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The International Writers Magazine: Grab the Teddy

Luke Gittos

Apparently if you stand by the thing for a while, and wait and wait and wait for loads of people to use it, and loads of people don’t get any prizes, you can go in and get the prize, because the machine has more money than the actual toy is worth. I saw it on a show about how to wins things from people. Great show.

But I have just put money in, and the claw grasped at the teddy’s head and then just came back up again. It had it and then it was gone. I should’ve waited for more people. Come to think about it I am nervous. I told Cathy that I wasn’t this morning but the more I think about it, I am. It’s probably because I am thinking about it. Brighton Pier smells of Doughnuts, a bit like the cinema foyer smells of popcorn and shoe polish. It is funny that places smell of the things they sell. Does a bookshop smell of books? Some do. Others smell like clean.

Oh right, there he is. I can tell even though he has his back to be because he is wearing that massive leather jacket with that band on the back that he likes. It’s not a picture of the band, but their name in funny writing. It is good that it doesn’t scare me to see his back again; I don’t think I am scared of him anymore. I used to be really scared, but if I were still having nightmares I wouldn’t have come. Cathy said she thought it was a good idea, and I think she was right. He has a woman with him who is quite young. Oh no, she is with someone else. Maybe its that man. Richard looks lonely no matter who he is with. He did bring someone. They would have sent someone with him, they said they would.

"Alright Matt" He is much closer now. In fact, he's right up close and staring into the glass at the claw that is now just sliding around all on its own without me doing anything. He was with the man. I can tell now because the man is standing behind Richard ready to pounce if anything goes wrong. This all feels a bit over the top.

"Alright Richard." I went quiet for a second, and then said "my old chum". He laughed, because he always though I spoke funny. He stares at the claw and at the toys all squashes together desperate to be chosen. He breathes out, and his breath smells like sick and cigarettes. Then he opens his arms, and I give him a hug but I hold my belly back.

We had to go to the pub, because Richard wanted to have some alcohol. He told me that he had not been allowed alcohol for a while, but then they let him drink it again because the doctor said so. I laughed and said it was like Holly Brooke. Then Richard looked at the salt for ages before he put his head in his hands. I looked at the man, who shrugged and put his hand on Richards back. He l looked up again after a while.
"Sorry. I just find it hard". He puts his head back in his hands and I look at the man again but this time I shrug. The man laughs and then says:
"Richard. Don’t be a wimp" I thought that was weird because Richard is definitely not a wimp. Richard looks up again and sips his pint.
"Sorry" Richard says again. That’s the most times I have ever heard Richard say sorry. It felt weird. I told Richard that I was living on my own now, in my own place. He asked me if it was any good and I told it was ok. I told him about Cathy, and the rest of them. Richard has a similar team except all of his are men. I asked him where he was living and he said it was at the same place in Surry. I asked him if it was anything like Holly Brooke and he said:
"No, absolutely not."

I finished my coke, and asked Richard if it was all right if I went and got some crisps. He said it was fine, so I asked him if he wanted anything from the bar. He said no, so I didn’t have to take any money from him. At the bar I saw all the bottles along the back shelf and next to them were the crisps. I looked at all the flavours, and it reminded me of the last time I was a bar with Richard.

We had been bowling and there was a bar in the bowling alley. Me and Richard had gone bowling, but Richard had bought along the other girl who lived at Holly Brooke with us. She was called Lilly and even though her and Richard were a couple who spent all their time kissing in the front room, whenever he left the room to have a cigarette she looked like she wanted to cry. I had just bought a coke and some crisps and I came back to sit at our table, and they were there kissing. I just said what Cathy had told me to say:
"You shouldn’t do that in a public place." Richard pulled away and said sorry. We talked for a little while, and Richard made lots of jokes but Cathy did not laugh at any of them. They made her look nervous. When Richard got up to go to the toilet, Lilly told me that she wanted to run away.
I didn’t really know what to say. She asked me if I would go with her and I said no. Then Richard came back and told another joke about a black man and an octopus.

After we had been bowling we were waiting at the bus stop, and Richard said he would really like to go and see the new James Bond film because he liked James bond. He asked Lilly if she wanted to go and she said no. Then Lilly asked me if I liked James Bond and I said I didn’t because I hadn’t seen any. If I hadn’t seen any I couldn’t like them. Richard said it didn’t matter and he would go on his own. The bus took ages and we had nothing else to talk about.

It’s funny to think I am doing pretty much exactly the same thing again three years later, only this time we are not bowling and Lilly is not here. Richard finished his drink and looked at his watch and said it was nearly time for him to go. I said that before he goes I wanted to show him a secret that very few other people knew about. When the man Richard was with heard what I said he asked very quickly what I had meant and I told him not to worry.

So we waited and waited for ages, as people came and put loads and loads of money into the machine. Time after time people came with their boyfriends and girlfriends, and left without a thing. Richard’s man had gone off to get doughnuts, so I thought this might be a nice time to say what I wanted to say.
"Richard" I said. And then I told him that the way he behaved was not always very nice, and he should really think about it before he does something like that again. He said that even if he wanted to, he would not be able to. He doesn’t feel that bothered any more. I think that was his funny way of saying sorry.

After 7 people had missed we approached the machine and won a prize first time. We both laughed with our faces against the glass as the toy dropped into the hole. It was an alien and Richard hugged me too quickly for me to pull away.
© Luke Gittos 2008.
lukegittos at

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