5. The Squirrel
Ball Digger started the car and began the twelve-metre journey his Sat Nav was telling him he needed to go to reach his desired destination. The whole of the journey was filled with a deadly tension. There always seemed to be tension when Hyde was in company, but this time it felt deadly. Hyde was clearly angry that the trousers would not fit him. Ball Digger could hear him muttering something or other under his breath about his being cursed with a fast metabolism. Hyde was not a 34 waist, and no matter how many hot dogs he slid down his throat he could never catch up with the other fat American cops on the force. He had at times become the subject of ridicule for it, and looking at this pair of unfilled trousers only bought the haunting memories flooding back.
“We’re here” said Ball Digger as he slowed down the car moments after starting it up. The pair looked out in silence. There was no sign of a man on the floor, or a man who had once fallen, nor any sign of a man walking away after a fall, there was one sign and that sign said “Road Works Ahead” Hyde got out the car, “let me investigate” he said and slammed the car door shut. In one of his rare outbursts, or at least an outburst by Ball Digger standards he shouted back “Watch the Mazda!” Hyde looked around a bit, and then bent down and looked under the car. After thoroughly inspecting the space under the car he pulled himself back up to the window. “I don’t think there is anyone here”.
“No I was coming to that conclusion myself,” Ball Digger said nodding in solid agreement.
“Look there!” Gasped Ball Digger suddenly. “A squirrel!” Ball Digger could not resist a squirrel. “And look he has a nut awww”
“Hang on a minute!” said Hyde in a rare state of excitement; he rapidly shuffled through the pockets in all his clothes, which were five as he had forgotten to count the two on the back of his jeans. Eventually he yanked something out his jacket pocket. “I have some hazelnuts!” Hyde couldn’t resist a hazelnut. He ran like a child to within feet of the squirrel and placed the half eaten bag of nuts on the ground and ran back (again like a child).
“At least we can’t say this mission was a total waste of time,” said Hyde getting back in the car.
“You know it’s funny though” Said Ball Digger “ The man just disappeared without a trace” He turned to Hyde who had now fashioned his own turban out of the aloof trousers.
“I don’t think that’s very respectful” It was clear to Ball Digger the bonding that had happened over the squirrel was over. Hyde was back and overcompensating in his cruelty in fear of having shown a soft side. “We all shit you know” Ball Digger wasn’t sure why he said this, but he did.
“Fuck you Ball Digger,” said Hyde.” I’m thirsty, look there’s a Hooters let’s get a drink”
“But it’s only half past two”
“They do lattes”
6. The Hooters In Rotherhithe
“Wow Carpet!” Hyde seemed impressed. As a connoisseur of the Hooters establishment (he had been to two others In his hometown) he had never seen a carpeted Hooters. “Strange choice”.
“I don’t know what you’re suggesting Hyde but this is Rotherhithe, we’re not animals” Hyde turned to Ball Digger dramatically and stared him in the eyes.
“We’re all animals, all of us,” he said through his teeth. “And turquoise, it IS a strange choice” Ball Digger took a look down.
“I suppose, I wouldn’t want to live with it, but for a couple of hours on an evening out it makes a change. It’s a bit like I’m walking on the ocean”
“What are you some kind of poet?”
“No” Ball Digger said out loud, almost defensively, but in his head he was saying yes. Through his late teens until the age of twenty-three you could have caught a younger Ball Digger sitting under many of Rotherhithe’s Medium sized trees armed with a pen and a pad struggling for couplets, which would bring him a sense of fulfillment. Or at least the attentions of a girl. Sitting under the trees observing the creatures of Rotherhithe going about their business it was here that Ball Digger developed his love for the Squirrel. He gave up his poetic tendencies when it became apparent to him only his mum was reading his work, and though she was once a girl, she was not the (once) girl whose attentions he was seeking. That girl only read text messages, and the poems did not read well in this format, and he did not know her name let alone have a number to send to. He chose the Police force thinking that if he could not touch her soul, at least he could protect her… And arrest her boyfriend.
“Mother fucking undercover poet” Hyde shook his head; he seemed to be getting angry.
“No I just said it was a bit like walking on the ocean”
“Who are you Jesus you’re walking on Hooters, reality check”. He snapped his fingers with the percussive thud of a coconut cracking.
