I can spot a bad egg a mile off. I know as soon as he walks in. He's on something, all jittery and agitated. I keep an eye on him. I’m in MacDonald’s – always busy on Sunday mornings: hung-over clubbers and knackered nurses finishing night shifts.
There's a queue, he pushes in. “Excuse me, I’m before you,” says a young girl, polite as can be. “What’s your fucking problem?” he shouts. My ears prick up, put down my muffin, ready. The girl doesn’t reply. He carries on regardless, “You’re an ugly fat fucking lesbian, that’s your problem.” The poor girl flinches, a look of fear and humiliation on her face. She looks ahead, says nothing. No doubt regrets she spoke up.
Fair enough, she’s big, and won’t trouble the Miss World judges, but lesbian, how does he know? And so what if she is, nothing wrong in that. My eldest grandson's a fairy, he's more like a bird than a bloke; anyone call him for it, and they’ve got me to deal with.
She’s not gonna speak up, so I do, “Oi – Leave it out, there’s children in here. Watch your mouth young man,” I shouts over. He shoots me a look, angry eyes; bullies don't like being pulled up in public. He smirks, “Do us a favour granny, fuck off and die.” I expected as much. I ain't scared of his type, too long in the tooth for fear.
I get up; walk up to him, straight and proud. Look him in the eye, “I don’t intend kicking any buckets for a long time yet fella,” I whisper. Then raise my voice, “This young lady’s before you, now be a gentleman and do the right thing.” I say. “Get out of my face old timer, or I’ll put you out,” he says, under his breath of course. My shackles rise along with my voice, “Threatening an old lady are ya? – aint you a peach!” Silence: heads down, shovel in big breakfasts, leave well alone, don't get involved.
That’s what London’s like now – no community. I note his fist; it’s clenched, ready to floor me. Next thing, the little Chinese lad who I talk to every Sunday morning, no more than seven or eight, rushes up to me quick as a flash, grabs my hand, “Come away Granny Grace,” he pleads, pulling me towards his Mum who’s sucking a milkshake by the window. I go with him, don’t like to see children distressed. I make light of it.
What breaks my heart is, the only person to come forward and help me is a child – ain't that shocking. The old bill turn up too late, he's well gone. "You all right Grace?" asks the young cleaning lady; works like a Trojan she does, for a pittance. That reminds me, I need rubber gloves – I'll get em in Superdrug when it opens.
Walking through the precinct, I catch a familiar smell, aftershave – his. He's following me. I note the shuffle of his stride; I might be old, but my senses are razor sharp. Rubber gloves have gone up forty pence, scandalous. The cashiers a lovely girl from Ghana, “Hello Grace, how are you doing darling?” “Mustn’t grumble sweetheart.” I notice she's had a new hair do, "Oh, I like your hair sweetheart, you look like a pop star. That reminds me, I need lacquer – I'll get it in Poundland.
I chuck the lacquer into my trolley and carry on to Morrisons. He's still behind me, trying to intimidate me; I expect he'll give up when he needs another fix. I get another waft of his scent while I'm at the meat counter, accompanied by a slow hissed threat, "You'll be sorry you opened your mouth old timer; no one disrespects me and gets away with it." Where's the old bill when you need em. The cop shop round the corner burnt down last year, arson. That reminds me, I need lighter fuel – I'll get it in the Newsagents.
I worry I've gone too far. I forget times aren't what they used to be. Back in my day the good stood up to the bad. Times have changed. Perhaps I should have kept my mouth shut. The young lad who works in the Newsagents is scrubbing the shelves. He takes of his rubber gloves when he sees me, "Hello aunty," he says. "You doing your spring cleaning," I say. I chuck the lighter fuel into my trolley. "See you tomorrow aunty," he says, while putting the rubber gloves back on. That reminds me – cleaning.
Being followed by a nasty piece of work on a Sunday's not nice. He’s still on my heels. I do get myself into some right old pickles. I walk past the Methodist church and turn into the alleyway that leads through to the council estates. The smell of piss makes me wince.
It’s not long before he's right behind me. I feel his breath on the back of my neck. It’s just the two of us. He's got me alone, all to himself. I wait for his verbal.
"Not so fucking lippy now – are you Granny?"
I turn slow – pause – then act swift – spray his eyes with lacquer, then make short shrift of his jugular with my cutthroat. His claret smacks the wall with a welcome splash of colour. Lovely. I take my gloves off while he’s in the death throes; chuck em on him. Sprinkle him with lighter fuel and flip me Zippo – whoosh – roast scum. That reminds me – I've got a nice leg of lamb in my trolley.