Sawn Off Tales


He hated grocery shopping, hated the time it took. But he came up with a method. People bought the same things, more or less. So he would look for someone of his type, sneak up behind them and roll their fully-laden trolley off to the checkout.

It made life interesting. Often there were things he would never have bought; once there was a fat orange pumpkin.

But today he was in trouble. He had been stealing mostly from women because he liked the sense of order to their selections, but his victim had spied him and was stomping over. There were women's products in the cart, so it was going to be difficult. He decided to pretend he knew her.

'Darling, I'll just get eggs'

'We've got eggs' The woman chirped. 'Listen, do you want to go out to the car? You look stressed. You can listen to your tape'.


The bin-men laid out the recycling boxes and pressed play. Latin beats spluttered out, and from a wheelie-bin sprang a woman in floaty clothes. She danced as she demonstrated how to recycle. A bin-man battered hell out of a bongo.

Within every bottle are pieces of all the bottles you've ever used, they sang

The dancer had long ochre hair. Freckles. She hated newsnight, and laminate-flooring. She liked celeriac. And ferris wheels.

She was my ex-girlfriend.

My insides churned with recalled desire and when she'd finished I gripped her arm. But she pointed at the label on a tin. DO NOT REHEAT.

            When we lived together I
dealt with the rubbish; a monstrous heap of unloved packaging and decayed food. We threw away more than we ever had. It was better when everything got burnt. Ash-men came with an ash-cart and grey flecks wheeled in the air, getting in our eyes.


He showed me the back of my head in a mirror and I nodded.

'6.50 then,' he said, and pressed the foot pedal. The hydraulics sighed as I sank to the floor.

'I normally pay five.'

He indicated the price list. 'It's been 6.50 for a while'

'Yes, but...'

What had happened? I was regular. Only new customers paid full. It was never spoken of, but that was the system. The barber could tell that someone else had cut it; the blending between the longer and shorter sections was poorly executed.

'Look me in the eye'' he said, 'and tell me you haven't been to anyone else.'

'I haven't been to another barbers in years.'

The barber sucked in his lower lip. 'So we're talking home clippers.'

'Yes'' I said, and felt my cheeks redden in shame.

'Ok. Call it 5.50. I know you won't do it again.'


Lucy screeched to a halt, jumped out and stomped down the street. I sat for a time watching her diminishing figure in the mirror then decided to catch her up. As I walked I noticed a sign in a shoe shop window; THIS IS NOT THE RAILWAY STATION and began to think about handmade signs. A lot of annoying things have to happen a lot of times to persuade you to make a sign. Company-made signs are obviously not good enough to communicate what the public need to know. They always have to get out their marker pens. Here was another, on a cake shop door; WE DO NOT SELL PIES.

I caught her up at McDonalds (NO ROLLERBLADES) and followed her into the toilets where she sat down and cried in a cubicle. Blu-tacked above a murky mirror a sign said THE TOILET BRUSH IS FOR STAFF USE ONLY.


The room he was given had seven wardrobes. Seven. At night the wardrobes oppressed him. Dark brooding figures shuffling closer to his bed, faces glowering out from the whorls of polished grain. The landlord wouldn't let him get rid of them. They were classic. Solid. So he had to think of a way to use them. The TV fitted into one, Hi Fi in another, cooking equipment in a third, and various bits and bobs in the rest. But he couldn't think of anything to do with the last one. Then one night he dragged his duvet into it and had the best night's sleep ever.

He decided to stay in the wardrobe. He would move in a radio, and would eat there too. Eventually he would get six more people to live in the other wardrobes. Because he was the last person to keep himself to himself.

           David Gaffney 2005