Another library lunchtime for Johnny, and he loved this place, holding court at the comfy chairs to all the fools playing hooky from their dole office training course or the worn out old men who came here to snooze. To them he was a big shot computer guy who came to the library to escape the stir crazy four walls of his home office.
It was perfect, except for the baseball cap wearing know it all they all called The Prof. He arrived and opened up a monster tome awkwardly upon on his knee so that everyone could read the title. king of the Thicks – Kenny - squinted at the book, and then haltingly said, ‘Bal-zac?’
The Prof smirked and his mouth to deliver one of his lectures.
Johnny cut in. ‘Yeah. Honoré de Balzac. It’s a French book about respecting, you know, your non-lady parts. Balzac is French for ball-‘
The sharp crack of the Prof’s book slamming closed cut him off. Kenny gazed at Johnny with wide eyes. The Prof e smiled thinly at Johnny.
‘With what do you hope to tax me today?’
Johnny waved his newspaper crossword. ‘You won’t get this one.’
Yep, The Prof sodding got it, and the next. He opened his mouth to reply to clue number three, then paused, hand going to the pocket of his jeans. He showed them his mobile phone. ‘Sorry, must take this.’
Kenny watched him leave, shaking his head in admiration. ‘He knows everything. He should be on TV.’
Johnny sank back in a huff, arms crossed, his crossword discarded. It didn’t matter what newspaper, The Prof was never stumped.
Kenny said, ‘That Prof, he must have the biggest brains in all of town.’
One of the snoozers – Bill - rolled to face them. Through lidded eyes he murmured to them. ‘One time I was doing up a pub, near the river. The landlord, Two Shits they called him.’ He opened his eyes to better check that Johnny and Kenny were interested. ‘He was the kind of man, if you took one shit, he’d take two, you get me?’
Johnny nodded. Maybe the problem was the standard of mind he was hanging about with. Excepting The Prof, this was what he had to work with.
Bill continued. ‘Anyway. The plans called for concrete blocks, with a compressive strength of fifteen kilo-newtons. A kilo-wotsit? I said to old Two Shits. Course he knew what that meant, only it would take a while to explain, and he had a phone call to make…’
Bill waited expectantly, but Johnny was saved from this sparkling anecdote by the return of The Prof. He finished his call just as he arrived and stowed his phone as he sat. He showed his smug smile, and said to Johnny, ‘Oh yes, that word you were after: Haemochromatosis. It’s a liver condition. Too much beer probably.’
Kenny shook his head in disbelief. Bill was shaking his head too, and staring at Johnny. Then he closed his eyes once more, and then quietly, almost ruminatively, he murmured, ‘Waiting for old Two Shits for ages I was. So I asked his wife, and she told me he was upstairs, with every single book he had, open on the floor.’