Curly was working the Bull Ring market when it happened. Looking for marks, punters too intent on their apples or cabbages to notice him dipping into their pockets and bags. It was easy money. Lots of old people, lots of people they liked to call ‘vulnerable’ these days, all shopping at the market because it was cheap.
The stall-holders didn’t like it much. The more he nicked the less the punters could spend on their weekly fruit and veg, and if one of ’em saw Curly at it he’d shake his fist. Never did any more than that, though. Curly wasn’t related to old Hammerhead George for nothing. Anyone dissed him, they’d know about it next day. Uncle George always saw to that.
He wiped a sleeve across the end of his nose and sniffed. Fucking cold today. His breath steamed in the air, other steam rose from coffee cups that made his nostrils twitch. Do anything for a decent brew, but he didn’t want to stop. Not while the pickings were this good. Finish for the day then he could treat himself from one of the posh coffee shops in town. He promised himself that.
“Yo, Curly,” came a yell across the stalls, and he swore. Trust bloody Mick the Brick to draw attention to him like that, just when he didn’t want to be seen.
“Fuck you,” he snarled and turned to run. Turned, and felt one foot slither uncontrollably away. “What the-” Too late, he saw the banana skin, discarded from some nearby stall. Too late, he watched himself skid on the yellow paste. Too late, he tried to stop himself, grabbing at trestles, coats, legs, and skirts. It didn’t work.
He measured his length in the market’s detritus and dirt. Old cabbage leaves, squashed tomatoes, packing crates and plastic bags. A spilled cup of coffee pooling by his face. He swore, swimming through muck to right himself.
The bells of St Martin’s rang out above his head, not quite drowning out the laugh. A belly laugh from the fat, lardy flab of Mick the Brick himself.
“Ha! Enjoy your trip, old fruit!”
“Fuck you.” He clambered to his feet, brushing off cabbage leaves, trying to ignore the pong. People were already sniffing the air, wrinkling their noses, turning to stare. No way he could sneak up on anyone stinking like this. And it was all Mick the Brick’s stupid fucking fault. His fault Curly had turned, his fault Curly had gone full length, his fault he’d have to give up half a day’s easy pickings. Just wait till he told Uncle George.
Enjoy your trip, indeed.
They found Mick the Brick two days later at Liverpool docks. Shivering, black and blue, hands tied behind his back, naked as the day he was born. Dumped in a shipping crate addressed to Nicaragua with a banana stuffed up his arse and a label tied to one big toe:
“Enjoy your trip, old fruit! Love from Uncle George.”