Scud Presley has a tooth missing where it just never came through in the top right hand corner of his smile, and he tongues the hole wh...


   Scud Presley has a tooth missing where it just never came through in the top right hand corner of his smile, and he tongues the hole where it should be as he struts from his black imported Mustang to the door of the greasy spoon café just off the M1. His car bleeps twice as he presses the button on his key fob without looking back, and he grins as he strides through the door into the humidity of the café because today has been a good day. Every day is a good day for Scud Presley, and when you look at his pockmarked face with its smug grin and its frame of slicked back hair, you know it without having to be told.

   The door closes itself slowly behind Scud, jingling for a second time on its journey back towards its frame, and Scud takes a seat at a table by the window. He doesn’t realise that this isn’t the kind of place that does table service, or he just doesn’t care, as he slouches in the seat and engrosses himself in a newspaper that lies on the table. With his eyes glued to the page, he lifts his left hand above his head and clicks his fingers loudly.

   The young girl behind the counter, Sandra Batten, chewing gum, remains behind the counter. She raises an eyebrow at Scud Presley that is not heeded.

   At least a minute passes, and Sandra begins to inspect her nails once more, as she stands with her hip leaning against the counter in the café that is empty but for one man reading a newspaper in a lumberjack’s shirt open to the belly button and jeans so tight that the outline of his penis would be visible a hundred metres away. Noticing that he has no tea, coffee or food in front of him, the man clicks his fingers again, this time lifting his eyes from the page to meet Sandra Batten’s, grinning his holey grin.

   ‘Any chance of some service, love?’ He asks, ‘Or are you too… busy?’ He gestures sarcastically toward the other empty tables in the restaurant.

   Huffing loudly, Sandra pushes herself away from the counter and drags her feet around the work surface and across the linoleum of the restaurant floor to reach the airspace beside Scud Presley’s table. She stands filing her nails and not looking down at the man, who even from this distance reeks of supermarket-bought cologne. Despite being desperate to order ten seconds ago, Scud seems not to be so hungry now, chewing his gum noisily and staring at the page of his newspaper like it holds the answers to all his problems.

   ‘Look, do you want to order anythi–’

   ‘Would you look at this?’ He holds the page up so she can see the picture. ‘This kid is fourteen years old, and he’s broken the hundred metre world record. Do you know what the hundred metre record is? Well, it’s about nine seconds. But this kid does it in eight seconds. Eight seconds. They’ve had Guinness in and everything; he really does it.’

   Sandra just watches his face, popping her gum. He grins up at her.

   ‘I like your lipstick. What is that, Blood Red? Midnight Maroon?’

   Sandra Batten raises an eyebrow.

   Scud’s smile doesn’t drop. 

   ‘Would you like to see a card trick?’ Scud Presley lifts one buttock from the hard seat of the café booth to fish in his back pocket for his pack of cards. ‘Sit down.’

   Rolling her eyes and sighing loudly for just about the millionth time, Sandra takes a seat opposite Scud in the booth. As she sits down, the apron she wears folds unflatteringly so that her chest looks flat and her stomach appears to bulge, but Scud has already seen that even in her standard-issue dinner lady scrubs and paper apron, her body is shapely and has curves in all but some of the right places. Smiling his smile at her and tonguing his gum, he splays the pack of cards between them.

   ‘What’s your name? Do you have a name?’

   Sandra masticates a little more, then pops her gum.


   Scud’s hands open up like a bowl between the two, begging to be filled with more information. ‘Sandra what?’

   Sandra’s eyes narrow, and she chews some more before replying, ‘Sandra Batten.’

   ‘Look at me, I’m Sandra B…’

   Sandra B rolls her eyes and allows them to fall on an indeterminate spot outside of the window.

   ‘My name’s Scud Presley,’ he continues, displacing and replacing the cigarette behind his ear, ‘and I’m very pleased to meet you, Sandra Batten. Pick a card.’

   Sandra takes a card and shields it from Scud’s view. The card is the five of diamonds.

