WATTS GOING ON
We’ve all had the occasional ‘lightbulb’ moment, mine was being inspired to open possibly the greatest outlet for lightbulbs in the UK. This might sound boastful but I stock over four-thousand different types of bulbs—a fact that speaks for itself—in ‘Watts Going On’, which is a play on words. When I was a boy, I was always intrigued by the expression: ‘Many hands make light work.’ Now, in my store, I tell my customers: ‘You only need one hand to make lights work!’ The joke is slightly tenuous but I often find it lightens the mood. Many people express surprise when I tell them how many different bulbs there are. So, I explain it’s not just about whether they’re screw or bayonet-fitting, it’s about wattage, size, shape and colour. I could talk about bulbs for hours and by the time I’ve finished no one’s in the dark anymore. Naturally, not everybody takes an interest. You can’t expect everyone to share your passion, but I have to say I take a dim view of them. Hopefully, they’ll see the light eventually.
Anyway, I opened ‘Watts Going On’ ten years ago and sometimes the business struggled. But being a born optimist, I could always see the light at the end of the tunnel. My confidence was fully justified because now I’m a millionaire. That’s one in the eye for all those early detractors who said my business was a flash in the pan. I showed them by designing a saucepan with an inbuilt light so people could cook in the dark.
Of course, a lot of my custom is online now, you have to move with the times. I had no qualms about adapting; I’m equally happy serving customers in the store or over the internet, it’s easy to switch between the two. One of my biggest online orders came from a chain of garden centres who wanted to bulk buy bulbs for their garden sheds. I was happy to oblige and when I despatched their order, I attached a light-hearted note that read: ‘Hope this sheds some light on the situation.’ Knowing full well that it did!
Something that gets on my wick, is the candle shop that’s opened a few doors down from my premises. It’s owned and run by a bloke called Wayne and he’s named the shop ‘Wax and Wayne’—a feeble pun if ever I heard one. I don’t like him at all, although we’re civil to one another when we meet, which, being neighbours, is quite regularly. He acts all pally and cracks the odd joke or talks about the weather, like an ordinary person. But his dress-sense makes his odd-looking appearance weirder and I mistrust the furtive look I’ve noticed in his shifty eyes. His breath smells bad too and his teeth look wonky when he cracks his lopsided smile at one of his own jokes. He looks like a dishonest fishmonger running away from his past. I don’t know if he's married or got a girlfriend, but if so, I suspect he’s really mean to her. As for his stock… Well, he’s got shelves full of different scented candles aimed at the New Age lot and a little section of tiny candles for birthday cakes, and God knows what else! I don’t know and I don’t care; I think he’s backing a loser and is well behind the times when it comes to lighting. His shop’s only been open six months, but the way he larges it strutting up and down the street and beaming at passers-by outside his shopwindow, you’d think he was Lord Sugar or Richard Branson. Muppet!
One day, somebody chucked a brick through ‘Wax and Wayne’s’ window—no, it wasn’t me! It was an inebriated vandal with mental health issues. Of course, the police didn’t want to know, even though Wayne offered a full description of the culprit. He had to go through his insurance to replace the window and then his premium went up. I did feel a bit sorry for him but only about 13-15%. The other 87-85% of me thought it served him right and that he’d got what he deserved. I knew the headcase who’d done it as it goes, he was a familiar face around the neighbourhood. He was an unemployed alcoholic called ‘Big’ Oscar (although he was only average height and build). Apparently, he’d been traumatised as a child after being made to walk barefoot on Lego pieces by his sadistic parents. They’d abandoned him on his tenth birthday to tour Scandinavian countries demonstrating various uses of Velcro to displaced Norwegians with learning difficulties. Oscar had been adopted by a philatelists’ co-operative until—weeks later—tragedy struck and the caring collective were decapitated by an out-of-control JCB, driven by an inebriated misfit with issues of their own. At their trial for manslaughter, the JCB driver claimed, as a child, they were forced to walk barefoot across polystyrene copies of Lego pieces. They got sentenced for twenty years in prison but, after serving two years, they were transferred to a mental health facility. I felt slightly sorry for Oscar, more than I’d felt sorry for Wayne, but only about 25-27%. The other 75-73% of me wondered if I could find him and persuade him to carry out further attacks on ‘Wax and Wayne.’
It turned out to be very easy to find Oscar, he never strayed far from a six-street radius of mine and Wayne’s shops. By 10.30 am, most mornings, he’d be staggering drunk from the cans of lager he’d shoplifted from the supermarket. I also found he was open to persuasion when I not only offered him cash for continuing to damage Wayne’s business, but I added that Wayne was a notoriously cruel parent who forced his toddler son to walk barefoot on Lego pieces. I suggested trying something different to throwing a brick through the new window. Specifically: arson! I had to supply him with the matches and a Molotov cocktail, as well as wait until he’d consumed thirteen cans of Brain-Rot Brew (8.2%) lager. But my patience paid off as Wayne’s shop was set ablaze. Wayne ran out all tearful and panicking. It was about quarter of an hour before the fire brigade turned up but too much damage had been done. I could tell Wayne was going to lose his shop and couldn’t help laughing. Even though I felt about 11-13% sorry for him.
