“I can’t deal with him today,” I whispered to Paula.
“He’s lovely!” she replied.
“Lovely? Nah, mate. He’s concealing some very dark secrets. He’s like a clown who lives in a drain.”
“Why? Why can’t he be happy?”
“Paula,” I said, shaking my head at her naivety, “there’s no such thing as happiness.” I watched Smiley make his way around the shop.
“I think he’s happy.”
“Nah,” I told her. We were at Paula’s counter. Smiley had finished his shopping and was standing at my counter. I looked at his back. “Hey, if he’s so happy he won’t mind waiting, will he? See how happy he is then?” I turned back to Paula. “I bet you ten pounds he’s really as miserable as the rest of us.” I’d recently lost a bet to Enrique for the same amount.
“How will you prove it?” she asked.
“Leave that to me,” I told her, tapping the side of my nose. “Ten pounds, yeah?”
“Yeah, ten pounds.” I slowly walked to my counter. Really slowly. Smiley turned and saw me and continued to smile. “Sorry about the wait,” I lied.
“No hurry!” said Smiley, brightly.
Poor pathetic Smiley, nothing to live for, I thought.
I rang in his purchases. Depressing purchases. Tins and milk. “Horrible weather,” I said absently.
“Good for the garden!” replied Smiley.
“Is it?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” he replied. Alright, Monty Don, I thought.
Anyway, he paid for his shit, his smile never leaving his face and then he gave me a ‘cheerio!’ and left.
“See!” shouted Paula and I gave her the Vs. I followed Smiley out into the car park. His car was certainly nothing to be happy about and I stood with my hands on my hips as he drove past. Smiley waved at me and I nodded. He was fucked. He was mental. I started running after his car. The main road is straight and Smiley drove towards St Ouens Village which is about a mile away. He was held up at the crossing before he got to the village and I caught him there. While the lights were red I stood, panting, and stared at him through the driver’s window with my hands on my hips. Surely the red lights would fuck him off but no, Smiley turned to me and his smiling face smiled wider, like he was delighted to see me. He waved as the lights turned green. I had to work hard to keep his car in view and only lost it when it turned into an estate. The houses in the estate were shitty but it didn’t take me long to spot Smiley’s car. The house seemed tidy but it wasn’t a mansion or any kind of house that would make you happy. I walked over the small front garden and stood and looked into Smiley’s lounge. The lounge was predictably tidy and neat and depressing. His sofas looked like ones you had for a year or two before you had to start paying for them.
The dungeon would be hidden. Perhaps in the basement. I stood with my hands on my hips and peered into Smiley’s lounge. Smiley appeared and spotted me and for the first time his smile wavered. The mask was slipping. He could not maintain the charade. He left the lounge and I hid behind a trellis, slipping into his house while he looked around outside. As I climbed the stairs in his hall I had a look back and saw the back of Smiley looking up and down the road. I hid in his airing cupboard for an hour and then when I’d heard no noise for a while I went to his bedroom. He’d made his bed like a mental case. I hid in his cupboard.
At about 10pm I heard Smiley enter. He was whistling, probably trying to drown out mad voices in his head. Smiley opened the cupboard. He was in his underpants and a vest. His trousers folded neatly over his arm. I had my hands on my hips. Smiley didn’t look so fucking smiley now. “I’m not here,” I told him and Smiley closed the door.
I hid in various parts of Smiley’s house for the next four days trying to find the terrible secret he was concealing with his false demeanor. I left him notes telling him I knew he was hiding something. I chanted at him in his sleep but whatever he was hiding must’ve been so terrible he had it very well hidden. He’d buried it deep.
Suddenly I gave up. On the forth day as I was hiding one from each of Smiley’s pairs of shoes when I thought, fuck it! It wasn’t worth it, not for ten pounds. I dropped the shoes I was holding and headed down the stairs ready to run back to work. That’s when I found I found Smiley hanging in the hall. Smiley’s ceilings were high and he was short.
“I fucking knew it!” I said slapping his feet so he slowly twirled. Smiley’s purple face turned to me. The rope around his neck was forcing his cheeks up into the biggest smile ever. “Even in death, Smiley, even in death,” I chuckled.
I ran back to work but Paula wouldn’t give me ten pounds.