I met Shaffer in a pub quite by chance. He came over and stood next to me at the bar and without warning picked up my fresh pint, raised it in front of his face and let go, catching it in his other hand, between his hip and his knee, without looking down or spilling a drop. It was an impressive introduction, I asked him if he did it often, he stared at me and lit a cigarette, ‘Only when the drinker has kind eyes’ he said.
Shaffer was a drunken, thieving, sexist, prick but I still liked him. Sort of. He made me laugh, in an outraged kind of way. He had no fear, none whatsoever, which was all the more impressive for someone short and of very slim stature. He told me he used to be an accountant but had always wanted to be a jockey, he decided against it though but only because he was shit at riding horses.
Shaffer pretty much hated everybody, including me, but said he hated me marginally less than everybody else, even his mum, so that was nice. He was always skint, so I would buy him a drink whenever I saw him. There was never any point offering him a fag though, he only smoked Superkings Original Black, because he said they matched the colour of his lungs.
Once, on the way out for a cigarette, he lit up inside the pub, much to everyone else’s vocal displeasure, he smiled at them and took a really slow deep drag, holding the smoke in as we stepped outside, exhaling it hard into the cold night air, ‘I reserve the right to piss off puritnical arseholes’ he said.
I remember telling Shaffer Superkings were originally designed for woman, that the extra length was supposed to make them look more sophisticated and slender, he said that was bollocks propaganda, that the real reason they were longer was so that the man with the woman would smoke two of his own to her one, Superkings were designed to give the men who didn’t smoke them cancer. I didn’t qualify, Shaffer always finished his fag way before I finished mine.
As it turned out it wasn’t the cigarettes that killed him, nor the alcohol or the drugs or the homelessness, none of it did, because Shaffer is a fictional character. I made him up and trapped him in the following poem and that miserable fucker isn’t going to die of anything until I say so
At the table in the bay through a haze of smoke
I watch the behaviour of the neighbourhood folk.
Drag on a Superking, light another from the tip
twiddle my binoculars, give my sherry a sip.
Husbands hose Mercs, lawns and herringbone drives
watering the fruits of their suburban lives.
The wives they deserve, all Lycra and sporty
permatan, permafrost and permanently forty.
Putting faith in the game is a dangerous bet
they’ll be OAP’s and still drowning in debt.
When I look at the fuckers I have to laugh
hard to believe I once walked the same path.
I was an unhappy accountant for twenty two years
counting the money of my more successful peers.
I just sat there knowing I would never be wealthy
my bitterness and jealousy were pretty unhealthy.
I mused I might rob the rich and give it to the poor
I quickly concluded that’s not what money’s for.
There are enough arseholes pretending to be heroes
who gives a fuck if I tweak a few ones and zeros?
It was a mistake of course, to come on all flash
though I wasn’t one for waving wads of cash.
Bespoke suits and shoes were why I got caught
all the obvious, unnecessary shit that I bought.
Armani, Gucci, Rolex, thought I couldn’t lose
don’t ever mix cocaine, slow horses and booze.
Champagne’s just cheap wine if it has no fizz
other people’s money isn’t real, until it is.
My employers tried but couldn’t prove a thing
those worthless motherfuckers can kiss my ring.
My less than brilliant career ended a total botch
no golden handshake and no golden watch.
It’s like a hangover joke I once found funny
a gorilla shit in my mouth and stole my money.
The mother-in-law’s only child got in on the act
threw me out of the house the day I was sacked.
Said she always knew I was destined to fail
that the next job I had would be painting a jail.
I’m better off without her to be completely frank
I’d rather have a take away and a Sherman tank.
So I moved in with mum, for better or for worse
she’s like the back seat driver of a fucking hearse.
I’m meant to be her carer but I don’t really care
I prop her up with cushions and leave her in a chair.
She thinks she’s in a home and I’m the bloody staff
I just put my feet up and read the Telegraph.
There’s nothing in the news but bad luck stories
war, climate, poverty the latest fuck up by the Tories.
The job section in particular is a joy to behold
if you like answering phones, aren’t foreign or old.
Truth is I only buy the paper for the racing pages
horses are my sin and I must pay their wages.
What’s the point of being hung, drawn and quartered
if you can’t gamble, smoke and get utterly slaughtered?
It’s hard getting pissed though on Harveys Bristol Cream
you get way too much blood in the alcohol stream.
But there’s a time and place for the feckless and broke
Happy Hour at the racecourse is a glorious joke.
I’ll bear mum’s disappointment, chapter and verse
stick her on the commode and rifle her purse.
Then I’ll go to the track with the very worst intention
bet my dole on the horses and drink Mother’s pension.
A drunken, vice ridden, parasite is the rumour
don’t tell me God’s got no sense of humour.
No job, no friends, no house, no wife
I tell you, I’m having the time of my life.