Somewhere outside a pub in Leeds.

‘What, her? Naw, she’s left.

Y’what?

Yeah she was there. In her fuck-me boots and that top.

Yeah, that’s the one.

Ha ha ha.

Y’what?

Hang on a sec… ‘scuse me, love. Thanking you.

Still there?

Yeah, it’s filling up.

Y’what, about…? Hey mate, I’m just talking.

No, I know, but you sound serious.

Ha ha ha…no, but seriously. You better just stop with that.

Well, she’s got a boyfriend. He dunt take kindly to people with designs. Not on Mandy.

Fucker’s six five and plays rugby. He gets shirty.

Look, he’s from Garforth and you stay in Headingley, you get me?

Alright, alright, don’t get upset!

Y’what?

Hey, you asked me. I’m just relating… yeah, yeah… how the evening went…

Before she were in? No, I’m telling… I’m on t’pre-lash in that bar the students go in. See some lass mouthing along to ‘Come As You Are’ on the jukebox.

I dunno, some emo bird…

Yeah…

…in a, in a crop top and drainpipes. Converse All Stars. Asymmetrical hair.

Yeah, tidy. Playing at being the DJ.

That’s it, little emo lifesaver.

I know, it din’t look promising musically, but… I was thinking, “Come on then, surprise me,” and fair fucks to her, she did, follows it with ODB, ‘Got yer money.’

Top. Now she’s mouthing along again as she sticks in more coins. But then Dirt McGirt’s closely followed by Green Day, sort of proving me right the first time, kind of, but anyway.

No, she was with about… thirty mates!

So yeah, I’m all ‘wake me up when this record ends’, about to finish up me drinks and move outside, and I notice Mandy, suddenly, playing Stu.

Stu.

Aye, y’know him.

He’s… He’s got… highlights and green day-glo socks.

Pink and green day glo.

That’s him. Mismatched socks.

He’s not, no, but Gordo thinks he is.

Why? “Cause he dresses like one.”

No, I dunno. Gordo’s…

Gordo’s a rugby player. I told you that already. Supposed to be a law student too…

…I know, it’s fucking deadly, innit? So Stu and Mand are playing pool and notice me slouching over by the bar. Stu’s like “Ah, just the fellow! Come and lend a hand, sir. Mandy’s tanning me arse here.”

Yeah, all that. That expression on his face.

I wan’t biting, no. I looked round nonchalant, you know, doing the de Niro face.

Yeah, internal. Voiceover.

Anyway, he looks a bit shifty, she looks like butter wouldn’t fucking melt as usual, then they both got a call about the same time and shifted sharpish.

No, that were it. I think it…

Naw… I don’t think Stu were at it, no. But I wouldn’t want to speculate.

Of course.

She’s hot, yes.

Shmokiiiiin’! Yeah…

Look, no one’s denying it. No. But seriously: no. Don’t touch her or there’ll be a palaver.

You’ll end up getting… fucking… rucked and mauled by this fucking… prop, whatever the fuck he is. Big bastard. Did you not hear about Nevitt?

Nevitt.

NEVITT.

Yeah, that’s him. ‘Have it!” Well, he tried. Got a kicking for his efforts.

Just sayin, know what’m saying?

Smart.

Yeah, well up for it later, mate. Give us a shout, we’ll see what comes about.

No, just outside… Blakies now.

Yeah, it’s filling up.

Having a smoke.

Alright then.’

Colin’s 16.00 Training And Competence Requirements Meeting Of Doom

Col at work spins in his seat, adopting the classic ducking head stance of the habituated supervisor avoider. I lean my chin into the heel of my hand and turn so I’m facing him across and along the aisle that separates the two sets of seat backs.

-I can’t believe there’s no football tonight.

He’s totally incredulous.

– It’s on tomorrow night… but I’m working. Wednesday night yes, there’s football, but Chowsday..?

He shakes his head in disbelief and turns away for a few seconds, spinning round again almost immediately. I’ve returned to my screen and scan it while I listen to him, looking blankly at an open document for a moment, seeing vaguely that it’s only three pm in my shift till eight, before tilting on my hand again to face him.

– I just want to watch some football. Any footie.

His elbows are by his ribs and his hands are spread in candour.

– Just 22 men running round a field with a ball.

– It’s not much to ask, I offer.

– It isn’t. I suppose I’ll just have to get some tishyows on the way home. Wanking and crying! Again.

He does the actions and grins as he wheels away. There are a couple of seconds’ pause in which he spins round a full circle and then back the way again, then with his left hand palm up for rhetorical emphasis he adds:

-Apparently, it’s possible to keep yourself hard forever, through wanking.

Animated, he gestures, a handy explanatory mime.

– If you wank too much, it just stays hard, eventually. I read that somewhere.

-That’d be an inconvenience.

– I know! Imagine…

This time there’s a couple of minutes’ pause after he rotates to face his desk again. I watch him move a sandwich, press the Avail button on the phone on and off, then on again, while he drums his hands on the desk a bit. I look back at the letter I’m drafting and add some. My fingers skip about over the keyboard.

I’m still tapping when he leans back in his chair with hands laced behind his head, leaning far back enough to suggest both extreme nonchalance and a desire to propel himself offensively by catapult somewhere quite far away. He says to the air above his desk:

-I could actually really do with knowing if I’m still going to have a job or not.

The silence of the moment is interrupted by the telephones jangling into life. Col springs back upright to take a call. I decide it’s my turn to get coffees.