as the tank registered full.
No, what bothered him most was his hair. As the breeze tickled his fringe – his receding fringe – and he replaced the pump in its holster, he was compelled with his free hand to stroke it back into position (again) – a position he would concede was chosen to minimise the effect of its encroaching disappearance. For although he could tell himself with some justification that what was at stake was not vanity, but rather, practicality – his hair, to him, genuinely was not an image, but a predicament – there remained the problem that it retained the potential to make him look, well, a little old, and when its lank lengths rode up over the wide parabola of his puckered scalp, only emphasising in their thinness, and their scarcity the white expanses beneath, a little ragged.
Inside the arctic hush of the petrol station proper, he pondered this as he perused the chocolate snacks, finally picking out a Boost, and a packet of Extra Strong Mints, periodically catching further refracted reflections of himself along the competing glass surfaces of the window.
“Number Five,” he said levelly.