“Well well well, look what the cat dragged in, a couple of Sikhs” A big bosomed woman appeared from nowhere. It was difficult to describe the woman’s features because of the size of her breasts which had they been yellow could have been perfectly summed up in one word. Melons. Her greeting seemed unreasonably antagonistic considering Hyde and Ball Digger where not only the only potential customers in the building but also the only humans in the building , bar the strippers who seemed to be hiding.
“What’s a Sikh?” Hyde asked Ball Digger, as he did so he noticed his Turban and realized he still had the makeshift one fashioned out of the trousers on his head. He yanked it off quickly.
“I take it back,” said the melons. “The cat has dragged in one Sikh and one American”.
“Let’s get one thing straight, we didn’t get dragged in by no cat” Hyde seemed irritated with the constant references to be being dragged by a cat.
“What can I get ya boys?” asked melons whilst pretending to chew gum.
“Two lattes, and give us a menu”
“Are we eating?” Ball Digger said checking his Swatch.
“You’ve never been to Hooters have you?” Hyde laughed to himself. “You can’t go to Hooters and not eat the food, that would be like shitting in your own mouth”
It had come to Ball Diggers attention that Hyde definitely was not a poet. Or if he was he tried his damnedest to hide it.
The two policemen took their seats in the middle of the large empty Hooters. There was a strange atmosphere in the place, the turquoise carpet seemed to almost illuminate under the dim lighting. The tables matt’s were patterned with pictures of owls, which seemed to stare up at you in an intimidating way only fifty patterned owls could. Amidst the darkness there was some shuffling noises, something was going on behind the walls. Though the room was empty you would have to be an idiot to presume you were alone.
“This place is as dead as a Dormouse” Said Hyde looking around. Suddenly a voice was heard.
“Ya nooo whadda want yet?” Melons attitude to her job really stank. It seemed clear she lacked people skills and her accent kept changing which was confusing to the customers of which she had two. It was almost as if she was trying to hide something, over and over again, perhaps she was hiding multiple things. Either way she had the personality of a malfunctioning computer.
“I’ll just have a plate of Jalapenos” Hyde knew what he wanted. He didn’t even need the menu he’d asked for, he had decided when he pointed at the Hooters from inside the car that he would be getting a latte and a plate of Jalapenos. Melons noted his not using the menu to order and curled her lip.
“And what about you? Melons prodded Ball Digger with her finger.
“Oh, I’ll take a Ham sandwich”
“I didn’t think you’re kind ate pork” Hyde said through his teeth
“And what is my kind exactly?, I’m a policeman Hyde” Ball Digger said assertively into Hyde’s face. He then looked back up at Melons. “I’ll have a Ham sandwich please”
“Arr right me hearties” Melons said like a pirate and turned to leave.
“Hey” shouted Hyde at her while stroking his moustache. Melons stopped abruptly but didn’t turn around. “Where are all the strippers?”
“They will be out soon, they’re getting undressed”
7. Steaming Cold Food That Tastes like shit
Hyde was an American and so he wasn’t going to say anything that would make him sound unsure of himself, but he really was not so sure what was going on in this Hooters. From the gleaming turquoise carpet to the owls staring up at him from what seemed like all angles he felt like someone was watching over him. It should be pointed out these were not sexy Hooters owls, these where old owls, who had the expressions of humans who had been defeated by the cities tawdry transport system. A pissed off owl does not make for a sexy atmosphere; hundreds of them make for an exceptionally unsexy one. The unease was heightened by what seemed like random puffs of cigarette smoke that had no owner.
“You can’t smoke in a public place,” said Ball Digger
“I know but I can’t see anyone here can you? I can’t just arrest smoke can I?”
“I heard you arrested your own leg, I presume you have the arrogance to arrest anything”
Yeah this Hooters was definitely under some sort of voodoo hex. Ball Digger whom he must have now known for the best part of two hours had begun acting like his petulant put upon wife, and what was confusing was he was accepting of his responsibility in making Ball Digger that way. He felt an over familiarity to Ball Digger and was beginning to feel bad for their crumbling relationship. Needing to get away from the nagging and sarcasm (for feeling bad and doing something about it are different chapters in a self help book) Hyde got up flashed his handcuffs and followed one of the balls of smoke. He was not going to turn down a challenge.
