On their way out of the Job Centre, Kelly stopped by the side of a neatly suited, out-of-place looking man sat at one of the tables. She jabbed at some equations scribbled in the margins of the claim papers lying in front of him. “’S all right, but think about the fluid dynamics, yeah?
“Bloke like you should try British Aerospace. Except they’re all snobby gits who need a good punching and wouldn’t know a fuckin’ rocket scientist if she gave them a thirty percent more efficient propellant.”
She moved off again, obliviously leaving him stunned in her wake. Nathan drifted closer once she’d caught up. “Fluid dynamics, eh?” His eyebrows waggled. “Is that what the kids are calling it now?”
She rolled her eyes and pushed him away.
He stumbled into Curtis, who pushed him on again.
Curtis looked almost accusingly around the group at large. “Didn’t he say he was leaving?”
Nathan righted himself. “I am leaving! The Great Nathan-o and Marnie-o and Nathan-o Junior-o – okay, yes, it needs work - are leaving on a jet plane. Las Vegas, here we come, baby.”
“But it’s been a month and you’re still here,” Simon pointed out, opening the door so the rest of them could file into the pub ahead of him. “With us,” he added as he trailed in behind.
“Well, it turns out that jet planes are surprisingly expensive when you take tickets into account, and the Cash for Gold lot are complete scam artists. And as a complete scam artist, I should know.”
“Your gold turns to lead after a few minutes, so I don’t think it counts. And please stop using my mother’s house for a return address, she gets very nervous around the police.”
The Great Nathano waved that away. “False advertising is what it is. I should sue.”
Alisha smirked. “Yeah, good luck with that.” She glanced around the table as they sat with their drinks. “I reckon we should all go.”
Simon glanced at her, but said nothing.
She ignored the look and smiled encouragingly in the face of their dubious expressions. “No, right - it’d be fun!
“Kelly could work out which bandit was going to pay out, and I could keep track of where security was, and Simon could tell when they were going to nick us. And Nathan could get eaten by those tigers.”
“And I’d just stand in the corner and look all decorative, yeah?” Curtis raised an eyebrow.
“You could do something, if you told us what you could do,” she retorted.
Lips moved as people worked that out and then Curtis shook his head firmly “Not going to happen.”
Nathan grinned like a lech. “I bet he has two dicks. Is that what you asked for? Two, one-size-fits-all, beautiful black cocks?“
Curtis stared at him. The trouble with Nathan was, while you were trying to work out what to punch him for first, you got curious and then it was too late.
Kelly didn’t have that problem; she smacked Nathan on the side of the head while Curtis asked, “Why would I even want that?”
“You ask and yet I’m the crazy one,” Nathan said sadly, rubbing his head and giving Kelly an injured look that she paid zero attention to.
“Wasn’t even an option, anyway,” Curtis muttered.
Nathan’s eyes brightened. “But you would have, if it was? Of course you would. Who wouldn’t leap at the chance to perform that kind of DP service to all womankind?” He looked narrowly to his side. “Maybe Barry.”
“My name still isn’t Barry.”
“But it should be, don’t you think?” Nathan looked around to take a group census. “Doesn’t he look like a Barry to you?”
Kelly regarded Simon critically, pursing her lips. “Nah. More like a Graham.”
“Graham!? Are you mad? Don’t listen to her, Barry.”
“Anyway,” Alisha said determinedly. “Vegas.”
“Could be all right,” Kelly ventured after a sip of her pint. “We could see Celine Dion.”
Curtis shook his head firmly. “No way I’m going to see Celine Dion.”
Alisha was already brightening. “Nice one!”
Nathan patted Simon sympathetically on the shoulder. “But you might be. We’ll think of you, while we’re out rolling in strippers.”
Curtis frowned. “There’s better places than America, though. Cheaper, too, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not exactly flush.”
“Where’s better than Vegas?” Nathan looked almost confused by the concept. “It’s America, man – the land of the … WWE. And there’s eagles, and some kind of delicious pie. And guns.”
Alisha flinched. “I don’t like guns,” she said quietly. Simon took her hand and squeezed it gently.
“’S’all right, I suppose. Nice enough place to visit.” Curtis shrugged nonchalantly. “Nothin’ special.”
“You’ve been, then?” Alisha looked interested; she’d barely been off the estate.
“Been everywhere, haven’t I? Before this bullshit ban, I went all over. France, last time.”
“I went to France on a school trip,” Simon offered. “We went skiing.”
“Bet France doesn’t have Las Vegas, though,” Nathan said.
“No,” Simon admitted. “But they do have some nice mountains. And cheese. And almost no one spits at you if you don’t speak French anymore. And there’s the wine, of course.” He glanced at Nathan. “You know you have to be twenty-one to drink in America?”
Nathan’s face drained of all colour. “You’re serious? We need to do something! We should send an army over there, this is a human rights issue!” He stood quickly and brought a fist down hard on the table. “I will liberate my people!”
Kelly dragged him back to his seat while Simon tried to mop up the spilled drinks.
Curtis scowled and shook the remains of his beer from his hands. “Next round’s on you, then.”
“Of course.” Nathan looked around furtively and then drew a suspiciously shiny gold piece from his pocket.
“Oi, no!” Kelly knocked it from his hand. “We want to come back here – use real money.”
“Christ, all right, calm down.” He patted his pockets. “I gave all my money to Marnie, lend us a tenner?”
“Not fuckin’ likely, mate. You still owe me a grand for kitting out Nathan Junior.”
“Yeah, I should tell you now, honestly, you’re probably not seeing that again.”
Kelly rolled her eyes. “No fucking shit.” She smiled a little. “Worth it, though.” The smile instantly hardened to a glare. “And do not say I should get knocked up, you little cock.”
“I do not have a little cock!” Nathan struck a proud pose, jutting out his hip. “The cock is mighty; the cock is glorious. And you’d know that, if you hadn’t been a crazy clone lady that time I showed it to you.”
He glanced at Simon. “No offence. How is the crazy clone lady? Doing well?”
“She’s … she’s fine, thank you. She’s in college now. Apparently very few people in her year have died under mysterious circumstances.”
“Doing better than us, then,” Curtis said morosely.
“Now that’s just not true.” Nathan grinned widely. “I was thinking of getting one of those signs, you know? ‘No work place accidents or probation workers killed for thirteen days.’”
Simon stared at him. “You should probably not do that.”
“Jesus, Barry. I was joking.” Nathan stood again, less violently this time. “Now, seeing as you’re all tight bastards who won’t give me money so I can buy a round, I’m going to have to do it the Great Nathan-o way. Watch my back, I’m going in.”
In silence, they watched him cross the floor and elbow his way to the bar.
Alisha sighed. “I liked this place.”
“I didn’t,” Curtis said shortly. “Men’s room stinks of shit. All the time.”
Kelly wrinkled her nose and drew on her coat, Simon followed suit. Without a word, all of them raised themselves slightly in their seats, ready to run.
“Oi! You thieving little c-”
They were out the door before the barman could finish his sentence and hadn’t gone ten feet before Nathan drew even. “Well, that was bracing.”