“Muggins Here” — David Mitchell

The Guardian has published David Mitchell’s short story “Muggins Here” as part of its summer fiction special (other authors include Hilary Mantel and Roddy Doyle). Here’s an excerpt–

A proper mental Saturday it is, what with New Sue off with her hernia and the Lukes of Hazzard gone AWOL, so Muggins Here’ll have to cover for everyone else’s break. Not New Sue and Beverly are still giving me the silent treatment ’cause I can’t let them take the bank holiday off, but it’s water off a duck’s back by this point. By ten o’clock the queues are looping back, and it’s like all Greenland’s one of those swilling dreams you get with ‘flu. Full of eyes, drilling into me. Philpotts can’t get close enough to fire off a “What are half your team doing without their name-badges, Pearl?” but I need the loo – no chance, not ’til all the breaks are over. This beardy customer’s spitting, “Twenty-three minutes I’ve been in this queue!” I tell him, “It certainly is a busy morning” so in he leans, breath all pilchardy, and says, “Then hire – more – staff!”, like I’m backwards, like Gary used to do sometimes. I ask for his “I Love Greenland” Loyalty Card and while he’s fishing through his wallet I’m working out that I’ve still got three hundred and forty minutes ’til I can go home. Last week I turned forty-five so that’s nineteen years ’til I retire, though now they’re reckoning we’ll have to work ’til seventy. Seventy! Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it? I really really need the loo. When I ask the man, “Cash back?” he gives me this withering, “That’s exactly what landed the economy in the crappers in the first place” and then, “What’s so green about Greenland Supermarkets dishing out fifty plastic bags to every customer?”

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