I’d really appreciate it if anybody who reads this can spare two minutes to leave any form of feedback. Hate it, love it, highlight all my mistakes….anything is useful!
“Is she on yet?” Brooks said, my boss at MDS builders, a company that had to be doomed from the start with two builders at the helm who chose to sit in steam rooms while they were supposed to be at work.
“No… She’s a week and ‘alf late,” I said with a half glance towards his pregnant looking belly, scanning upward from his thick black Oxford United tattoo which commanded the left side of his chest.
“Fuck, imagine if he knew, old Pearson. That bastard. I’d love to see his face…” Brooks said, as he ran his hand along his hot, hairless scalp, pouring cold water over the top of his head.
“He can’t know it happened, Brooks.”
“I can’t believe you did it. Who fucks Pearson’s daughter? You’re just asking for fucking trouble.” He sat opposite me in the steam room, distorted by the hot vapour which clouded his shallow face.
“She won’t be pregnant. She can’t be.”
Gerry Brooks was a man with a body thrown together like a tower of boulders stacked on top of each other in no particular order. A few spindles of hair sprouted from around his inflated belly button and nipples, which he often inspected with close attention between his index finger and thumb. His stomach swelled with a quality that only twenty years of fried eggs, Stella Artois and poor quality sausages could give rise to. Brooks eat everything. Yet he insisted he followed the latest workouts to the letter, often dictating to me how I should perform a tricep dip most efficiently. His stomach had gotten so large that from behind the mist it could have been a cement mixer, churning away the last of his cornish pasty from lunchtime. Brooks claimed that relaxation time was essential to the wellbeing of a modern day labourer, and made a point of ensuring that we made regular excursions to the leisure centre to ‘sweat out the stress’ — or something along those lines.
“But what if she is?” Brooks said, by now indistinct through the steam.
“Shut up about it now.”
“We should probably get back to the job. Pearson’ll be thinking we’ve been at Wickes for a fair while,” Brooks said. I stayed silent. “Come on. Let’s go. He lives to moan. It’s bad enough having to live with him next door, now I’ve got to put his fucking conservatory up. It’s too much… He shits his pants if I leave my dustbin out in the street for a day you know. Comes knocking on my door at all hours whinging and groaning… Needs to sort his life out him, get himself a woman… Not got much going for him mind. With a nose that big, least… He’s always watching. You don’t want your kids having his genes. God no. No… fuck this, I’m going. It’s like a fucking incubator in here.” Brooks had spoken, but I didn’t really acknowledge any of his words. He wasn’t the most commanding of bosses. I just couldn’t take him seriously. He was a man designed to be overlooked. I laid in silence for a moment. We’d been sitting in the steam room almost half an hour by this point, and the haze that swallowed the room had gotten inside of me — like I was being cooked from the inside-out. A second skin of sweat and vapour cast itself on to me, and it felt as though my whole heart or brains could bubble up and explode, or that the mist could part, and I’d be alone, in some far flung jungle where the damp and rot would set in, with only the company of occasional black shapes skittering behind roots in the thick film of steam and humidity. I thumped the plastic wall of the room. Hundreds of droplets of warm, condensed water, which had rested on the ceiling, rained down across the room like a tropical rainstorm.
“Bastard.” Brooks spat away warm driblets of water from the tops of his lips. Masked in the vapour that glows about the violet-blue lights, Brooks drew his eyes upwards to the glow which spilt soon to nothing in the gloom from the ceiling. I swivelled my legs around and pressed my split heels on the ridged tile flooring, sitting upright.
• • •
Later that day, rejuvinated and fresh faced, we finished cobbling together the shitty white PVC conservatory for Pearson. Pearson’s house, a white washed two-bed on the end of the Causeway, tagged on to the terrace, next door to Brooks. Their street’s a hell-hole; covered in dog shit, smashed beer bottles and discarded takeaway meals. It’s the sort of street where the only thing the women can do is keep an eye on each other around the side of their netted curtains, or stand in the street in their dressing gowns and slippers, with rollers in their hair, smoking and chatting to each other. In the road the kids skitter pebbles along the pavements at cats and crumpled tins of Carlsberg, some times launching wet slices of cheap bread to stick on the sides of Mr Pearson’s house. The April sunshine had sunk well behind the slate-roof terraced houses by the time we finished the job and packed away the tools into Brooks’s Transit van in the street. It was coming close to the time in the late afternoon when the hooded would come out into the dark back alleys to be little shits and sell drugs to each other. They swarmed in the alley behind Pearson’s house — he sometimes shouted limp threats at them from his top window if they made too much noise when Loose Women was on. As we stopped to roll a cigarette for the end of the day, Pearson emerged from his house wearing an apron with “Mr Good Lookin’ is Cookin’” stamped across the front, carrying a sack of sweet potatoes, with a face spread long and white.
“Mr. Brooks, Brooks, get here,” he said, raising the fist which wielded the exotic potatoes. “It’s just fallen down. All of it. You’re all bloody useless.” Brooks curled his copy of Men’s Fitness up into a neat cone, before rising to his feet using a spirit-level as a walking cane, to confront the bug-eyed Pearson.
“It’s what?” Brooks asked.
“It’s fucking fallen down,” he said, “so I’ll be wanting my money back around about now. I knew I shouldn’t have left this to you. The conservatories don’t even look good in the newspaper advert. I wasn’t confident when I asked you to put the thing up, but I just expected a shitter finish and a few more cups of tea for your ‘mates rates’. But no… It’s all in a heap on the floor… How could you fuck this up so brilliantly Mr. Brooks?” With that Brooks kicked up the end of his spirit-level and grabbed it with both hands to hold it like a spear, tucking his magazine under his porky arm and jabbing Pearson in the gut a few times, then twatting him with Men’s Fitness right around the temple. Pearson, being a narrow set guy with puny office-boy forearms and a flagpole torso, retaliated in a way which he thought was right and within his means: by hurling sweet potatoes at Brooks from behind his Mini Metro that was parked in the street. I stood there taking cover and carried on trying to smoke, but ended up hacking up lungfuls of trapped smoke from laughter.
“Look just fuck off alright. Give me a refund then fuck off. Now how am I supposed to have sweet potato mash? My salmon’s gonna be bland. You cunt, Brooks. Not only have you fucked my conservatory, now my blood sugar’s going to be all over the place. I’ll have to have rice, white rice, for fucks sake… fucking long grain. That’s not low GI. For fucks sake.” Pearson ran around his car in circles to stay out of Brooks’s range. But Brooks was intent on knocking Pearson’s head clean off his shoulders, even if it meant bludgeoning the man to death with a glossy magazine.
“You should hear yourself.”
“Diabetes isn’t a laughing matter, Brooks, you chubby bastard. I’m surprised you’re not Type 2, to be honest. You should get down the Pharmacy for a test.”
“You talk to me like that again and I’ll burn your house down, Pearson. You big-nosed nonce.” Still Brooks shuffled around the car to get within beating distance of Pearson.
“Well that’d be an idiotic thing to do. You’d burn your own house down in the process… It’s that sort of comment that highlights your absolute incompetence, Brooks.” With Pearson around the far side of his car in the road, and Brooks closest to the houses, Brooks made a run for Pearson’s open front door, stamping his muddy boots in Pearson’s spotless doorway and locking himself inside.
“Get out of there now,” Pearson squealed. But Brooks had already made his way up the stairs and into Pearson’s back bedroom.