Earth Minus Jeans... ( Lenny, Part 4 )
There are easy targets in life, and then there are easy targets.
On a scale of one to ten, Lenny had a bulls-eye on his face the size of Yankee Stadium. It only needed one quick glance at him, one brief appraisal of his appearance to reach that conclusion. Here was one poor sod who had probably spent most of his life as a verbal punchbag, and I could tell immediately that it was going to take all my efforts of restraint not to join the lynch-mob.
That would be the easy option of course. It always is. Sometimes you just can't help yourself, sometimes these types of characters are... well they're just there... aren't they? Just standing there like a fox with nowhere left to run whilst you're prowling ever closer with all the frustrations of your day screaming to be unleashed at something or somebody.
But in my experience, there are easy targets who can dish it out a little themselves and therefore earn what they receive in return. And then there are Lenny's, the tiny percentage of persons who couldn't ' dish it out ' if you gave them a giant spoon and plate, and one solitary pea. Why even demean yourself by opening fire on the badly wounded guy who's waving the white flag.
Lenny's are the Belgrano's of our society.
" Hi, " he said again, leering at me through his thick-rimmed, thick-lensed glasses. It wasn't a leer in the dirty-raincoat sense, or at least I don't think it was meant to be. Bloody hell... I hoped it wasn't. It was more of a curious " I haven't met you before, maybe we could become best friends " stare.
Everything about him was just begging to be shot down in flames. Presumably the fading barbecue-sauce-like stains had not been a part of the original design of his white t-shirt when he'd bought it. The black shirt he wore unbuttoned over the top of it was fine, except for the inexplicable way he wore the collar up in an attempt to be the worst Elvis impersonator that ever hit Blackpool. A mini medallion seemed to complete the look, though quite what that 'look' was meant to be?....Well I somehow doubted that Jean-Paul Gaulthier was on the next flight over to buy the rights to it.
The size of Lenny's mouth in relation to his face bordered on the cartoonish, but at least I was now able to solve the mystery of what had become of Lesley Ash's unwanted lips. I wondered how much he'd had to raise his bid for them before the wooden hammer came down at Sotheby's.
His hair wasn't too bad I suppose....no honestly, it was okay except for the parting. Look, I know this description is starting to resemble the snidey bitchiness of a Miss World backstage party, but the parting in his hair was really quite something. Instead of doing an M1 motorway through the middle like most partings do, Lenny's had seemingly packed itself a picnic lunch and chosen the scenic route complete with dodgy map-reading from its wife in the passenger seat. No " Sat-Nav " included in the price of this parting.
" Hi, I'm Lenny. " His words washed over me like an onion-breath tsunami.
" Hello, I'm Jack. " I shook the hand he'd robotically proffered in my direction, despite the frantic headshakes from Alan from behind his back. I didn't see that I had much choice, and surmised that it couldn't be as bone-crunching as locking hands with Carlos.
Oh my, that's a very sweaty hand you have there Lenny.
He continued to stare at me through his glasses with a frozen grin on his face, as if he was expecting me to say something.
" I'm Lenny, " he repeated in an attempt to rejuvenate the conversation.
" Right. " So you said.
" You must be Jack. "
I nodded. I guess I must be, seeing as I said " hello I"m Jack " about ten seconds ago.
" Hi, I'm Lenny. " He thrusted a hand towards me again.
" Yeah...um, hi. " Wasn't going to shake that a second time. My hand was still drying out from it's last encounter, so I gave him a quick half-hearted wave as a substitute.
He seemed happy enough with that, and I thought maybe we could now move the conversation along to the next stage. I was hoping that next stage was going to be " goodbye. "
Alan wandered over to us with a pair of jeans casually slung over his shoulder and his trademark smirk slung across his face.
" That's Lenny, " he jabbed a thumb towards the already offending.... thing.
" Oh, so that's Lenny? " I asked in mock surprise.
" Yeah, I'm Lenny. "
" Yep, he's Lenny. " Alan tried a little more ironic emphasis this time.
" Riiight, so you're Lenny, " I said, with my own exaggerated sarcasm. For the first time today, I was beginning to feel as if I was fitting in. There was a momentary pause between the three of us, during which time, he whose name I shall not remind you of again didn't drop his friendly demeanour for one second. Nor his slightly unsettling leer.
And then the line came that was so damned inevitable, I closed my eyes in savoured anticipation of it.
" Hi...I'm Lenny. "
It's going to be a long afternoon.
I was right.
" ....and Janet was out the back as usual, Alan had to bring the delivery in so I was left here on the floor in charge with two of the weekend staff and obviously I had a lot of responsibility there and I think I handled it pretty well what with keeping the weekenders in check, you know what they can be like and then having to deal with the customers and any problems they might have- "
" Yeah. " My skin was beginning to peel. Lenny had been ranting away like this now for at least fifteen minutes. It was worse than one of Ronnie Corbett's 'not a punchline worth waiting for' monologues.
" -one of them was telling me they were a bit concerned that the other two were chatting amongst themselves and not very aware of the customers around them and I said 'okay sir, I'll speak to them about that because I am the supervisor'- "
" Yeah. " I was sure my ears were beginning to heal over as well, which frankly would have been a blessing. I think I preferred it when he was just repeating ' Hi, I'm Lenny. '
" -even though I'm not technically a supervisor, I was on that particular occasion and I have been here six years so you know, really you could say I'm part of the furniture now if you know what I mean, haargh no but seriously- "
Oh sorry, did you crack a joke just then? Because if you did I must have died a slow painful cerebral death from your verbal onslaught of pointless blatherings, and completely bloody missed it.
