There’s an old woman in the bookies, who always sits at the same fruit machine with a beret and a packet of sandwiches. When I walk in she turns her head to the ringing of the bell over the door frame – “hello J” – and the familiarity makes me uncomfortable. I stand and watch as the pears, apples and bells roll past, and with every No Sale she clenches her fist in her lap and mimes wanking, whilst swearing loudly at the machine. Whether it’s dementia or an immense vocabulary her phrases illuminate the dull room, still faintly stained with blood from a failed robbery. Wankcrumpets. In her sweet-old-Methodist-lady-voice. Christjizz. Cunthurdle. I lean on the writing shelf that surrounds three-quarters of the room as she rolls another dud. Shitcrumble.
I place my bets and the dogs die. Always, the dog I’ve put money on leaves the little box to chase the piece of rag on a machine and it dies… either on track or with a shotgun between the eyes soon afterwards. Behind the glass, D____ smiles behind three day old make up and a company branded shirt covered in dandruff and cereal. Sometimes it’s B_____, a waxen haired old bastard and forty-five year old virgin who will tell anyone who will listen that it is his choice. As the regulars die, his voice gets louder; as he gets older, the chances of him planting anything diminish accordingly.
I made the mistake one day of asking the old woman for her name, as she rolled two Bars and a Star. With a huff, she hissed at me like a snake; Fuckphelia. I took two steps back and sat down on a stool. Ophelia, I thought…. what a pretty name.