The following scene may well have taken place. Up to a point.
SOUND EFFECT: That cool chung-chung from Law & Order
Exterior establishing shot of a high street in a town. It is evening. THE OCELOT hustles across the road to a row of shops, takeaways and beauty salons, heading towards a convenience store. For legal purposes, the name of this establishment has been changed to CHEEP BEER.
Interior of the store. Aisles and high shelves packed with drinks, newspapers and basic foodstuffs. The door opens silently, bereft of the clichéd tinging bell. THE OCELOT walks in, intent on purchasing a pint (actually two litres, but hey) of milk, and fails to note the lack of a clichéd tinging bell at the time. It will be another fourteen hours until the lack of a tinging bell enters THE OCELOT’s consciousness, halfway through writing the entire shopping incident up in the style of a self-referential script. At this future point THE OCELOT will spend far too long discussing the lack of a bell as well as the meta-textual nature of this now-overlong paragraph, and will then attempt to bring the narrative back on track with a creative flourish.
SOUND EFFECT: Ting
The shop is empty. THE OCELOT walks over to the corner of the shop where the cold things are kept. This area is quite possibly known as a chiller cabinet or sub-thermal presentment zone. THE OCELOT cares not for such petty titles. Milk is required. Milk for life-giving tea with which to accompany a custard cream or twelve and an episode or three of non-threatening rom-crim Castle. THE OCELOT pauses, milk carton in hand, and mentally trademarks the term rom-crim for later use. Thence to the till by way of the Frosties. A small indulgence perhaps, but you should give yourself a present every day, as Special Agent Dale Cooper once wisely pronounced.
Cut to the till. Of the three cash registers, only one is manned. Womanned. Occupied. Helmed? A young female, hobgoblin orange in hue, eyebrows black as a coalmine at midnight, stands here, swaying slightly in an imagined breeze. THE OCELOT sees her hands twitch almost imperceptibly, as if deprived their customary smart phone app. Perhaps it involves plump birds hurtling through the air, perhaps the never-ending alignment of coloured jewels or a simple word-game. Whatever. The HOBGOBLIN GIRL has transported her consciousness to some other plane, leaving her body to run on auto-pilot until closing time.
As is customary, THE OCELOT makes a ghastly attempt at a smile, in a dreadful mockery of human interaction. The ensuing twitching rictus is reminiscent of Jeremy Brett at his Holmesiest. The HOBGOBLIN GIRL behind the till seems not to have noticed, and continues staring out to one side, over THE OCELOT’s shoulder. At some distant vista perhaps, or the family bags of Doritos. THE OCELOT considers croaking out a salutatory Hello or perhaps really going for it and plonking the milk carton assertively down on the counter. But no, we are not savages. The girl will acknowledge the customer’s presence momentarily.
The moment momentarily passes. The HOBGOBLIN GIRL fails to acknowledge, like a rogue nuclear sub or dumb beast of the field. THE OCELOT feels both foolish and annoyed. What occurs here? Is the girl special? Is there a tiny wee person on the floor ahead in the queue that THE OCELOT has failed to notice? Have we entered a twilight zone where one of us is a ghost but hasn’t realised it yet (spoiler: this happens in a film. I won’t say which one, but it does star Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment).
OFF-SCREEN DIALOGUE: Mutter mutter grunt
SOUND EFFECT: Shuffling feet
THE OCELOT’s head whirls, following the girl’s line of sight. Now we can see that the muttering and grunting, in tandem with the foot shuffling, have a common origin. The bristled head of a young male can be seen several aisles over, browsing the drinks. THE OCELOT then remembers that there was an open shopping bag on the counter. A head-whirling moment back to the till confirms this. The bag is half stuffed with goods. In a final-act montage of revelation, THE OCELOT replays all the vital clues, putting the whole damn story together: the pre-occupied attendant, the guy wandering around, the unfinished business on the counter.
Some bastard’s left his shopping on the till and is still looking around.
SOUND EFFECT (inside THE OCELOT’s head): Jarring chords
Now it makes sense. This BROWSER, this self-serving clod, meandering hither and yon in front of the lagers (just pick one, you lackwit), this jowly excuse for an alpha male, is so secure in his domain, his cut-price boozy hunting ground, that he thinks he can just plonk down his tatty Bag For severely-foreshortened-due-to-liver-damage Life while he debates the relative merits of (insert brands of cheap beer here once researched) and (ditto).
And he expects the rest of the world to just bally well blooming well cool our heels while he lopes around like a fat old lion choosing which dismembered antelope to shove his snout into? Charming, really lovely. The HOBGOBLIN GIRL is no help here whatsoever. She is complicit in his selfish territoriality. Perhaps she knows him, perhaps she has submitted to his rank musk like a compliant doe, perhaps this so-called conblinkingvenience store upholds some antiquated droit de shoppeur tradition that an outsider like THE OCELOT is unaware of.
The BROWSER returns to the till, mooching in front of THE OCELOT to conclude his purchases, six-pack in hand. THE OCELOT, in a show of bravado, does not back off the required distance to allow him easy access to the counter, thus making the following cramped thirty seconds ever so slightly confrontational. The BROWSER continues, seemingly unconscious of this bold challenge to his masculinity. He and the HOBGOBLIN GIRL converse in quick pidgin barks unfamiliar to THE OCELOT’s refined ears. He shuffles off to stage left. Now finally, finally, THE OCELOT may exchange money for milk and Frosties, and takes a step forward.
BROWSER: I’ll have these an’ all.
The BROWSER has come round again, grabbing something else from a nearby shelf. Perhaps some Warburton’s crumpets nearing their sell-by date. As if to have the last word, he has returned to scent-mark the counter a second time, determined to claim it as his. He places said items down before THE OCELOT can conclude matters with the HOBGOBLIN GIRL; the final insult.
JUMPCUT: THE OCELOT’s eyes, narrowing
SOUNDTRACK: Club fight scene from Blade
Something snaps within THE OCELOT. Like D-FENS in Falling Down, this shall not be endured. Violence ensues. Frosted flakes fall, like tears in the rain.
And that’s exactly how it happened. Up to a point.