In the centre of Town is a small independent purveyor of coffee, The Daily Grind; and it’s in this particular coffee shop Timothy Tittleworth sits. Now Tittleworth, as you will see, is an unfortunate fellow: a string of failed business attempts, disastrous relationships with the opposite sex and barely enough coin to cover the cost of his Americano. Yet, despite this pathetic situation, Tittleworth’s fortunes are about to take a turn for the better, and in the most unlikely of ways. It’s Tittleworth’s habit to sit here in this same coffee house, at the same table, at the same time, every single Wednesday afternoon. If nothing else, Tittleworth can be regarded as a man of regularity and clockwork. It’s this routine in fact that puts him right in the way of a most unlikely muse. A muse that will catapult Tittleworth to greatness and infamy.
Tittleworth is an odd looking chap. There really is no denying it. He is of average height and build, nothing unusual about that, but his other features cause him to stand out. For example, his coal-black eyes are totally devoid of human emotion. They’re like glass orbs stuffed into the faces of dead animals during the disturbing practice of taxidermy. In addition, the frequency of his blinking is far less than the average human’s. On occasion, people who’ve embarked on lengthy conversations with Tittleworth and who, having entered into a prolonged piece of monologue, suddenly jump out of their chairs in fright, convinced Tittleworth has died during the course of their oratory! He, of course, isn’t dead and is equally shocked at their sudden unexplained excitement.
Another peculiarity about Tittleworth’s appearance can be found in the arrangement of his facial hair and the rubicund complexion of his gaunt cheeks, which give him a skeletal, almost satanic, resemblance. He has a well-kept, slightly-pointed beard cropped close around his chin. To go with this work of art he has a moustache, which he curls up at the corners with great care. The whole construct is well-oiled like a piece of factory machinery. This, when combined with his naturally thin eyebrows and greased-back hair makes one think of a fictional vampire. None of this would have appeared strange on a much older gentleman, particularly in the 1920s. However, Tittleworth is a young-looking thirty something, and it’s now 2019. Still, it seems to go well with the dark brown trousers, matching waistcoat and white shirt he is currently wearing.
Today he shares his favourite coffee house with a number of other patrons who sit alone at their respective tables, unlike Tittleworth, minding their own business. Only one of these gentleman Tittleworth has seen in here before: a robust white man with broad shoulders and big meaty hands. He has dark hair, greying at the temples. He wears dark trousers with a black jacket and grey shirt. His tie is made up of red and dark blue stripes, like an old school tie. He sits alone at the counter staring into space. Lost in thought. Looking as though he might be trying to solve a complex problem. The meaning of life perhaps. A note pad and pen sit beside his coffee on the counter. His face is hard and looks like it’s taken its fair share of fists but he as a strong and dangerous quality Tittleworth envies. If only he too was an alpha male. How his life could have been different. He looks up suddenly in Tittleworth’s direction and catches his eye. Tittleworth, being the absolute opposite of an alpha male, looks away nervously and redirects his gaze elsewhere.
Sitting by the window is another man, only this one Tittleworth does not recognise. He has the look of a successful businessman: well-cropped dark hair, possibly the best haircut Tittleworth has ever seen; designer glasses giving him a studious appearance, a fitted suit, pressed shirt and peach tie. He is a good looking, well-dressed man. Tittleworth is certain there’s an Omega Seamaster or Tag concealed under the cuffs of that shirt. He obviously has the money for such extravagances. He can see a wedding ring on his left hand and some sort of signet ring on the other. This man evidently has everything Tittleworth does not: a great job, money, good looks and an attractive wife no doubt. He has it all! Tittleworth fails to notice the broken look on this man’s face as he stares vacantly out the window. Instead, as always, Tittleworth only sees what’s on the surface. He follows this man’s gaze through the glass and out into the town square beyond.
It’s then he notices the psychopath outside.