   ‘Do you have a pen?’ Asks Scud, tapping the edges of the rest of the cards in the pack and leaning across the table as if part of him wants to peek at Sandra’s card or look down her top or something. Sandra just stares at him with one eyebrow raised, as she reaches into the pocket of her uniform and pulls out an eyeliner pencil. ‘Right,’ continues Scud, ‘I want you to write something on that card. Your favourite line of poetry, your address, your bra size, something like that. But don’t let me see it.’

   For the first time, Sandra smiles a toothy smile at Scud, and doesn’t take her eyes off him as she jots something down on the face of the playing card.

   ‘Now fold it up, so I have no way of telling what you’ve written. Fold it right up.’

   He rolls up the sleeve of his right arm.

   ‘Like this?’

   ‘Exactly. Hand it back to me.’

   Fishing his lighter from the same pocket as the cards, he lights up his cigarette before taking the folded card back from Sandra and pressing it to the inside of his right wrist.

   ‘You can’t smoke in here,’ Sandra drones, ‘it’s against the law.’

   He holds his finger up at her, and she falls quiet. With the folded playing card still resting on the soft skin of his wrist, he takes the cigarette from his mouth. Grinning at Sandra, he drives the hot end of the cigarette through the playing card and into his wrist, where it hisses and streams grey smoke up in ribbons around their faces. Sandra winces, watching him burn the paper and his wrist skin.

   When the fire on the card and the cigarette has died, he rubs the card with its burnt hole in the centre up and down his wrist, so that his skin is blackened by the ash. Sandra’s face is contorted into a shocked grimace, unsure of whether she wants to spend any more time sat opposite this obvious psychopath.

   After eating the burnt playing card and the cigarette in one gulp, Scud blows the excess ash from his charcoal wrist, revealing words written in deep black across his skin. The words read FUCK YOU, in a womanly scrawl.

   ‘Is that what you wrote on the card?’ Scud asks.

   Sandra nods, her eyes wide but her mouth back to the same old cow-chew rotation.

   ‘And your card,’ says Presley, stroking his chin and tonguing the hole where his tooth should be as if trying to taste the identity of her card, ‘was the nine of clubs.’


   ‘Oh. The six of hearts?’

   ‘No, it was the –’

   ‘Don’t tell me. I’ll get it.’

   While he tongues his hole and feigns deep thought, Sandra’s amazement wanes, along with her interest. 

   ‘Look, mate, do you want any food or what? I’m gonna go and sit back over there now.’

   ‘I’ll have a fry up. The works. Everything you’ve got. Oh, and a tea – strong and dark, like me.’ Scud winks, and then grins. 

   Sandra shakes her head and chuckles to herself as she walks back to the till, and Scud can’t be sure if she’s laughing at him or with his astounding trick, and he doesn’t care either way. All publicity is good publicity.

   ‘Oh, I’ve got it,’ he shouts, clapping his hands together, as she reaches the counter.

   She doesn’t need to hear his guess – she has already spotted the playing card on the work surface. Unfolded but still wearing its creases, intact but still sporting four holes with charred, black edges, it sits there staring at her from the counter.

   ‘It was the five of diamonds, wasn’t it.’

   Sandra nods, not taking her eyes from the burnt up five of diamonds.

   ‘God, you’ve got a nice arse. I mean, even in that ugly outfit. I just want to pound it.’

   ‘What?’ Sandra’s eyes dart from the five of diamonds to the king of sleaze in an instant.



   Sandra B places the all-day breakfast plate in front of Scud with a clink, and sets his tea down next to it. He grins up at her, but she doesn’t pay him even the tiniest morsel of attention. She stares out of the window that he has his back to, watching the cars speed past on the motorway a couple of hundred metres away. After she has delivered his meal, she lights up a cigarette and stands at the window looking out, her left arm across her stomach and her right leaning on her left, holding the cigarette. For a while, the two people coexist in silence, their soundtrack the hiss of the piping hot chip fat in the kitchen behind the counter and the scrape of Scud Presley’s cutlery against his plate.

   ‘I thought you weren’t allowed to smoke in here?’ He finally says, his mouth full of fried food. ‘I thought it was against the law?’

   Sandra’s eyes mope from the window to Scud’s pupils as she sticks the fag into her mouth and sucks on it hard, illuminating the end and sending a stream of grey, sweet-smelling smoke into the air around her head.

