Fly-By Shooting

In my first job before leaving school I worked with Robert. I can spot a bad guy from 1000 miles away – I know this because I’m hopelessly attracted to them. For this reason, I can also spot a truly good guy from 1000 miles away – and I metaphorically run as fast and hard as I can in the opposite direction. That is why, alongside the fact we never actually fancied each other, it would never have worked romantically between us. That being said, Robert will always be one of the very best friends I ever had.
I felt fiercely protective of Robert; he was hilariously funny and our chemistry – on a platonic level – was better than any person I’ve ever met. He would rip me to shreds for his own entertainment which I found really endearing and I adored spending my time with him. Even though we have lost touch over the years, I would still count him as one of the best men I know. That is praise indeed from a self-professed man-hater. When we first met he had a girlfriend who I never liked the sound of very much and I think, eventually, she cheated on him…the details are sketchy but what I do remember is that while I didn’t want him for myself, I certainly wanted him to be with someone who knew how lucky she was. I’ve done the leg work with the bad ones so when a girl is stupid enough to take a good guy for granted it really pisses me off.
We both left for University but kept in contact a little. My mother harboured a persistent hope that there was something romantic between us. For once, this train of thought was not singular to mum…my friends and colleagues also saw how close we were and how well we got on and were really willing us to get together. It was never going to happen though – except for one time when he pretended he was asleep while he tried to finger his way beneath my pyjama waistband, we repulsed each other on a physical level.
Four years, an English Literature degree and one PGCE later, I was delighted to learn that the girlfriend I had instinctively disliked had been unceremoniously kicked to the curb and Robert was now single and mingling hard on Tinder. This was good for him because he was always one of life’s hopeless romantics; when he said he wanted to treat a woman right and be respectful, he actually meant it. He once told me he didn’t like the way I always got treated like shit by the guys I was involved with and that really meant a lot to me; Robert’s opinion on things always meant a great deal to me. I think he restored my faith in men and I really admired him for it.
We both had dogs and would often take them for medium length hikes together. I once estimated we had walked around ten miles and Robert almost broke his back bending backwards to howl with laughter at my hyperbolic guess; he felt it was closer to two miles. Our walks meant I could escape the unhappiness of my home where my mother was undoubtedly mounting her newest conquest and Robert had prime opportunity to take the piss out of me for hours on end – mutually beneficial. I’m going to tell you what I would class as one of the Top Three most embarrassing moments of life, witnessed by Robert:
The day prior to this particular dog walk, he and I had gone into London to frequent the markets and meet up with his friends. As I was perusing the pleasantries, hot dog steaming away in hand, I happened upon a stall selling the softest faux fur headbands (the sort that models in Vogue wear for winter shoots teamed with a glacial bikini and make look amazing but us normal girls wear in the depths of winter, making us look like total knobs without the protection of warmth as some solace). I decided that the light grey fur ‘muff’ as it would forever be known (pun intended) had to be mine and I purchased it with immediate effect.
The following day, on aforementioned dog walk, I felt the muff should be taken out for the world to see – the climate was cold and it just felt right. Robert ridiculed me, naturally, but I felt it was worthwhile. In Lenny-esque fashion I felt myself drawn to the softness of the muff, reaching up at intervals to just pat down the faux fur and enjoy that silky feeling on my fingers. I did this when Robert couldn’t see, though, because I knew he would stoop to the base level of telling me to stop fingering my muff or something equally as low brow and I didn’t need that when I was channelling my inner-Russian model while tugging my zesty orange mongrel dog along the frosty fields of Windsor.
Robert and I were deep in banterous chat. My wellington boots were squelching through the great chasms of mud and bog as we trundled our way along our usual route. Distracted by the victimisation I was undoubtedly being subjected to, I wandered into what can only be described as a sudden and merciless lake in the middle of the path. Robert would tell you it was a semi-deep puddle and nothing more… but when you’re five foot even the shallowest of puddles can be life threatening. Worse still, my wellington boots were being suckered downwards into the depths of the hellish sludge and the more I struggled, squidging and squelching with unfeminine grace to free myself without falling into the dirt, the worse the situation seemed to get. Robert watched on gleefully as I emerged like a creature from the deep, staggering and pink-cheeked (muff, mercifully, unsullied).
‘Fucking hell, you peasant,’ he began his tirade of piss-taking, ‘you looked like a fucking mid-transition Hulk trying to get out of that puddle.’ He was now bent double, hardly able to contain his hilarity as his Tin-Tin quiff bounced in the February gusts. Laughing at him laughing at me, I began to giggle at the thought of how I must have looked. He started to impersonate me, making noises like the T-Rex when it eats the cow in Jurassic Park to fully convey the depths of pathetic I had just stooped to. He was now laughing so much that he had taken on the form of a mostly-opened tin. His mouth was so wide open it gave the impression that the entire top of his head from the upper mandible was precariously close to just dropping off backwards onto the sludge below.
This was now all too much and I threw my muff-endowed head back in a fit of hilarity, holding my belly as I laughed with him. It was, therefore, unfortunate that at that exact moment a troop of seagulls swarmed overhead. One such gull felt that was the perfect moment to open hatches and drop its brown missiles straight downward. Mid guffaw and unaware of the impending wet bomb about to hit me, I was still having the time of my life, head back, mouth open.
The wet turd made impact firstly with my muff with secondary shrapnel pattering on my nose. I lurched forward instinctively but in-so-doing, achieved the gravitational feat of moving the poo downwards into my mouth before I had time to close it. Robert was now in a frenzy – the demented laughter that had soliloquized my drowning experience was nothing compared to this. His laughter went ultra-sonic, hitting highs only our dogs could hear while I experienced paralysis, not knowing what to do for the best. Moving would mean more of the faecal matter sliding down my face but I was also very aware of the excrement infiltrating my mouth, beaded like a small slug on the end of my tongue.
First things first, I had to address the poo-in-mouth situation. I spat with the ferocity of a blue whale emitting water from it’s blow-hole. I rubbed my tongue frantically along my teeth to scrape off any discharge that had been left nestled amongst my buds and spat any residue that ensued. I resisted the urge to wade back into the murky depths of the puddle from whence I had come to fill my gloved hand with stagnant mud water and use as a palette cleanser. I used a poo-bag to rub the gull dung from the end of my nose and lips. The muff I removed, reluctantly, and folded lovingly into the cosy embrace of my Barbour coat. Heartbroken, I feared the worst.
The muff was salvagable, praise be! I still have it, and I can occasionally be found sporting it in the coldest of weathers, wry smile on my face as I remember with a cold heart that dreadful day when a bird crapped in my mouth. Any shred of respect Robert had for me, though, would forever be marred by the image of me gargling seagull shit.

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