‘Oh, Wayne, mate, I’m so sorry!’ I lied to his crumpled face, shouting to be heard above the sirens of the fire engines.
He was sobbing like a molested girl, I thought, or someone who’s been made to walk barefoot over Lego pieces. Fair enough, he’d lost his business, but still about 77% of me thought he looked like a contemptible wimp and should have tried to get a grip on himself.
‘Poor guy…’ A pedestrian muttered, walking past, their eyes drinking in the spectacle of Wayne’s misfortune.
‘What’s happened? What’s going on?’ Voices were heard from the crowd gathered on the opposite side of the road gawping at the scene.
‘There’s been a fire, hasn’t there?’
‘Ooh, dear, oh dear. Was anyone hurt?’
‘I don’t think so.’
About 44-55% of me thought they sounded disappointed.
Someone asked one of the firemen: ‘Think it was deliberate?’
I assumed they’d know immediately, based on their professional experience, that it was. Needless to say, Oscar was nowhere to be seen—having legged it instantly after firebombing Wayne’s shop. It occurred to me I’d need to make sure he didn’t incriminate or implicate me if he fell into police hands. I realised I’d have to get to him first. But what should I do then? I wondered. Maybe I should not seek him out after all; focus instead on misdirecting Wayne. Yes, that seemed to make the most sense. Feign compassion for Wayne’s fate, then tell him about Oscar and his weird and destructive fixation with Wayne’s shop. Tell him about the Lego abuse he'd suffered as a child, that had sent him spiralling into joblessness, alcoholism and misplaced bitterness. Frighten Wayne, if I could, with the image of Oscar as a vindictive maniac who’d stop at nothing to achieve his insane goals. Maybe I could terrify Wayne into attacking, even killing Oscar. After making up stories about seeing him firebombing the shop and make claims of his history of extreme violence specifically involving, perhaps, candle-sellers. That’s when I got the idea I was about to put into place.
The following day, I sought out Wayne. He was dismally surveying his burnt-out premises.
‘Oh, hello, Wayne…’ I said gently. Not that his abject demeanour had genuinely inspired my pity. But I wore an expression of sympathetic supplication. ‘I thought I’d find you here. Oh, dear, oh, dear. Is there anything you can salvage?’
Wayne shook his head, dislodging a mass of dandruff in the process. It was disgusting! I knew then I hated him, that I was going to destroy him because he was a contemptuous fool who deserved it. I started talking about Oscar and how I thought there were things I ought to let Wayne know about him. I was thrilled by the look of concern on his face as I elaborated on my theme and exaggerated for effect.
‘My God! What am I going to do?’
Wayne was clearly terrified. Feeling calm in the moment of approaching victory I sensed was mine, I hesitated before answering.
‘Perhaps you and I should take Oscar for a drink?’
‘You what? You can’t be serious! The man’s deranged and dangerous! You said so yourself.’
‘I know, I know,’ I nodded. ‘But he’s not to know we know how off the wall he is. Just think: it might well be to our advantage to pretend we want to befriend him. Using his weakness for alcohol as a tool for controlling him. Do you see?’
Wayne looked uncomprehending, but fear made him clutch at the straws he failed to completely grasp, thanks to my cleverness. But, I knew, I had to be patient a little while longer and not rush things. I had a plan of action that had to be carefully executed or it could fail. So, I decided to play it cool and let Wayne mull over our conversation before taking my next step.
‘Look, tell you what, I’ll seek out Oscar and arrange we all meet sometime tomorrow, ok?’
‘Don’t worry, everything’s going to be alright. Did I mention I have friends who are senior-ranking police officers? I’ll have tipped them off to our rendezvous in advance, and then we’ll get Oscar pissed and trick him into making a full confession. Alright?’
I was going to tip off the police, alright.
Wayne still looked doubtful.
‘Leave it all to me. Unless, of course…’
‘You haven’t got any pieces of Lego, have you?
‘I’ll see you here tomorrow, Wayne. Let’s say around 10.30, ok?’
Wayne nodded as I briskly walked off, stifling my laughter.
The next day was a Saturday. Normally, I’d be in my shop all day, there’s plenty of trade at the weekends. But, today was special so I closed early and strolled along to the burnt-out shell of ‘Wax and Wayne’ to meet hapless Wayne as arranged.
‘Morning, Wayne!’ I said with false cheer. ‘How are you feeling today?’
‘Frankly, like shit,’ he bleated, his face frozen in an expression of self-pity. ‘So, what’s the plan? Where are we meeting Oscar?’
‘The Nose Stuck Inn. I said I’d buy him a drink.’
‘Really? That place is a right dive.’
