The Sherbet Lemon Conversation.
I’m on a flight from London Gatwick to Faro Portugal. Easyjet. No frills, no time. Just two and a half hours of boredom. I’m sipping a vodka and tonic and reading the in flight magazine. Apparently there’s a big discount on L’Oreal Mascara this week.
The middle aged woman sitting next to me smells. Not great. A mixture of cheap perfume, garlic and sweat. I’m guessing her dinner last night was chicken Kiev and because this was the first flight out this morning she didn’t have time for a shower, so just sprayed herself with the female equivalent of Lynx.
Me? I was in bed by nine and up at four. Showered and dressed by five and at the airport by six. I smelt good, Bulgari was my choice this morning and I’d eaten nothing for twenty four hours. The risk of having to take a crap in the toilet on the plane was just to gross to imagine. Once I was in my seat I wouldn’t move until we landed.
I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a new band called New Street Adventures. They’re good, soulful, a bit like Weller when he became The Style Council. I’m aware of the smelly woman nudging me. I take off my headphones and look at her. She’s offering me a sweet.
“We’ll be landing soon. Would you like a sucky sweet?”
I smile back and take something from the bag. It’s a sherbet lemon.
“Thank you. That’s very kind.”
I open the wrapper and put the sweet in my mouth hoping that the smelly woman doesn’t want to talk. I’m wrong.
“Are you going on holiday or do you have a place in Portugal?”
I decide not to be rude so I answer her question truthfully.
“I’m here on business. So only staying for a few days.”
As soon as I say the words I know it’s a mistake. This woman will want to know more.
“Business? What sort of business are you in?”
Again I’m polite and answer as best I can.
“I’m a negotiator. I’m here to negotiate a settlement for my client.”
I crunch the sherbet lemon in my mouth and taste the sharpness on my tongue. I turn away from smelly woman and attempt to put my headphones back on. But she’s having none of it. She nudges me again.
“Sounds exciting. What line of business did you say you were in?”
She’s fishing. So I give her a bite.
Now she’s intrigued. Smelly woman starts to think.
“What sort of recovery? “
Before I can answer, the pilot makes an announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen we will shortly begin our descent into Faro airport and should be on the ground in around fifteen minutes. Please take your seats and fasten your belts.”
The announcement doesn’t phase her. She asks again.
“What sort of recovery?”
I make an assessment in my mind. In less than thirty minutes I’ll be off this plane and never see this woman again. If I make something up smelly woman will keep on with the questions and I’ll run out of answers. I might as well tell her the truth.
“Money. A man in Portugal owes my client a large sum of money. I’m here to negotiate a settlement.”
Smelly woman seems excited at this news.
“Sounds very important. I suppose there will be lawyers involved, a court case maybe?”
I smile at her.
“No. The man in question doesn’t know I’m coming.”
She seems confused at my answer.
“But won’t he need time to put his affairs in order?”
I shake my head.
“The man owns two bars and a nightclub. I’m here to take possession of those assets on behalf of my client. The man only has to sign the papers that I have in my briefcase and then I can return home.”
I can hear the wheels going round in smelly womans head.
“But what if he decides not to sign? Surely the lawyers will get involved then?”
I turn to face her. I stare into her eyes and at the same time I very slowly make a cutting motion with my hand along my throat.
I’m aware of the sound of a bag of sweets hitting the floor...