The Author and the Nutter
A tale of a chance meeting on a bus that made everyone laugh (Except the author)
As the bus ground its way slowly through the rush hour traffic I sat nursing my dark thoughts. Would I ever get my bloody novel finished? I’d had people on my back for a month now wanting this changed or that chapter re-written. I couldn’t even see through the sodding windows, they were all steamed up. My damp, clammy shirt was clinging to me like a whore on payday, making me shiver.
Greater Manchester Transport had done its worst yet again. Forty minutes I had waited at the shelterless bus stop in the rain, not a taxi to be had. Then, of course, two buses turned up at once. I boarded wearily. I needed a stiff drink, a hot bath and my bed.
At the next stop I heard him get on, Nigel the nutter, his over-loud, over-enthusiastic voice regaling the poor sodden sods boarding with him.
Oh, Christ, I prayed, please don’t let him sit next to me, please.
Of course, the bugger made a bee-line for me. ‘Hi’ he chirped, proffering a pudgy hand ‘I’m Nigel.’
I ignored the hand and simply nodded at him. Oh shit, I thought in despair. I had nothing to read and my phone was charging at home. Should I feign sleep? No, I might miss my stop.
‘What do you do? Nigel quipped brightly.
‘Not a lot.’
‘What does not a lot consist of?’ he boomed, his eager bonhomie grating on my nerves.
I squirmed, I really didn’t need this. ‘I do a bit of writing’ I mumbled, hoping that would immediately bore him. It does with most people.
‘Oh wow, he exclaimed what sort of stuff do you write?
I very nearly said knitting patterns in the hope of closing him down but the nutty git would probably turn out be demon knitter.
What, adventure stuff, murder, war and the like?’
His moon face was the colour and texture of cold porridge from which his tiny bright blue eyes twinkled like fairy lights.
‘I read a lot of Andy McNab’ he said without waiting for an answer ‘and his mate that Chris what’s-his-name, but both those guys are obviously big bullshitters.’
My eyebrows arched into my hairline in total disbelief ‘Do you mean Chris Ryan?’
‘Oh yes, Ryan, that’s the one’ Nigel said blithely, twisting towards me ‘no bloke could ever survive all the shit situations they put their hero’s through.’
‘It’s fiction’ I said in exasperation ‘escapism, that’s all.’
‘Well they should write only the truth’ Nigel said petulantly, his mouth losing its annoying grin for a moment.
‘Then it wouldn’t be fiction’ I said ’it would be history, a bit mundane and boring.’
‘But if they really were in the SAS they must have lots of real stories to write about.’
He was really beginning to boil my piss now. I can tolerate your average nutter, enjoy them even, but Nigel was in a class if his own.
I remained silent. The woman sitting behind me giggled loudly at my discomfiture, she was really enjoying the show.
I turned. She was young, black with an intelligent face and dressed as garishly as Donald Trump’s Christmas tree. I glared at her curling my lip and she suddenly found her phone of overwhelming interest.
‘I fired a real gun once you know’ Nigel piped up, abruptly changing the subject ‘have you ever fired one?’
‘I used to be a soldier.’
‘For real?’ Naw!’
Jesus, I thought, this guy’s an expert at getting up my nose. He sits beside me, imposes a conversation on me that I don’t bloody well want and then starts slagging off two of my favourite authors.
‘Yes mate, for real’
‘What’s your name? Are you someone I’ve heard of or just some unpublished wanna-be amateur?’
I groaned. I wanted to scream ‘look, pal, why don’t you just piss off and find another seat?’ But of course I’m a normal polite person and my stop was next. I bit my tongue. Patience, I told myself, nothing lasts forever.
‘I ‘m not telling you my name’ I said, not quite succeeding in keeping my irritation from showing ‘I use a pseudonym.’
‘Why not? Don’t you like me? You don’t do you? His fat lips trembled and he looked like a hurt kid.
‘It’s not that.’ I got up and squeezed past him.
‘Well, what name do you write under then?’ he persisted ‘Are you someone famous?
As the bus slowed to a stop an evil idea flashed into my mind. I turned and leaned down into his face giving him as mean a look as I could muster ‘I write, Nigel, under the name of McNab, Andy McNab.’
He looked at me in utter terror, shrinking away, his pudding face ashen. For the first time since he climbed aboard the bugger was silent. ‘Bye now’ I growled ‘mind how you go.’ I made my way off the bus a feeling of wild, unholy joy in my heart. The bloke who’d got off behind me tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to see this squat hard-looking bugger.
‘I understand why you did that, he said, ‘but don’t take my name in vain again, OK?’