Nile grips the pink checked coffee mug in his hands, shivering like one of those shorthaired Chihuahua dog-rats. He raises the mug to his lips, sighs, and lowers it again.
Shoulda brought some fucking milk over.
He watches as Joey and Lara stroke the neighbour’s Border Collie, completely giving herself over to their petting. She’s free to roam from garden to garden thanks to a storm that blew down the fences a few months ago. After that she became everyone’s dog.
‘So, walk me through this print thing one more time.’
Joey doesn’t look up. Roxy tongues his face.
‘My blue print?’
‘Yeah, walk me through that.’
Joey pauses, scrapes the chair back with his ass, and saunters towards the house.
Lara locks eyes with Nile, smirks, and carries on fussing over the dog.
Joey returns with two Lidl bags, drops them on the floor, and rummages to retrieve the first ingredient to his erratic program.
‘Decaf tea,’ Joey announces as he slams the giant box down on the table, the words ‘Super Save’ plastered on the front.
Lara and Nile eyeball the box, and then each other.
Lara’s fingers gravitate towards her mouth; she brushes her pinky against her top lip and furrows her eyebrows.
‘Why choose decaf Joe?’
Joey hand frees his hair from the tight ponytail he has been sporting for the past two years now; it falls just past his shoulders. He shakes it out, letting it enjoy its five seconds of freedom, before shackling it back to his scalp.
‘The plan,’ he mumbles, hair band between his teeth, ‘was to wake up, put on Enya ‘Only Time’, and listen to it three times, while drinking this,’ he taps the box with his finger, ‘I didn’t want us to start our day with a caffeine buzz.’
Nile frowns bewildered. Joey’s been pulling shit like this for years.
‘Surely the morning is the best time to get your buzz on?’
‘Get your buzz on, yes. But not with caffeine.’
Lara’s eyes widen as Joey proudly presents his bottle of tequila, briefly stroking the miniature red sombrero on the top, two bags of pink and yellow marshmallows, and three bottles of squeezy honey.
Nile picks up one of the bottles. ‘So, you object to us starting our day with caffeine, but absolutely no shits are given when it comes to us shotting tequila and getting diabetes?’
Nile shakes his head.
The kid needs to lay off the fucking weed.
‘Right. And then what?’
‘Then we put on these.’
He digs into the bags again to pull out six packets, each sporting toned, and totally obviously not photoshopped, models. Nile pulls out a luminous green tank top.
‘What. The fuck. Is this?’
Nile waves the top towards Joey’s face. ‘This is gym-wear pal.’
Amusement leaves Joey’s eyes. ‘No. They’re performance outfits.’
‘What the fuck do we need performance outfits for?’
Nile gauges Lara’s reaction, assessing whether he was being slow, or his friend had already been at the bottle.
‘I want everyone to perform their best today.’
He leans back in his chair, filter paper and tobacco between his fingers, and concentrates on rolling. Nile fixates on the expert method, watching as Joey brings the paper to his mouth and runs his tongue across its length before smoothing it over one last time. He turns to Lara who’s still smirking and trying to act as though the hairs on her arm aren’t trying to heave themselves out of her skin.
‘I was laughing before, but I really think they need to take him away this time.’
She looks towards the pile of supplies on the floor and shrugs.
Nile runs a hand through his hair, picking out a clump of wax that he’d not rubbed in properly. ‘So we’ve filled up on decaf tea, tequila and marshmallows, while listening to Enya and throwing on those ball hugging outfits. Then what?’
Blowing out a puff of smoke, Joey raises his face towards the grey clouds, and closes his eyes. ‘We go to the park with our containers. For our beasty hunt.’ He adds, seeing that Nile was about to ask yet another obvious question. ‘We go to the park, with our containers, and we catch an insect each. It’s then that we have a decision to make.’
‘What’s the decision?’ Lara chimes in.
Fuck off; she’s actually interested.
‘You either take care of it all day, or you kill it then and there. After naming it.’
‘Why do we have to kill it?’
‘You don’t have to. I just told you; you either nurture it, or end its life. You have a choice.’
Lara starts to giggle; Nile eyes her, confused. That better be nervous laughter.
‘So we take care of it for the day, then what?’
Joey flicks the cigarette butt into the makeshift ashtray of a postman pat sippy cup, rises from the chair and tips over into a handstand.
‘If it survives for the whole day: great. You’re a good person and you can die with a squeaky clean conscience. If it dies, well, you get punished.’
Falling back into the grass, Joey folds his arms underneath his head and bites the inside of his cheek. ‘I don’t know. I went to dinner and didn’t get the chance to come back to it. That’s as far as I got.’
That’s as far as he got.
‘Look, all of this was planned. We were going to have a great day.’
Nile watches as Lara picks up the box of teabags on the table and turns it over in her hands, ‘I just can’t get my head around starting the day with decaf tea bags.’
I’m completely alone here.
‘You weren’t supposed to get your head around this day. I had an idea, I didn’t let it go, and then the idea was in action. I feel like that’s pretty normal.’
Nile can’t contain it. He’s howling.
‘Of course you do, because you’re fucking insane. If you knew how weird that was, you wouldn’t be insane.’
Lara and Joey watch, bemused, until Nile calms down.
He looks at them both, wipes the tear from his cheek and sighs. Pulling on his performance outfit that still lies on the ground, he sits down next to Joey in the grass and tucks into the marshmallows and honey.