This morning marked the second time that I’ve been involved in a skirmish over a baguette.
Now, the first incident is entirely unrelated and by no means constrained my capability for social interactions by inflicting upon me a random penchant for bread-based provocations. Besides, I’m not keen to revisit the episode given some vaguely racial undertones that doesn’t flatter either party.
Anyway, recently I realised that I’m spending around 65% of my disposable income on my daily lunch, which, despite the expense, doesn’t deviate from a limited selection of carbohydrates accompanied by either mozzarella or falafel. Assuming my mother might be disappointed in me if I opted for homelessness for the sake of a few more prêt wraps, I decided to take a packed lunch to work.
The problem is that while I’m well-rehearsed in the lunch part, I lack practice in the packing, so I quickly picked up a Tiger baton off the kitchen side and rushed for the train.
I boarded and managed to nab the last two seats in the carriage – one for me, one for Baguette, who sat-up, looking out the window.
At the next stop, a middle-aged, rotund man made to sit down next to me, i.e., where Baguette sat minding his own business. With a pointy face and sleep-slitted smile, the man had the look of a badger that was still luxuriating in the previous evening’s satisfactory sexual performance. “Mind if I move your friend, mate?”
I put my arm across Baguette. “That’s his seat.”
Badger-man gave a tone-flat laugh, pitched somewhere between reluctant politeness to indulge an unfunny joke and the natural world-weariness of the London commuter. “Then can I see his ticket?”
Silently I handed him a 16–25 railcard. He looked at the passport-sized photograph of Baguette and his eyes puckered like a bemused pair of anuses. “You seriously bought this?”
“No.” I patted Baguette on the noggin. “He did. With his allowance.”
“I know, why the hell does he need a travelcard, right? He barely goes into the city.”
He looked around, clearly sniffing out a seat unoccupied by either a freak or baked goods. Of course, the train was rammed, everyone’s busting for bread, and London is 95% freak, so he was stuffed. “Look, are you nuts or are you taking the piss?”
“You’d know if I were taking the piss…”
“Oh, yeah?” he said, scraping his bottom lip with his buck-teeth, perhaps relishing the prospect of some Monday morning violence and interpreting my remark as more threatening than it were intended. “How’s that then?”
“I’d have stabbed a tube into your bladder and siphoned your piss. Actually, I’d stuff the other end in your mouth and turn you upside down till you choked on your own urine.”
He stared at me. I stared back, quietly singing that famous Sheryl Crow hit: “All I wanna do is watch you drown…I got a feelin’ I’m not the only one.”
Far from sexual-satisfaction, Badger-man now looked like a badger who’d just been diagnosed with herpes. “You think you’re funny?”
“Have you ever watched Sabrina the Teenage Witch?”
He clasped his palms to his face as if he were posing for Edvard Munch’s scream figure. “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“Nothing. I’m just trying to defuse the situation. Has it worked?”
“Yeah, I used to be pathetic and angry all the time too, but then I started watching compilations of the greatest moments of Salem Saberhagen – he’s the cat in the show. Annnnd,” I whispered excitedly, “he can talk!”
Badger-man was about to have kittens. “So what?!”
“Well, personally I think Salem reaches peak hilarity in season 3. That’s when he’s clearly established as both a war-mongerer and a wittle scaredy-cat. The juxtaposition is simply rife with comic potential, and sure enough it is most satisfactorily exploited by the writing staff and, indeed, the stellar voice acting of Nick Bakay. You familiar with Nick Bakay’s work?”
Badger-man spent the rest of the journey stood on the other side of the carriage, but continued to cast concerned looks at Baguette and me. For some reason, his troubled gaze reminded me of how my friends’ parents used to watch me as we played in the sandbox together at nursery. Mind you, I was twenty at the time.
Anyway, in the end I never made it to work nor had the baguette for lunch. On my walk to the office, I took a detour to an estate in Bermondsey and went from house to house, ramming Baguette in and out of people’s letter boxes and screaming “Heeey stellaaaaaa!” à la Marlon Brandon in Streetcar Named Desire.
This was all rascally japes until I plumped for the wrong house, whose fortyish, male occupant apparently likes to wait on his knees on the other side of the door, bark like a doberman and chew on whatever comes through his box. Such was the sad fate of Baguette.
And that’s what I did today.