The psychopath is standing erect in the middle of Mel Square. He wears ill-fitting clothes: trousers that leave his ankles exposed, a jumper with sleeves that end halfway between his elbow and wrist. Passers-by go about their business pretending not to see him or giving him nervous glances. Unperturbed, he stares down at a pigeon who in turn stares back up at him. Is it a pigeon? This bird gives off the impression it’s wondering what this man is looking at. In turn, this man gives off an impression of lunacy; there really is no doubt about it. He has shaggy grey hair and stubble. Some sort of vagrant perhaps? Tittleworth suddenly realises even this lunatic tramp has a better life than he does. He can see it in his eyes. They are wide with pent up excitement. A wild look in them. Like a child being told to ‘wait’ before opening their presents on Christmas day. A large tongue lolls out of his open mouth and he appears to be panting. There’s a pause. Tittleworth strains his eyes to see a little better. Then, the man starts to chase the pigeon, or whatever it is, around the square. It runs and flaps and gallops its way over the chewing gum encrusted pavement in a desperate attempt to escape the unwanted machinations of this bumbling idiot, who is yapping and barking like a dog as he goes. Passers-by are standing around watching this spectacle with barely concealed horror. Tittleworth, on the other hand, watches through the window with admiration and fascination. Something has just occurred to him that will change his life forever. It is the seed of a thought. The germination of a theorem. The flutter of a butterfly’s wing across the far side of the world. What if this man is not mad at all? What if he is the sanest person here? And, by extension, what if it is ‘we’ who are actually mad? Certainly, Tittleworth continued, he is acting like an animal! But, are we not all just animals? Nothing more than monkeys with alopecia in jeans and t-shirts? And, if that is so, would that not mean this unhinged individual is simply in touch with his natural instincts – instincts everyone else shares but choose to ignore? And therefore, is it not better, and saner, to embrace our natural instincts like this fellow? The monkey inside all of us! For are we all not just logical monkeys?
At that moment the coffee shop door opens, causing the little brass bell above to tinkle. Tittleworth tears his gaze away from the lunatic outside and glances at the man who’s just entered the room. This man is fat. Really fat. So fat in fact he has to waddle his way across the room because the fat of his thighs are preventing his feet from getting anywhere near each other. The bare wooden floorboards of the coffee shop groan under the cellulite. He is wearing a gold shell suit and baseball cap, which both cover a mass of curly ginger hair. He wears a thick gold chain around his neck with the diamond encrusted letters “SHERBET” hanging among his sweaty ginger chest hairs. He makes his way across the room towards Tittleworth. China and cutlery on the nearby tables rattling as he goes. This operation seems to take an age. He knows this man. In fact, this man is the reason Tittleworth comes to this same coffee shop, at the same time, and sits at the same table, every Wednesday afternoon. To say Tittleworth ‘knows’ this man is actually a bit of a stretch. The only thing he truly knows about this man is that he goes by the name Candy Man and provides him with weekly supplies of illegal Class A. Candy. Essentially the purpose of this visit. He sits in a chair opposite Tittleworth, making the wood scream under the weight of him, and slides a brown package out from under his sweaty shell-suit jacket and across the table to Tittleworth.
The Candy Man doesn’t say a word, he never does; he simply gives a creepy smile, exposing a number of yellowed pegs, and rubs his sausage-like thumb and forefinger together to indicate his desire for cash reimbursement. A mobile phone starts to ring and Tittleworth realises it is coming from the recesses of the Candy Man’s shell suit fabric. He ignores it. Tittleworth notices the yellow stains on the tips of the Candy Man’s fingers. That’s what comes from rubbing copious amounts of sherbet into your gums every day Tittleworth thinks, as he stares at the ruined teeth, and slides the agreed sum across the table. This is all the cash he has left. He is now officially broke. The mobile phone is still ringing. As soon as the Candy Man has the cash he stands up and begins to waddle away in the opposite direction. He ignores Tittleworth’s question: “same time next week?” as he always does. As far as Tittleworth knows, no one else has ever heard the Candy Man speak unless it is over the telephone.
The mobile phone stops ringing, ignored. Tittleworth quickly stuffs the package into his coat pocket, and it’s at this point the commotion begins. There is a sound of a stool being scraped back violently along the wooden floorboards. The beefy man at the counter shouts “You!” The Candy Man freezes mid-wobble, halfway to the door, and looks round at the man who seems to have taken a dislike to him. Their eyes lock for several uncomfortable moments and then the Candy Man shambles through the door in a rustle of shell-suit fabric. Surprisingly fast for a man of his stature. The beefy man bolts through the door after him with what looks like a club hammer in his hand. Tittleworth watches them both disappear across the square. Pursued, no less, by the pigeon!