As he caught up with one of the balls he whipped out the cuffs but failed to ever get a hold on the smoke. “This is hard,” He said. It became harder as two plates of steaming food started to come towards him, making it hard to differentiate between the potentially guilty smoke and the innocent steam.
“You will never catch them, they are transient” From nowhere Melons appeared attached to the steaming plates. Hyde followed her back to the table. Hyde and Ball Digger looked at each other then back at the food that had been served to them. They were scared to verbalize their concerns, as they were also scared of Melons who was standing over them, but both thought to themselves why would steam emit from a bowl of Jalapenos and a ham sandwich. They silently began eating under Melons watchful eye. They did not look at each other or speak a word. Just silently they stared into their plates and ate, like children in a particularly strict boarding school.
As Ball Digger chewed on his sandwich with it’s grey ham and nothing else, he thought to himself about what Hyde had said, and decided Hyde was wrong. Going to Hooters and eating the food was pretty much as close to shitting in your own mouth as you could get, at least as close as Ball Digger was ever willing to get.
“I’m sorry could I see the chef?” Ball Digger could not take anymore; the food was so bad he was willing to take the wrath of Melons.
“I’m interested in how this sandwich was prepared”
“You guys are cops right?” Melons asked with her arms folded over her bosoms.
“That’s right Madam, that’s what we would be” Hyde would make for a terrible undercover cop for he was so keen to tell people he was a cop. As he spoke a number of Jalapenos fell out of his moustache. Ball Digger glared at him with the eyes of a pissed off owl. Hyde whispered to him in defense, “I’m sorry it tasted like shit, I might have a death wish, but I don’t want to die”.
“What you guys doing messing around here anyways, aren’t there men fallen over on the streets for you to help?”
“Initially we just came for lattes,” Ball Digger said politely
“Oh shit I forgot to make those, I’m so sorry” It didn’t really matter to the cops, coming in for lattes felt like a lifetime ago.
“We’re looking for a man,” Ball Digger said with some assurance. We think he’s missing his trousers.
“Wait, we haven’t talked about this” Hyde seemed irritated.
“Come on whose are these?” Ball Digger waved the stray trousers.
“Oooh that’s good” Hyde instantly understood Ball Diggers logic.
“We’re looking for a man with no pants on, we’re worried he might be in trouble” Hyde said getting up, and pulling down his own trousers. “I apologise we have no sketch artist with us or a pad or pen to attempt one, but he’s gonna look a little like this, have you seen this guy around?” Hyde was a bit of an exhibitionist, the thing he loved second to telling people he was a cop was having an excuse to pull down his trousers in public. For behind him Ball Digger was quietly sat with a pen and a pad.
“You’re asking someone in a strip joint if they have seen a half naked person? Mister half naked people are a dime a dozen here.”
“Lady, nothing in this place is a dime a dozen”
“I’ll go get the chef”, Melons seemed deflated, “And those lattes”.
Hyde sat back down with his trousers round his ankles, as they patiently waited for the chef and the lattes. Ball Digger stared at him disgusted by his decision not to pull up his trousers. As he stared a single Jalapeno fell from Hyde’s moustache into his underwear. Ball Digger chose to keep quiet about this, deciding that that would be Hyde’s punishment and surprise for a later date.
8. Introducing Tits
The Lattes actually looked pretty good. I suppose anything served after the atrocity experienced was going to be an improvement, and the Amoretti cookie was a nice touch. At least Ball Digger thought so. Hyde picked his off the saucer and flung it on the table with a slurred “ If there is one thing I can’t fucking stand it’s amaretto”. He almost looked like a sulky child deprived of a Jaffa Cake. That is exactly what he was. Since his transfer from New York to Rotherhithe Hyde had refused to adhere to the ways of his new home, but for the Jaffa Cake, which he could not deny, had worked his way into his heart. “ I mean it’s a drink made of nuts”, he was talking to himself now. Had there not been a complimentary cookie, none of this would be happening for he had not been expecting anything at all, hell he’d even stopped expecting the latte he had asked for. Life was simpler when he was not expecting anything at all. The world was out to get Hyde and it was really starting to tick him off. Ball digger was eating his cookie, he was unaware of what amaretto was and just enjoyed the crunchiness of the cookie. He took the one Hyde flung and placed it on his saucer.
