“Tragedy and comedy in perfect proportion” Lesley Jones
Kim Carter finds himself falling in love with Clea, a girl from the smarter part of town.
Try as he might to move on, they seem drawn together.
He tells her the anecdote of The Frog Theory – that it will jump straight out of boiling water and live but stay in and die if heated slowly from cold – and uses it to wake her up to the dangerous situation she is in at home.
But where do you find inspiration when your parents have failed you?
And what do you do when you find yourself on a bus, covered in tiramisu?
They ordered quickly as the kitchen was about to close. Pasta carbonara for Flow,
house speciality for Kim and seafood salad for Clea.
Try as he might and he tried very hard, Kim could not relax. He withdrew mentally instead of contending with his emotional confusion, and thought about what he needed to do next to link their website to the search engines as he chomped through his food.
Clea took his aloofness personally and it flung her back to memories of bad times.
The Brogue Slamming Against Her Head.
This unexpected telescope to the past put her on edge.
Luckily, Flow did most of the talking and the food was delicious, which helped keep those thoughts at bay, and free-flowing wine added to the good feelings.
‘There are places in Thailand where the girls shoot darts out of their, you know…’ Flow waggled his eyebrows knowingly. ‘You must of heard of them. Anyway, there was this underground replica of it in Soho we all went to for a laugh and our mate Pat got hit, right in the temple, didn’t he, Kim? We all ended up in A&E!’ Kim didn’t answer. ‘And Ryan pulled one of the nurses…?’ nudged Flow further, looking at Kim expectantly.
The mention of Ryan momentarily brought Kim to the conversation but he was soon gone again. ‘I’ll just talk to you, then, shall I?’ said Flow good-naturedly to Clea.
‘Suits me,’ she said, with a sideways glance at Kim who was chomping through his meatballs like some sort of machine.
‘Oh my God, what you did to Hugo’s car? You did do that, right? I saw you… sitting on the roof. How could I have forgotten to ask you about it and to thank you, until now?’
She’d left home after that.
The Brogue Slamming Against Her Head. Insubordinate Bitch.
Fuck – off – bad – memories! She instructed firmly, concentrating as hard as she could on listening to what was going on inside the room rather than inside her head.
‘That was Flow!’ said Kim, proudly, putting his knife and fork to one side, suddenly back in the conversation after finishing his meatballs.
Maybe he was just hungry, thought Clea. ‘He can do anything,’ said Kim, ‘I’ve never seen anyone as good – he should have gone to art school. His mum and dad tried to make him too but he wouldn’t leave the estate.’
‘Yeah… That was more about hating being institutionalised, though. School was never my thing. I just get this mood and I can do it, paint, spray stuff. But I don’t always feel like it and it’s always for a laugh, I could never do it as a job until now, like this, with Kim – and it doesn’t feel like a job.’
They explained that the rubberised bin area at Doria Road was the creative “tag” for that particular project and had a laugh about how often they’d ended up playing at chucking things into it.
‘Have you ever been caught? While you were spraying?’
‘Nah! Been chased, though… Got chased the night we did the car didn’t we, Kim?’
But he was gone again.
What was it with him, tonight?
I can’t stop them anymore, thought Clea, her negative emotions finally busting the carefully constructed dams of her mind.
Kim didn’t like her, nobody liked her when it really came down to it, and why should they? What was there to like? She was just a stupid, idiotic little girl and would never get anywhere in life, not really.
She found herself missing what Flow was saying entirely for at least ten minutes while her mind taunted her, Hugo’s horrible voice so loud, so insistent and so determined to be heard. Flow clapped his hands together.
Kim gave a long yawn and gazed longingly towards the door. Clea was just absolutely gorgeous and he couldn’t take this. He flung his credit card on the table, about to ask for the bill so that he could make his escape and leave them to it as the waiter approached with a dessert trolley. ‘Dessert trolley! Retro,’ commented Flow, looking with appreciation at the display.
The waiter described the dessert options whilst Kim rudely drummed his fingers on the table and looked distractedly around the restaurant.
Clea felt her anger rise like boiling milk.
‘Excuse me,’ she said to the waiter, picking up a large strawberry gateau.
‘No, no… we sell it by the slice, you no eata the whole thing!’ he exclaimed, These English could be such pigs.
‘I’m not going to eat it,’ said Clea, her face alight with mischief. ‘Kiiim,’ she called, and as soon as he looked at her she squidged the cake soundly into his surprised, glum face.
That stopped everything.
The people at the surrounding tables stared at Kim as the bulk of the impressive pudding made its slippery way down his front.
A moment later he seized a gooey-looking lemon meringue pie and plonked it onto Clea’s head like a pillar box hat.
‘Mon dieu!’ cried the waiter, throwing his hands into the air.
‘Hey, that’s French,’ said Flow as Clea swiped a chocolate gateau and plied Kim with it. Kim retaliated with a tiramisu. They were gaining momentum and when they ran out of desserts Clea whipped a salad from a nearby table.
The manager hurried over to intervene; a bread roll hit him hard on the ear and his primal urge to fight was set free. He was near the bread basket and a good shot, which they soon discovered as they ducked and weaved the painful jabs.
Some people in the restaurant had begun to cheer and whoop, taking photos and films on their phones, whilst a spattering of more sober onlookers sat, aghast.
‘You are un-fucking-believable,’ snarled Kim through five inches of food. Clea, still dodging the well-aimed missiles from the manager, made her way around the tables and out of the door.
Kim chased her down the street with Flow closely behind and then came the manager, huffing and puffing, brandishing a large peppermill above his head.
Being fit as she was Clea managed to put on an extra burst of speed and jump onto a passing bus.
‘I’ll get you for this!’ Kim yelled, shaking his fist at the number 22 as it whizzed off up the King’s Road.
Then it occurred to him that he wouldn’t have had a clue what to do if he’d have caught her.