London, May 2011

by George Pringle

Excerpt from “Bible for a Hopeless Girl”

“Are you George Pringle?” the plump boy asked.

He was quite sweet looking, very young and had come forth from a group of friends. They lurked in the background with thinly veiled anticipation.

Understanding the power of this transaction I suddenly clicked in and became her again. I lifted my lids slowly and said, in a slightly crisper, lower voice “I used to be” before sort of ironically smiling and then, subconsciously checking my face in the mirror to the right of the coffee machine. I was always doing that. Something a customer with a crush had mentioned, probably to put me down. My brown fringe hid half of my face, how had he even recognised me?

I sunk back behind the counter and pretended to read a book. That’s what George Pringle would do, she would read a book.

It couldn’t get worse than this.

I am serving them coffee.

And then I thought of what that woman had said, that manager of that big band. She was a terrible woman. I remember very clearly the first time I met her. I went to shake her hand in the auditorium canteen, I put it out and I knocked my glass of wine clean across the table. I was mortified.

Later that night she was lying on a sofa in my dressing room, her pale, fat little legs suspended over the arm. Her red, straight hair hung flat on her forehead. She said: “They don’t like that. They hate it when you say you work in a shop. Don’t tell them you work in a shop, they won’t take you seriously.”

Well, I had worked in a shop the whole time, so why should I lie? That was the reality.

You had to survive.

But with hindsight, perhaps she was right.