" Yeah. "
" -I had a word with them both and they seemed to respect me and take it on board because they indicated that the point was taken by raising a finger at me- "
" Yeah. " Please stop talking at me now Lenny.
" I seem to have a way with the customers as well when it comes to- "
" Yeah... " Please God, stop him from talking at me and I swear I'll never miss another wine and cheese session.
" -giving- "
" Yeah... "
" -them- "
" Yeah... "
" -what they- "
" Yeah! "
" -want. "
" Yes!! " Jesus Gordon frigging Bennett of Christ, how are you still not getting the message here!
" I must have the sales knack because after just a couple of minutes of discussing with them the deep-rooted positives of the item they are looking at they always seem to say 'alright, alright I'll buy it' and race over to the till and another gold star for yours truly. "
" Great. "
" Fancy going for a beer after work? "
" Yeah, " I said absent-mindedly, and with that I sensed several pairs of eyes and open mouths aimed meaningfully towards me. I glanced across to the cash desk and noticed Alan and Emma shaking their heads advisedly, as if I'd just climbed to the bungee platform and opted to pass on the elastic band.
What? I wondered. What happened?
I looked around to see Carlos crossing himself again, before clasping his giant hands together and muttering a prayer, most of which I didn't catch. Apart from two words, one of which was my name, and the other I'm sure was " mercy ". Oh, and his own personal "Amen" which was " Yeah sweet God innit, you're a geezer. " Presumably I'd said something in response to Lenny saying something, but beyond that in-depth analysis I really didn't have a clue what had just happened. Quite frankly, I'd stopped paying attention to our conversation at least two millennia ago.
It wasn't until we were collecting our coats at the end of the working day, that it hit me. And the realisation of what I'd got myself into didn't just hit me, it went three rounds with me of Mike Tyson style pummelings.
Carlos took me aside as we locked up. " Whatever you do, make sure eets a big busy pub with several exits, right? "
" Er, pardon? " True to form, I didn't have the faintest idea what the big Latino was referring to.
" Plenty of people who can 'elp ya, and plenty of escape routes innit. "
" What are you talking about? "
" One beer mate, and then make yer excuses, " he said, nodding towards Lenny. " Dats if I was you. Which I'm frigging glad I aint. If I'd have been you, I wouldn't 'ave agreed to it in the first place. "
I stared at Carlos in horror. I looked around at Lenny who was retrieving his magazine and a jar of pickled onions from the staff-room fridge.
" Did I-? "
Carlos nodded solemnly.
" I said I'd go for a beer with him? "
" Sure did bruv. " With that he gave me a 'good luck' slap on the back which nearly propelled me throught the wall. It was the kind of 'good luck' gesture not seen since a group of RAF chaps boarded their Lancaster bombers and set out for the Ruhr dam.
Boy, would I have swapped places with them right now.
" W-well, I can't. I'll just have to er...tell him I can't make it now. You know how it is, stuff to do and all that. " " Oh but you have to, " Alan chipped in as he passed us, slipping casually into his brown suede no-doubt-very-expensive jacket. " You've agreed to it now. "
" Well I'm just gonna have to unagree, " I said firmly.
" No Jack. You don't understand. Lenny normally has the social life of a garden slug. Turn round to him now and say you can't make it...and it'll crush him! To the point where there's no knowing what he might do. "
I had to think quickly now. It seemed to me that if there was no getting out of it, the next best thing was to ensure I had some additional company.
" Okay then, Carlos how about...? "
" Washing my hair, " he blurted, quick as a flash.
" Oh come on! " I protested.
" No, seriously bruv. I have a very rare follical condition dat needs me to spend three hours each evening, massaging a special kind of shampoo into it. "
" Alan? " I was almost imploring now. He looked at me in surprise.
" Not me mate. I er.... I...I...I gotta help Carlos wash his hair. He's got this rare follical condition you see, and it requires an extra pair of hands. "
" Emma?! " Not very likely but I was desperate now.
" Sorry, I'm helping Alan help Carlos to wash his hair. He's got this rare- "
" Yeah right, I get the message. " That just left Janet, the manageress, whom I stopped short of asking. She mumbled something about a headache anyway, as if in anticipation.
" Well I'm not doing it. " Considering this was the end of my first day, I was a little shocked at the bold assertiveness I was showing. " I am absolutely NOT going for a beer with him. Not a chance in hell...no way Jose! "
" ....and then there was the day when we ran out of thirty inch waist jeans, and I mean completely ran out..." " Yeah, " I muttered, peeling away at the label on my bottle of Budweiser.
" ....can you imagine that? I mean what are the chances? Statistically I'd say a one in five thousand chance.... "
" Fascinating. "
" ....and what do you say to the customer in those situations, I mean they don't tell you that in the company handbook do they, they don't say ' here's what to do if you run out of thirty inch waist jeans ', I mean just what do you do?.... "
" Kill yourself? " I offered, taking a swig of beer.
Yes, that sounded like a great idea right now. Making my excuses and leaving seemed like a better one, but for one thing.
The beers that I was downing one after another, if for no other reason than to numb the verbal diarrhoea being thrown at me, were beginning to taste so damn good. And when does beer ever normally taste good?
My head was beginning to throb, and my vision was beginning to blur.
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