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 he hated me marginally less than everybody else, 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.
From Mum’s bay window through a puff of smoke
I observe the behaviour of the neighbourhood folk.
I 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 bitter fruits of their suburban lives.
The wives they deserve, so preening and haughty
all permafrost, permatan and permanently forty.
There’s a plague on the houses of all my peers
they’ll be drowning in debt for the next twenty years.
When I look at them now I just want to laugh
it’s hard to believe I once walked the same path.
I was a creative accountant for the criminally rich
but hiding all that money caused a terrible itch.
So I scratched my affliction with other people’s cash
but as I indulged my addiction I grew a little flash.
My gambling excess was the reason I got caught
that and the unnecessary shit that I bought.
Armani, Gucci, Rolex, I thought I couldn’t lose
don’t ever mix cocaine, slow horses and booze.
Not that my boss could ever prove a thing,
That worthless mother fucker can kiss my ring.
He hung me out to dry for a few accounting slips
today’s front page wraps tomorrow’s fish’n’chips.
So my brilliant career ended a total botch
no golden handshake and no golden watch.
My mother-in-law’s only child got in on the act
threw me out of the house the day I was sacked.
She 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.
It’s like a hangover joke I used to find funny
a gorilla shat in my mouth and stole all my money.
I light another Superking and crush the dead stub
open the Daily Telegraph, give my bald spot a rub.
There’s nothing in the paper but bad news stories
war, disease, famine the latest fuck up by the Tories.
And the job section in particular is a joy to behold
if you like answering phones and aren’t foreign or old.
So now I only read the Telegraph for the racing pages
the horses are my sin and I must pay their wages.
What else is there for the hung, drawn and quartered
but gambling, smoking and getting utterly slaughtered?
Well I can’t spend all day on Harveys Bristol Cream
I’m getting way too much blood in my alcohol stream.
Only a man without purpose, income and will power
can get the cosmic joke that is Race Day Happy Hour.
So I’ll invoke Mum’s disappointment, chapter and verse
and when she’s crying in her bedroom rifle her purse.
Then I’ll go to the track with the very worst intention
to bet all my dole and drink Mother’s pension.
A drunken, vice ridden, parasite is the rumour
who says 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.