I walk into the minimart, and already I can see the owner’s speaking cat watching me. The shopkeeper is called Martin (Mart, the streetwalkers call him) and he is a very small man. Every time I visit he points out that he is minimart, and we are in a minimart. He laughs so hard I have had to resuscitate him more than once. I have written to the Guinness Book of Records about it. Mart asked me to. They have not written back. I didn’t actually send the letters. I had no stamps, despite Mart selling stamps (or claiming to, at any rate – more specifically 1st or 2nd class)
Each time I arrive Mart covers his eyes with one hand and stops me in my tracksuit with the other. ‘I know what you are here for!’ he always says.
‘You don’t,’ I say, knowing he probably does.
‘I knew it!’ yells Mart triumphantly, but I only have 8.
‘It’s German for no,’ say I (I didn’t even study German at schoolenburger)
‘You have come for table polish again!’ points Mart.
‘How did you know?’ I say.
‘I spotted the table outside the shop. I can see it needs a buff up.’
We both peer outside at my table, sitting there on the pavement. It is a four seater, with a nice flame, and has been recently enough French polished. But yes, Mart is right, it could do with a buff up, and I am here for polish.
‘I’m out,’ he says.
‘I can clearly see you are in,’ I say.
‘I have no polish.’
‘I disagree,’ I say. ‘You are a class act, Mart. You are nearly in the Guinness Book of Records.’
Mart’s talking cat slinks across the shop floor, and says, ‘I too wish to be in the Guinness Book of Records.’
‘For what?’ I say, pointing at the bare bulb above our heads, which flickers.
‘It’s at least 40 watt,’ says Mart.
Mart is from Dunstable. Mart’s speaking cat is from Weston-Super-Mare. I am from Middlesbrough. Mart’s speaking cat says WSM is quite depressing in winter. I tell him that Middlesbrough is as hot and exciting as Las Vegas. Mart’s speaking cat believes me because he is a cat, and has no knowledge of Middlesbrough, or indeed any town except this one, and WSM. Mart does not comment about Dunstable.
Mart moonwalks over to the furniture polish section of the minimart, and brings me the polish. It costs £1.99. I pay him, all the time asking the cat whether he’d eat Mart were Mart to suddenly pass away.
‘I would,’ says Mart’s speaking cat.
I bid Mart and his speaking cat goodbye, pocket the polish (it looks like my member is perfectly cylindrical), and begin to drag my four seater nice flame dining table home. Halfway, the table asks me if he can be in the Guinness Book of Records? I say he can, and promise to send a letter.
I know I will not send a letter – not for Mart, Mart’s speaking cat, or my nice flame table. I am a liar.
‘Anyway, Norris McWhirter was a Fascist,’ I say.
‘Roy Castle could tap-dance,’ says my nice flame table. Then he says, ‘I can’t wait for you to polish me, darling.’
Chris Walsh grew up in Middlesbrough and now lives in Kent. His debut novel, The Dig Street Festival, will be published in March 2021 by Louise Walters Books. Chris was recently interviewed by the Philip Larkin Society about Larkin’s influence on his writing. He was most recently published in May 2020 by Moxy Magazine, and June 2020 by Ellipsis Magazine. Twitter @WalshWrites.