“Things on Toast”

Mushroom, tomatoes, and Polish bread, with butter: yum!

Mushroom, tomatoes, and Polish bread, with butter: yum!

Some February fiction for you

“Things on Toast”

If only I were more up-market, I might expect to stumble across my well-manicured, not-a-hair-out-of-place, nearly mother-in-law from time to time. This is a small town, after all.

But I keep myself to myself. When I do go out, it’s to where you’d expect to find someone who dresses in second-hand jeans, shabby hoodies, and under-polished shoes.

The mid-week flea market, and the Sunday car boot. Charity shops. The sort of cafés which don’t have booze, let alone cocktails, but do have tea in plain, clean mugs, and menus that list “things on toast”.

You’d be amazed at the number of things you can get on toast.

Edible things, that is. I’m talking cafés, not art galleries. Just in case you’re imagining two slices of plain white, buttered, with a string of pearls, or maybe a cut-throat razor, or a VW Beetle, on top.

We don’t do airs or graces at places which feature things on toast. There are few children, but a lot of babbies. Sometimes, babbies who are with their mums because they’re poorly – the babbies, that is, though the mums don’t always look so great, either. Some of them are pale beneath their orange tans, or glossy make up. The one in the booth across from me, for example, she’s wearing more mascara in one go than I’ve worn in all my 26 years.

Babby has an ear infection. His mum wonders if that’s why he’s been crying a lot. Maybe his ears hurt, she says to her mates.

I like the way they leave me alone here. I’m not a regular, preferring to spread my trade amongst the local cafés, trading privacy for better service. I just get my cuppa and my piece of apple pie, and custard. I can look at the magazines in peace.

They have the most incongruous magazines here. I’d expect to find “Bella”, “Chat”, “Take a Break”. The usual mix of weight loss stories, funny pictures of puppies, knitting patterns, recipes, and personal triumphs and disasters.

Instead, they have well-flipped-through copies of “Elle”, and something I’ve never seen before called “Decorative!” Complete with flippin’ exclamation point, no less.

“Decorative!” consists mainly of glossy adverts for Rolex, and Gucci, and lots of other brands I’ve never heard of before, not being up-market like the ex, or his ever so tastefully-enhanced mother.

Oh, and there are a few articles, too, tucked here and there like the adverts in lesser mags.

I’ve never seen the point of chasing brands. It always seems to be a case of a coat or a watch or a phone too far. You get the latest fill-in-the-blank, must-have item, then you barely have time to wash it or lose it, let alone show it off, when Must-Have Mark II comes out. And so it goes, the Magic Roundabout of Keeping up with the Material Girls, and Lads.

Not me. The only time I’ve come close was just as obsessive, but it wasn’t label driven. It was something older, more primal, and so-so-so much fun.

Til I ran out of happy steam, and the local shopkeepers ran out of patience.

Til the bills landed.

Then it was just like dominoes, a game I’ve never liked. Except it wasn’t as much fun as dominoes.

My posh almost-mum-in-law: does she buy “Decorative!”? Perhaps she has a special servant who’s paid just to turn the pages, whilst Specialist Servant II fans her with grapes, and SS III feeds her ostriches.

It’s just possible I got that wrong.

I’ve only met her once before. That first time was when Pete – that’s my ex – misjudged his parents’ holiday to the Rich People Islands, and they returned in time to find me collecting my Primark bra and knickers from the floor of his dad’s so-called study.

I hadn’t got round to my hoodie and jeans, yet.

The second time was a moment ago, when I went into the ladies to wash the custard off my face, and found her with one of the staff. At least, I think the other woman was staff. She had a pinny on. Ex’s mum’s Chanel suit and Gucci bag were on the floor of the loo.

So was she.

I wonder what her favourite “thing on toast” is?

Must pop back, and ask her.



If you enjoyed this story, check out my collection “What! No Pudding? available from Amazon.

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