He was right, it was a filthy hovel run by alcoholics for alcoholic customers. The average life-expectancy of its regular customers was forty-five. Not just because of their chronic drink problems—the pub and its cellar were notoriously dirty and fights were also a regular occurrence. No wonder Oscar was in his element in there. When I’d offered him a drink there he’d jumped at the chance, his bloodshot eyes glistening at the prospect. Well, he was going to get more than he’d bargained for on this occasion and it’d serve him right, the dysfunctional parasite! Wayne would get his come-uppance too and I couldn’t wait.
‘Oh, it’s not that bad. Come on, let’s go!’
The sordid pub was only a five-minutes-walk away and I set off briskly whistling a tune with more insincere cheer. Wayne fell in beside me, his shoulders slumped, betraying his air of resignation and dejection. I stopped whistling after about thirty seconds and we continued our journey in silence.
When we arrived at the pub, I gestured for Wayne to go first. When he brushed past, I managed to slip a certain item into his jacket pocket unnoticed. I could tell Wayne was uncomfortable as he deliberately swaggered to the greasy bar and placed his hands palms downwards on top of it. I saw Oscar at a nearby table and nodded to him.
‘What’ll it be?’ A purple-nosed woman said from behind the bar. She had to shout to be heard over the blaring jukebox playing speeded up bagpipes’ quartets, recorded underwater.
‘I’ll get these,’ I moved alongside Wayne. ‘Three pints of lager, please, darling.’
‘One of them’s for Oscar.’ I said to Wayne as the woman poured the drinks with surly resentment.
‘Shit! What’s he going to make of me being here?’ Wayne asked.
‘Don’t worry about it, all he cares about’s his booze.’
According to the clock in the pub it was just gone 11am when we joined Oscar at his dirty, rickety table. A few old men sat on a couple of barstools and a couple of heavily-tattooed lesbians were arm-wrestling on another table. Other than that, it was empty.
‘Alright, Oscar, my mate? Here’s yours.’
‘Cheers,’ he said, immediately taking a huge sip.
When he did, I pulled a hipflask out of my pocket and poured the contents into his pint.
‘It’s just a little something to make it a little more interesting.’ That was one way of putting it, it was a super-potent rat poison. I just hoped the taste wouldn’t put him off. It didn’t, he quickly drained the glass.
‘Fancy another one? Get them in, will you, Wayne?’
Wayne, who’d been looking at a blood-stained patch of the carpet and hadn’t touched his pint, jumped up like his seat was spring-loaded. He went to the bar with sheepish compliance and wasted a smile on the woman with the purple nose, while I grinned at Oscar. The police wouldn’t be long, I reckoned and noticed Wayne’s jacket over the seat he’d just left. That’s handy, I thought putting my empty hipflask into his pocket. Taking care to choose the opposite pocket to the first, which I’d slipped the rat poison can into as we’d entered. I started nattering about some crap about deliveries for my shop, distracting Oscar while Wayne was at the bar. My hands were under the table, in one of them was the hypodermic syringe I was hoping Oscar wouldn’t notice me sticking into his leg to inject him with more lethal toxins.
‘Ouch!’ I said, grabbing my own thigh the same instant I stuck the needle in his thigh. ‘Something’s bitten me!’
‘What’s up?’ Wayne returned with the drinks. Amazingly, and much to my relief, Oscar hadn’t noticed a thing. ‘I thought something had bitten my leg.’
Standing up, the syringe concealed in my closed left hand, I rubbed my knee with my right and shuffled about a bit to get behind Wayne.
‘Really? That’s strange.’
‘Watch out, Wayne!’ I said banging into him as I pretended to stumble. He spilled some of the pints on the table and while he was focussed on that, I managed to plant the syringe in his jacket. ‘Sorry, mate.’ I apologised, sitting back down.
‘Cheers!’ Oscar greedily raised the fresh glass to his lips. He looked an unhealthy colour, I noticed a sweaty film on his face and forehead, but he always looked like that. But after a couple of minutes, during which he finished his second pint, he started panting and looked flushed.
‘Fancy a short, Oscar? Whiskey?’
He nodded, his bloodshot eyes bulging noticeably in his now hot and profusely sweating head. Wayne was too busy nervously avoiding eye-contact with the arm-wrestling lesbians to notice anything, as I ordered a large whiskey and another pint for Oscar.
‘I need to take a leak.’ I said after I returned with the drinks. I didn’t, but the Gents was near the side doors of the pub, where I planned to make a quick exit. A momentary lull in the music from the jukebox coincided with my decision. Not a moment too soon, I thought, as Oscar began choking, his face matching the shade of the barwoman’s nose. Standing up to head in the direction of the toilet. I heard the wail of sirens, presumably the police, approaching. I took one last look at the table. Wayne was looking nervous and awkward, as Oscar suddenly fell forwards and his head crashed onto the table. Things had worked out perfectly. As I left the pub, I thought maybe I’d open up the shop in the afternoon.