Suddenly a creature seemed to be moving towards them, her figure becoming more and more apparent through the mist of mystery smoke. She was beautiful; she glided across the turquoise floor like a swan and was as white as one too, though she didn’t have an orange beak. Hyde didn’t want to admit it but as he sat there with his feet as wide apart as the trousers around his ankles would allow him to go, he thought to himself “It’s like she is walking on the ocean”. She was naked, except for an apron, which as she got nearer turned out to be one of those comedy aprons with a print of a naked body on them. Luckily for Hyde and Ball Digger the naked body was that of a woman’s and so no difficult questions were going to be asked of their sexuality. They were cops and they were straight. End of. She got to a few feet from the table; she was young and healthy and clearly did not eat the food from Hooters.
“You wanted to see me?” she asked in a sweet questioning tone.
Ball Digger dropped the second Amoretti biscuit into his Latte, he couldn’t speak. He had fallen in love. It didn’t happen to Ball Digger often, but when it did, it happened in a split second and the feeling would stay for life. It was as if from out of nowhere this one person who was yet to introduce herself had become the one his little world would revolve around. He felt embarrassed looking at his table which now had his dissected Ham Sandwich sprayed across it. Hyde was also embarrassed because he too had fallen in love, and he had noticed the mess Ball Digger had made on the table. His falling in love tended to be a little less long term and so for now he still had the use of his mouth. He chose to steer away from the “what the hell kind of cook do you think you are line of questioning” he had intended to open with.
“Listen Tits” Hyde said with confidence.
“How dare you call her that?” Ball Digger said.
“Oh it’s ok, my name is Tits” Tits pointed at a name badge which was pinned on the breast of her apron.
“Can I call you Tit for short” Hyde asked pretending to put a cigarette in his mouth, and making use of the pre existing smoke.
“No it’s Tits” Tits looked angry.
“We’re Cops, and we’re looking for a man, we thought you might be able to help. He’s probably trouser less, we didn’t have a sketch artist so consider me your visual aid”
“Did he have a Jalapeno in his pants?”
Hyde took a look down, but he didn’t buckle, he was a cocky asshole when he wanted to be. “We have a good reason to believe that may well be the case”
Ball Digger couldn’t believe he was going to talk himself out of the humiliation of having bits of food inside his trousers.
“I’m sorry officers I don’t see why you think I could be of any help I’ve been slaving away in the kitchen all day, I haven’t even got a window back there.”
“Is it hygienic to cook naked?” Hyde took an air puff.
“Don’t worry I have an apron”, she removed the apron to illustrate her two tiers of nudity. The real version was definitely better than the apron version, though the apron version was also good.
“Look there is no food on me”
She had somewhat missed Hyde’s point, but neither he nor Ball Digger had really heard a word she had said. Ball Digger had become so confused he started clapping for absolutely no reason. They were in awe.
Suddenly Ball Digger got a call on his mobile. “It’s the Constable”
“We better head back” Hyde coughed; he’d taken a heavy drag on his fake cigarette. “You’re going to need to come with us”
“Me? Why? I told you I don’t know anything,” She pleaded.
“Because the guy writing this doesn’t know where he is going with it, but he is desperate to move things out of the Hooters, he wasn’t planning on being here this long”.
“Someone’s actually writing this?” How exciting said Tits. “I always wanted to be a writer”
If Ball Digger was able to speak to her he would have shouted out his poetic aspirations, regardless of Hyde’s presence, but no sound would come from his open mouth.
“Yeah I was going to be a writer” Hyde said shaking his head, “I got taught by the best, Mr. Ernest Hemmingway, he gave me some great advice. He said Hyde just close your eyes and write what you see, and I did. Unfortunately when I opened my eyes I’d written half of it in my pad and half on the desk. I came back from the toilet to transcribe it and the Janitor had wiped the desk clean”
“That’s so sad”
Ball Digger could see Tits falling for Hyde.
“Hemmingway said a lot of great works were lost like that. I guess it’s Karma, they cleaned up my masterwork, now I clean up the streets…from crime, I’m not a street cleaner”
None of this was making any sense to Ball Digger but it was clearly working for Hyde and so in his head Ball Digger labeled Hyde a “Mother Fucking Asshole”.