“You can take off them ridiculous goggles, you know,” announces Rollin. You’d completely forgotten you had them on. One hand goes straight to your face to feel the lightshaders, while the other attacks the strap at the back. It tangles in your hair as you attempt to pull it off and a few strands come off with the goggles. Rollin snatches them from you and flings them onto the table. From his stunted height you’re amazed he makes the throw. “Fuck off,” Rollin snarls at you. “Go on, get lost! I don’t have to help you, you know?”
“Why are you so angry?” You ask him, genuinely curious. Rollin’s face is turning an even brighter shade of red than usual and you think his head might pop off. But it doesn’t. “I’m not angry,” he huffs, turning away from you.
“What did you mean about Mrs Considine earlier?” You continue with your line of inquiry. “You said this wasn’t her flat, but it looks just like it. I could’ve sworn…”
“Look, I don’t know if you’re ready for all that just yet. Sit down, I’ll make you some coffee and we’ll talk.”
Rollin waddles round the table and into the kitchen. You hesitantly watch after him for a few seconds and then figure there’s little harm someone of that stature could cause you, so you pull out one of the wooden chairs at the table and sit down. You lean to the right and watch Rollin struggle to climb onto one of the kitchen cupboards. “Do you want some help?” You ask, but the only response is an irritated snort. With one foot on the handle of the lower cabinet door, Rollin grasps the counter with his chubby red fingers and heaves himself onto it belly-first like a seal rolling onto a rock. He then rights himself, reaches under the higher cabinet – not into it, he doesn’t even open the door – and plucks a bag of brown powder from beneath it. The contents look like dirt, but you decide in this moment to try everything offered to you in this world at least once.
Rollin leaps down with the bag and shoves it into a pocket in his breeches. He then opens the lower cabinet door and plucks out two espresso cups, which he places on the floor. He then pulls out a one-shot moka pot and places it next to the cups. Then, closing the door, he kicks the skirting board and, as though operating magnetically, the board pops out slightly and Rollin pulls it all the way to reveal a tiny gas-powered camping stove with two hobs. It’s so miniature it looks like a toy. Rollin unscrews the moka pot and fills it with water that he has running from a hose attached to the tap on the kitchen sink, before pulling the bag from his pocket, which he prises open. He freely, and messily, pours the powder into the contraption, screws it back up and sticks it on the lit stove. He stands and listens to it bubble with his hands on his hips. You sit and watch him listening to it bubble.
“Why don’t you keep the coffee in the lower cupboards with the mugs?” You question Rollin as he walks in with the cups of steaming coffee. You reach down and take them both from him and place them on the table. Rollin pulls out the chair next to you and clambers onto it. He doesn’t answer you, instead he grabs his cup and sips at it.
“In fact,” you continue, “why don’t you live in a place that has everything built to your size?”
Rollin remains silent. Feeling unnerved, you stay quiet and pick up your cup. You raise it to your nose and sniff. It smells like a fine blend. You bring it to your lips and allow the tip of your tongue to skim the liquid’s surface. It tastes just like coffee. It’s delicious, in fact, so you gulp down the lot in one go. It was too quick, you’ve burnt your throat. You cough and splutter. “Why did I do that? Idiot!” You think.
“It’s addictive,” Rollin finally breaks his silence. “You won’t be used to it, so be careful. Once you get a taste for this stuff you’ll find yourself craving it day and night and barely sleeping. Most of the people here don’t sleep much and they’re all on it.”
The thought of having this coffee, or whatever it is, drives you mad. You stand up fast with eyes on the kitchen. “Oi!” Bellows Rollin, who is now standing on his chair and glaring daggers at you. He slams both of his fists on the table, shaking the cups and the lightshaders. “Sit down!” You glance at him, flick your eyes towards the kitchen and then focus on Rollin’s eyes again. Holding your stare, Rollin slowly sits back down and you follow. “Wha…what is that?” You stutter.
“Never you mind. I should never have given it to ya, you aren’t ready. How’s about we have some grub to take the edge off, yeah?”
All kinds of questions are flying around your brain as Rollin heads back to the kitchen to pull a couple of brown bags out of the fridge. “Filet-O-Fish or Big Mac?” He asks you, standing in the doorway of the kitchen and waving the bags up and down like he’s a set of uneven scales. “Erm…I don’t know. Either,” you reply in confusion and Rollin heads back into the kitchen. You place you head in your hands and you can hear the whirring of a microwave, but you don’t remember seeing a microwave in the kitchen. You didn’t look round the whole room, though, so it’s possible there’s one in there you guess. A ding sounds and Rollin comes shuffling back in holding the two brown McDonald’s bags, which don’t look too dissimilar to bags of hot dog shit, but you try to put the thought of that as far from your mind as possible.
Rollin heaves the bags onto the table, which land with a slap, then heaves himself back onto his chair. “Tuck in,” he grunts while grinning. He plucks out a limp chip and shoves it into his mouth. You pull the other bag towards you and peer inside. It smells partly like gone-off fish and partly like rubbish in summer. The stench makes you retch, but you remember swearing to try everything once, so you too place a flaccid fry on your tongue and gobble it down. It’s not bad. You chew on another while you investigate the cardboard box that you assume is the source of the rank smell. Opening it cautiously, you’re faced with a sad looking light-brown bun that looks a little shrunken. You can see the fish burger poking out from the edges of it. You lift the top half of the bun to reveal a white gloop sticking to both the bun and the burger. You hastily replace it, take a deep breath and then take a bite. Raising your eyebrows in surprise, “it’s not the end of the world,” you think – half relieved and half sort of enjoying this drooping dinner.