By Louis Rive
Broken bloody biscuits. I hadn’t the heart to tell my gran that I could buy shortbread in England. Still the thought was nice. It would come through monthly the “build it yourself shortbread selection” handling courtesy of the newly privatized post office. I swear to god the Somali woman next door is importing whole chickens through the post and even they make it intact. But I am left here with broken biscuits. And a hangover. It was time to go to work.
I’m due to open the shop but Ray’s already there. I have the only key so my constant suspicion that Ray lives in the shop is heightened. Ray is an old school chap. Almost 35 years in the bookie business and you stare at the living portrait of a truly broken man. Horseracing is all he knows which makes his conversation ironically predictable for a man who thinks in odds. We sit in silence most of the day. Twelve o’clock comes round and Ray goes for lunch. He spends his hour in the rival bookies across the road for he knows no better. He knows nothing else. Ray has piles. Ray has piles because Ray has spent the last 35 years perched on a bookies stool both sides of the counter. Ray’s retirement is coming up but we never talk about it. Come to think of it we never even mention his private life. It’s better that way. Everyone knows Ray the bookie. Nobody knows Ray the man. While he’s at lunch I look in the airing cupboard and find a blow up mattress and some cereal. I close the shop without asking Ray any more questions.
Bang! and next day hits like a badly edited cut in a movie. I must have really drank last night. Cutting through the silence like the Wehrmacht through France comes Christy my utterly charmless inner city London female colleague.
“She was smokin’ a cigar wiv her nani”.
Its hardly high brow stuff but Christy’s philosophical account of her girls trip to Amsterdam is all there is to listen to in the morning. The same sad congregation of old bastards have already gathered by the heater in preparation for another day of loss so Christy’s musings on the sex industry are the only thing to occupy my frazzled mind. Festooned by budget decorations, I suppose it must have been Christmas time. The most wonderful time of the year. Family was a forgotten memory of a former life and here we were the damned, Christy and I.
John was a regular. He apparently had owned a pub but used it for the distribution of illegal narcotics and was thus unsurprisingly shut down. Now he spent his days watching virtual horses run around virtual tracks for 13 hours a day all the while sustaining himself on diet coke and cup-a-soup. This whirlwind lifestyle of romance and intrigue clearly got the better of him today as he made a strange gurgling noise then fell off his stool and collapsed upon the floor. He took a box of betting slips with him too. I would have to clean those later I thought. Nobody seemed to react to strongly to the prostrate octogenarian sprawled across the floor. One bloke even cursed and awkwardly clambered over him to get better access to a roulette machine. His “friends” didn’t want to stop gambling so it took a while to regain any sense of human empathy. Having seen a dead junkie in a toilet I had become fairly desensitized to human suffering but eventually I figured medical attention should be sought. Christy was still talking to some crone about Amsterdam. (I overheard the word “chocolate fountain” NOT in reference to food and I prayed my brain would hear no more). But once she was done we got an ambulance. In the next ten minutes I felt genuine shame for my lack of haste to help a (possibly) dying man in front of me. I left the booth and went to John intending to give him some comfort before the ambulance arrived after all it was Christmas and the time of your fellow man etc etc. But the dirty old bastard had shat himself so back to the booth with me to listen to Christy’s trip to a sex show. “Songs of Praise” was on TV depicting some festive pastoral idyll yet here I had the prospect of Christy and John spewing shit in their own unique ways. Merry Christmas.
Louis Rive was born in London, England but raised in Edinburgh, Scotland. He infrequently attended George Watson’s College, Edinburgh before leaving early due to “irrevocable differences with the staff”. He studied Ancient History to MA level at the University of St. Andrew’s writing his final dissertation on the development of the toilet in the ancient world. Louis has been exposed to the working world since he left school aged 17 and has to this day worked a plethora of jobs.
Despite holding an MA from one of Europe’s top educational institutions, Louis has not gone down the road of many graduates in getting a “proper” job but instead continues to work many “dead end” jobs in an attempt to stave off the 9 to 5 lifestyle. From supermarkets to bookies, it is his experience within the lower reaches of employment that forms the basis of his writing.
An aspiring musician Louis is very interested in traditional music from Scotland and the wider Celtic world (aka Ireland). He is a fully trained cellist and also plays banjo and guitar to a good level. Currently residing in London, he plays in renowned Scottish music act, Deep Fried Fiddle. Alongside music, writing has provided Louis with an outlet to share his stories and vent his frustration at the often-ridiculous world of work.