Onion Rings

Posted: April 5, 2011 in Chawn

It’s Monday. And something’s not right.

It’s Monday… and I feel good. I’ve had an offer from Wolverhampton Uni, it’s a nice-ish day, I’m wearing an impressively co-ordinated combo of my American Anberlin hoodie and Christmas Aussie t-shirt, and I’m at the pub. I’m the quintessential English gent.

If he was part-German.

And Italian. I don’t talk about being Italian much, but somehow, I think people know. I hear people talking. Saying things like “Dan’s got so much charm” or “Doesn’t he remind you of Roberto Baggio? I think it’s all his charm.”

I love my charm.

I’m waiting for Nick, a delightful teenager I have the privilege of knowing as part of the Chawn youth. He’s a lot like me when I was 16, except that he’s already got style, like that kid dragon punching Free Willy. I’m sat in the corner, but don’t like pre-drink drinks, so while I wait I read every word of the lunch menu like it contains all the world’s secrets. Including mine.

I’ve told Nick that I was going to be late, but then made it on time, and I’m waiting.

I tut.

A waitress looks at me.

I look down, fast; too fast, and hurt my corneas. I pick up the menu, and pretend to be tutting at the prices. Which I hope looks better than tutting at nothing. I read something about myself having a crush on a teacher, and grimace. I get over it, and carry on reading.

Reading… something… else.

Something horrifying! Something I never want anyone to know. I look up again. Waitress is gone. I relax, and tut very quietly.

Nick finally materialises and takes his seat. “You hungry or thirsty at all?” I hope he wants food. Because I want food. “Hang on a sec.” Nick picks up the menu.

I snatch it.

Nick looks at me.

His eyebrows flicker.

“Is there some reason you don’t want me to read the menu, Dan?”

I shake my head. And put the menu behind my chair.

“Well, I suppose I could manage a…”

Good man.

“…drink.”

Oh.

I want food anyway, so decide to order a bowl of 12 onion rings. Precisely 12 onion rings. My trainers suddenly feel bigger. Nick asks for a 1980s coke and I slide over to the bar. A man’s talking to the barman, who is doing nothing. I try to catch his eye, but he’s frozen like Windows Vista in the Yukon. Or a science teacher from Oklahoma. I look at the other girl on duty. She looks at me.

Longingly.

I look away. And sigh. This is the kind of trouble I get in being Italian. BarMan’s still chatting. I feel myself metamorphosing into a JSA aristocrat as I turn up my nose at the terrible service. As terrible as BarMan’s accent. He’s asking BarGirl if she smokes, and vivisectioning on vowels like monkeys stapled to some cats. BarMan makes a drink. At last! BarGirl’s still looking. I can tell from the type of fags she ‘simowaekes’ that she’s not my type. The only fags I like are faggots. As in meatballs. (Or meatblobs, but people wouldn’t eat those. Not that balls is any better, unless you stick a French word in front of it. Like Díjon. Or Cantona.)

BarMan looks at me and says something. It may or may not have been ‘Ginolaballs.’ Or possibly ‘gingerballs’. Hang on. Balls of ginger? The thought of all that pungent ginger power makes me wince.

I am wincing.

BarMan is watching me answer his question with a ‘my tongue is too sour for my own face’ face. I see his Bill Bailey look, and de-wince, but still have no idea what he said to me, so do what I always do in these situations. I gamble.

“A 1980s coke and precisely twelve onion rings please.”

“1980s?”

“Coke’s always better in the 1980s.”

“Ah. Which table?”

I point to Nick in the corner. “Table 24.” says BarMan and takes my hard-entitled cash. I wonder if I should ask for a receipt, and laughingly admonish myself. You never need a receipt. I grab the cokes and sit opposite Nick. We’re having a good conversation when I see Waitress carrying a bowl of onion rings. I count them. And smile. Waitress looks at her paper. And stops.

At the table next to ours. Table 24.

I look at our table. And see a bronze ‘28’.

“Did you order some onion rings?”

An elderly gentleman looks at Waitress. “As a separate order?” He looks confused – for his lunch doesn’t go with onion rings – and nods. Waitress places my onion rings on his table and his wife takes one and eats it.

Thievery!

I activate my default action man settings and march over to BarMan. I explain.

“Have you got your receipt?”

Oh no! I think of Mussolini, and whip out The Charm, which works its’ Maldini magic and BarMan grasps the sitch. He swears – I think – and walks away from the bar. Towards The Old. Now they shall get their comeuppance! How dare they steal from me! I stroke the underneath of my chin at them. BarMan walks over, stealthily looking at their meals. He looks confused, for their lunch doesn’t go with onion rings. I try to catch Nick’s attention from the bar by pulling a face showing my exasperation.

He’s not looking.

The blonde at the bar is. Looking at me like I’m licking a little fly. BarMan returns to announce another imminent bowl. I sit back down, and stuff all the menus from the bar under my chair.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

I’m listening to Nick, but can’t help glaring at The Aged. Surely they see that those are my twelve onion rings? Would they really steal a poor man’s food?! Don’t let my stylishness deceive your cataracts! I’m a pauper! An urchin in international fashion’s finest!!! Oliver Twist! – with a twist!

I stare at Mother Time as the roof of her mouth clamps down on the hot and dripping battered onion-y crunch. Her lack-of-teeth-smile fails to contain the taste sensation. Finally Waitress appears with a second bowl of onion rings. She places the portion before us without an apology.

I tut.

She looks at me.

I grab a menu, and find out that I used to be scared of a kids TV show. I look up again. She’s gone. I smile, and count the rings. Ah. Resolution. I happily accept my recompense. Though some of them are a bit small.

We carry on our conversation. Lydia the English Canadian is at the bar, reading a menu. I turn my chair so she can’t see me.

The Thieves get up to leave, and Mr Old walks over. An unprovoked attack! But I’m unarmed! I’m about to fire my menu arsenal when I remember The Charm, the only weapon an Italian will ever need.

“Would you like these? They gave them to us but we didn’t even order them!”

I smile. It worked. “Thank you.” “That was nice of them.” I look at Nick. Poor, naïve Nick. “They were thieves, Nick! They only gave them back because of… well…” I shake my head with understanding. Nick shakes his head with confusion. “You know… The Charm.” Nick smirks. “What charm?”

Ouch.

“The Charm… All my smoothness. After all, I am part Italian.”

“What? As if! How much?”

Silence.

He twirls the straw in his glass. And looks me dead in the eye.

Busted.

I grab a menu, and point to the side orders. Nick smiles.

“…1/256th.”

Nick laughs. And gives me some of his coke.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

YOUTUBE CLIP OF THE WEEK!

Dog And Monkey Situps!

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