2.2 The Bronzed Adonis


The supermarket queue was moving slowly though Ralph himself was in no hurry. He was waiting in line to purchase his All-in-One cleaning and fresh breath toothpaste at the princely sum of £4.99. The racks of goods on his way to the checkout didn’t interest him- bars of chocolate, magazines with lurid tales of the rich and famous, different sized batteries- not least because he only had a five pound note in his pocket.

At length Ralph’s turn arrived. He smiled friendlily at the cashier and placed his paste on the table. It was scanned and deposited in a small bag.

“£4.99” said the checkout operator.

Ralph handed his fiver over and was given his purchase. The teller looked to the next customer before seeing that Ralph had not moved from the serving area. It was only a few seconds but Ralph felt like this moment was as long as Huey and he didn’t feel like no King Ralph. With a frown the cashier rattled into loose change box and, with a smack, delivered a penny into Ralph’s outstretched hand. Ralph flashed a goodbye smile that had fake written all over it.

This little incident bugged Ralph all day and later, meeting his friend Jeff, in a plush, posh bar downtown Ralph recounted the penny incident.

“I wouldn’t wait for a penny.” said Jeff.

“Why not?”

“For a start, its bronze.”

“What’s that got to do with it?” asked Ralph.

“I don’t know if you know what century this is but the bronze age has long gone. Most of those pennies are stinking of …rust and …oxidisation-”

“Oxidisation?” interrupted Ralph. Jeff, with a low nostril noise emitted a I-might-be-right-but-I’m-not-sure face and went on.

“That’s right. The penny stinks. God knows what kind of diseases are lurking on its surface. And another thing if we all reject the penny change the queue goes in quicker. It angers me when I’m in a long line and those in front are stalling for 1p. One of these days there’s going to be a fist fight on account of the penny change. Penny rage, they’ll call it.”

Ralph tried a new approach. “Ok, how about this? What if you bought two items at £4.99 each and you handed over a ten pound note, would you wait for your 2p change?”

“You’ve raised the stakes, Ralph. Everyone has a limit and that 2p could be vital in the long run. There’s a big difference here. Only a fool wouldn’t wait for the 2p. 2p is a no-brainer, there’s no 2p or not 2p about it. But 1p? I wouldn’t like to embarrass myself.”

“If you ask me the 99 price thing is all a scam. To avoid the awkwardness of waiting for the change why don’t they round the price up.” Ralph pointed up.

Jeff pointed down. “They could round it down, that’d be even better. Hey, here’s Sly.” Sly was Jeff’s wife. “Hi Sly.” He kissed his wife.

“Now it’s my turn, Sly,” said Ralph “you’ll love this kiss. Look at my nice white teeth and fresh breath. I’ve been using an expensive new brand of toothpaste and well worth the price.” Ralph made his Joker face revealing pearly white molars that looked good enough to eat.

“No thanks, Ralph, though I must say your teeth do look tremendous. Aren’t you buying me a drink, Jeff? I quite fancy the Bronzed Adonis cocktail. It’s always good to try something different.”

“For you, sweetheart, the world.” Jeff signalled the barman over and ordered the cocktail. A few moments later it was brought over. Jeff opened his wallet and took out a ten pound note figuring that would be more than enough for the one drink.

“£9.99” said the barman. This flustered Jeff. He knew that Sly’s position on the penny change was the same as Ralph’s. She would break his neck if he didn’t take his change.

The barman waited for his fee. A stand-off ensued.

The music of Ennio Morricone played in Jeff’s head.

Jeff feared losing face in front of Ralph by taking the coin yet feared Sly’s response even more if he didn’t take the penny. Ralph looked at Jeff. Sly looked at Jeff. The barman looked at Jeff. Jeff eyed the other three in turn. He’d already used his fainting trick three times this week.

“Tell you what, I’ll have another whisky and you can have another whisky, Ralph. And have one for yourself, barman.”

Jeff fished in his wallet for a further money. If the round still came to something 99 he’d order a bag of nuts.

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