Sally was dying for a kebab, quite literally. Her feet had doubled in size from the cholesterol build up in her veins and there seemed to be a constant thin yellow glaze of sweat across her brow. It was a Sunday night and she and Steve had usually phoned for some cheap take away by now, they had a kitchen drawer dedicated to well thumbed menus of cheap culinary delights. But on Friday she had been forced to use her phone credit calling the dole office to beg for emergency funding and disability benefit. ‘Shit’ she thought and turned to Steve. Steve had passed out on the sofa twenty minutes ago from a concoction of weed and whiskey, dropping fag ash over the cushion and snorting like a pig. She always marvelled how he would clutch a bottle of cheap whiskey like a beloved child but could burn down the house around him when lit cigarettes dribbled out of his mouth. She kicked him hard on the sole of his worn out trainer and the vibrations caused his arse to release the remnants of a dead animal’s soul into the air. Gagging, she squeezed herself out of her chair with all the grace of the Michelin tyre man skidding on oil. She grunted and pushed herself up with her pasty mottled bare hands. The engagement ring Steve bought for her in 2004 had to get cut neatly in two by the hospital last year, she’d lost circulation in her finger from the swelling and her nail had turned black and peeled off. Steve said he’d fix it but came back later in the day pissed with a six pack hanging from his thumb and a guaranteed tip on the outsider in the 4 o’clock race. The horse fell at the first hurdle.
Sally groped her way to the kitchen, her flip flops forcing sweaty mulching sounds as she went. She reached for the bread bin on the kitchen side and took out the money they had saved for rent, it would just have to be late again. She knew the bailiffs from the pub anyway so they never gave her much grief about the arrears. She grabbed her coat from the floor, squeezed into it and slammed the door behind her. The kebab shop was only five minutes round the corner but it had been a few weeks since she’d gone out so the sun began to make her eyes water. Next door’s malnourished terrier started yelping through the fence but before she could bark back Janet, her neighbour, threw open her upstairs window and screamed some incomprehensible Scottish slang at it. Janet glowered at Sally, Sally kissed her middle finger and raised it up in the air. ‘Fucking foreigners’ Sally mumbled as her flip flops slip-slapped down the road. She huffed to the corner and was smacked by the smell of the kebab shop, it was all she needed to make the extra three or so meters to the door. The odor always made her feel warm and content, probably because the paper wrappers from the last take away kebab hadn’t made it out of her front room yet and it reminded her of home. Her flip flop tripped on the step at the entrance and her big toe smeared across a greasy tile. As she balanced herself on the door frame Mani shouted
‘Same as usual Sal’s?’
‘Nah, not today Man, Steve don’t deserve nothing, he’s pissed up on the sofa again, dunno why I bother mate. Gimme a donna with all the trimmings’
Then as she noticed the browning limp lettuce in a tub behind the counter
‘Skip the green shit though, why bother with all that health bullshit now huh?’
‘Sure thing babs, sure thing’
Her mountainous ass wobbled onto a stained plastic chair, causing it to groan and splinter. She picked at her feet, scraping her nail over the grease on her big toe, then absentmindedly rubbing at the sweat on her face and wiping it all over her coat. She watched the kebab meat turn slowly behind the counter, the fat dripping and congealing. Mani started slicing, he always cut her thick pieces. She’d lost her looks over the years but he still remembered the fumble they had down a back alley in ‘96 and held a torch for her. Steve had swapped her engagement ring with Mani for a kebab and a can of coke last year and Mani promised himself when the time was right he would fix it and get down on one knee and propose to her properly. Meanwhile he just watched her from the corner of his eye and stuffed her large warm pita with random meats and chilli sauce.
‘Here ya are babs, my special, just how you like it’
‘You treat me good you do Mani, why can’t all men be like you huh?’
Sally rolled herself up with a grunt, snatched at the plastic bag protecting her treasure and shoved past another customer who had just stepped through the door.
Her stomach roared and she marched almost horizontally in the rush to get back to her chair. She turned the corner and leaned on the wall, ‘must be the pollution’ she mumbled as her lungs thundered and wheezed. The warmth of her kebab leaning on her thigh pushed her to make the last few centimeters home. Next doors terrier started leaping against the fence again and Sally saw Janet peering through the net curtains. She didn’t have time for finger flicking, her legs were chafing so hard she could have started a fire. As she got to her door she realised she’d left her keys in the ashtray next to the telly. She hammered loudly on the dirty mottled glass, hollering Steve’s name through the letterbox, her hair sticking to her sweaty red puffed face. She slammed at the door a few more times with the palm of her hand and then slowly slid down onto the doorstep. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, and usually Steve wouldn’t surface until at least 8pm. The plastic bag didn’t stand a chance as she tore through it, ripping open the soggy paper wrapped around the kebab, grabbing the meat with her fat fingers and covering her chin with dripping juices and sauce. The terrier stared at her through the fence, salivating and pining. Sally didn’t have a care in the world.