   ‘It is.’

   Her gaze returns to middle distance beyond the café’s glass façade.

   ‘Is that your car?’ Sandra asks, blowing smoke through her nose and pointing at the black Mustang parked outside. Scud turns in his seat to look at the car she’s pointing at, knowing fully well that the car park would be empty were it not for his car.

   ‘Yeah. She’s a beauty, isn’t she?’

   ‘It’s a she?’

   ‘Aren’t all cars? Isn’t everything? Who run the world? Girls.’

   Sandra smiles at Scud – a false, empty smile – and crosses the floor to stub out her cigarette on the side of his plate.

   ‘Are you finished?’

   He grins at her while still chewing the last of his food, relishing the game they’re playing with each other. Once again for Scud Presley, this has been a cinch – at the click of his fingers, they’d be doing the no pants dance. ‘Yeah,’ he replies, wiping his hands with the one-ply napkins that the box on his table provides, ‘thanks.’

   As she walks back toward the counter, Sandra speaks to Scud at a barely audible mumble, as if he were a voice in her head. ‘So how could you afford a car like that?’

   ‘I have rich parents. They gave me money for university, so I spent it on the car. Then they gave me money for university again, and I spent it on insurance for my new car, and clothes. Next time they give me money for university, I might go to university.’ Scud has rolled up the napkins he used to wipe his hands into a tight ball, and he bounces it on the table in front of him as he leans forward to project his voice across the café.

   ‘Hm,’ Sandra chuckles, short and sharp, as she emerges from the kitchen where she has dumped the dirty plate into the dishwasher. She returns to her stool and continues to file her nails. ‘So you’re university age, are you? Like, eighteen, nineteen?’

   ‘I’m twenty-five.’

   ‘Wow.’ Sandra’s intonation says wow like this news has impressed or surprised her, but her eyes widening and rolling around in their sockets before returning to her nails tell a very different story.

   Silence descends upon the room.

   ‘Oi, Sandra?’


   ‘Do you want to fuck?’

   Sandra’s jaw drops, and her eyes fix on Scud’s. ‘Excuse me?’

   ‘I said: do… you want… to fuck?’



   ‘Okay, let’s do it here,’ Sandra says, still chewing her stale old chewing gum and pointing at the edge of the deep fat fryer.

   ‘Won’t you get burned?’ Asks Scud, undoing his belt and still grinning his brainless grin.

   ‘I’m sure I’ll be fine. I have the shelves to lean on, anyway.’

   The deep fat fryer is basically a big metal sink with a thick rim and scalding hot contents, incessantly fizzing and crackling like how one would imagine one’s face cooking in a forest fire. There are three shelves above it, bare but for a few metal mugs, a colander, three ladles and a box of rat poison pellets. Standing in front of it, Sandra drops her panties to the ground without revealing even a square inch of buttock below her skirt, and spreads her legs a little as she bends forwards slightly to lean on a shelf. 

   ‘Yeah, this’ll work,’ she says, without turning her head back to Scud.

   A television on the counter that Scud hadn’t even noticed before this precise moment begins to play a song about frigidity from the musical Grease. He grins at the box and grabs his member with his tattooed hand, feeling its weight and thickness and remaining very impressed with himself, as he steps forward and lines himself up with the gap between Sandra Batten’s legs. 

   ‘Oh, wait a second,’ Sandra sighs, as if ruing her forgetfulness, just as Scud’s tip makes first contact with her soft, warm flesh.

   Scud grins, assuming Sandra wants to remove her clothes or hitch up her skirt further or open herself up wider for his girth. Women.

   Sandra, however, takes a metal cup from the shelf that her fingers have been gripping, and dips it into the molten chip fat. Her cup full of hissing, popping heat, she turns to Scud, and grins back at him. She winks, kisses the air between them, and pours the searing fat all over his erection.

   As Scud screams in pain and writhes on the floor of the kitchen, unable even to climb back onto his knees, Sandra pulls on her knickers, returns to her position behind the counter, tosses a new chewing gum into her mouth, and continues to file her nails.

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