The scene: a Post Office, one Saturday. A long queue of restless customers, each laden with Christmas parcels. And only two windows open. (Or rather: two windows, both open.)
At one window, there’s a man who’s just been served but won’t go away. He asks: ‘Was the postal order definitely for £15.75?’ People in the queue tut, the woman behind the counter rolls her eyes. ‘Yes!’ she says. She has obviously been asked this question several times already.
The man looks, if not unkempt, then uncared for. He wears taped-up pebble glasses, a tatty anorak, a thick off-cream cardigan that is regulation charity shop. The swirls of his dirty-white beard converge oddly around his mouth. You look at him through the prism of preconception and think–‘Disability benefit, bit mad, bet he doesn’t have to work for a living’.
Still he hovers. By now, other people are being served. ‘I just want to confirm this and then I’ll be on my way,’ he says stubbornly over the shoulders of the new customers. ‘Was it definitely £15.75?’ The tuts and groans of the queue grow louder; people start to mutter. He persists: ‘Can I please just see the paper with £15.75 on it again?’ Now people are shouting out: ‘YES IT WAS!’ ‘She’s told you 100 times already!’ ‘Someone shove a receipt up his arse!!!’
At last he shuffles off.
The next man in the queue says to the counter, ‘Ten first-class stamps… And can I please just confirm that the last customer’s postal order was definitely £15.75?’ The queue guffaws appreciatively. The new customer is pleased with his joke too, so pleased that he repeats it five more times.
As I leave, the queue is now almost out of the door. And now I see that the postal order man has only shuffled off as far as the end of the queue.
He is waiting in line again. Just to check.
Dan’s competition shortlists include Flash500, Sunderland University/Waterstones, Wimbledon BookFest, Fish and Retreat West. His work has appeared in Cabinet of Heed, Bending Genres, The Esthetic Apostle, Spelk, Ginger Collect, and Fiction Pool. He wrote for Dead Ringers (BBC Radio 4) and has also made two appearances in Christopher Fielden’s To Hull and Back comic-writing anthology (2015, 2016). His agent is Ger Nichol; his first novel #unforgivable and a collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack, are currently under consideration.