Everyone meet Stan! He’s really not very nice…
Stan unfurled a long, clawed fingernail and explored the depths of his nostril with it. He poked and prodded, scratched and scraped, and eventually withdrew a brownish-greenish snot oyster. It sat, impaled, upon his claw, sweating in the mid-afternoon heat. He examined his find with an expert eye, taking in the layers of ooze, the flecks of blood, the uneven crust. He admired it triumphantly, savouring the anticipation, before popping his snack into his mouth with a flourish. He rolled the snotball around his mouth, enjoying the sensation as the flavours melted into his tongue, a salty tang here, an acrid tinge there. His lips smacked as he revelled in the change of textures, from slimy to crispy to chewy and back again. It was, he thought, a great shame that he would never know if his snot really was, as he suspected, the tastiest, most delectable, in the town. He had never, despite many attempts, persuaded anyone else to let him try theirs. He swallowed, ecstatically, yet reluctantly. He didn’t know when his nose would produce something so exquisite again. He reached for his beer and took a long, satisfying gulp, washing away his mid-afternoon treat. The barman watched this pantomime with disgust writ large across his face. Stan didn’t care. Everyone picked their nose in private, he knew. The only difference between him and other people was that he was more honest. Stan didn’t hide his appetites, his urges, the way most folk did. He picked his nose, he smoked, he drank to excess, he ate even more, and he didn’t care who knew or saw.
Having consumed his starter, he began to work heartily on his main course, a ghastly, gristly meat pie and pale, flabby chips. His elbows jutted out as he worked his knife and fork, chomping on mouthful after mouthful, gravy dribbling down his jowls and over his fetid old shirt. He paused, flicked through the sachets of condiments next to him, then festooned his meal with mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise, the colours mingling and melting with the murky brown of the gravy. After several minutes, he laid down his knife and fork, wiped his mouth with his shirt sleeve, let out a long, toe-curling belch, and sat back. Lettuce leaves curled up sadly on the side of his plate. The waitress, he didn’t know which one, he could never remember their names, shuffled over to clear his things.
‘Pudding, Stan?’ she offered, quietly.
‘Spotted dick,’ he barked. She wrote the order down and sighed inwardly, awaiting the inevitable joke.
‘And if you ever want to see my spo—‘
Stan swept his gaze around the bar. As usual for the time of day – for Stan was here every afternoon – it was empty, except for a couple at the far end who were having a row. He cocked his ear in their direction, but his hearing was beginning to fail him. He heard the words ‘Ashley Madison’, but he didn’t know who she was. A pop star maybe, he thought, although he knew most of today’s pop stars, the female ones at least, from his nightly sessions with his laptop and his tissues. Maybe she played sports, or read the news. He didn’t watch the news.
His spotted dick clattered down on the table, but before he could say anything the waitress had retreated to the safety of the kitchen. The custard was thin and watery, the sponge rock hard, but he ate it with relish. Most people didn’t put relish on spotted dick, he knew, but it added a sharpness, a bite, that he enjoyed. The barman looked more disgusted than ever, even though this was far from the first time he’d seen this particular performance. Custard spilled down Stan’s shirt, mixing with the gravy to create a brown stain of a colour you usually only see in the bowl of the filthiest of public toilets. He wiped his mouth with his other shirt sleeve, belched again, and pushed the bowl aside.
He was itching for a fag. Time to go, then. He raised his carcass from his chair, and threw the exact change on the rickety table to pay for his meal. As he made his way towards the door he nodded at the barman, pulled his cigarette packet and lighter from his pocket, and, silently, let off the deadliest guff he could manage. He grinned as he exited the pub, leaving behind his trademark beefy aroma.
The barman strode around the bar as quickly as possible, desperately trying not to breathe as he opened all the windows wide. The arguing couple had ceased to row, and instead were trying to cover their noses and mouths. Their eyes were watering heavily. ‘The smell’s in my hair,’ gasped the woman, wretchedly.
Once all the windows were open, the barman scuttled back behind his counter. He thought glumly about tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and all the repeat performances of Stan’s that he’d have to endure. An infinity of belches, of farts, of snot, of sheer horror stretched before him. He reached for the local paper and cast his eyes desperately over the job ads.