The woman at Pump No. 3

‘She’s there again, look.’ Mazhar waves a chewed Biro over the till at the row of petrol pumps.

‘Who is?’ asks Glynn, squatting by the display shelves, stamping new dates on last week’s pasties.

‘Blonde in the Audi, you know, every bleedin’ morning about 8.15. Puts the nozzle in the car, takes two litres and then just stands there, reading the self-serve instructions. Stupid bitch.’

Glynn walks to the door to see, price gun swinging from his fingers like a Colt ’45.

‘Yeah, weird init? An’ always pump 3. Always.’

Mazhar has a microphone in his hand and a grin on his lips.

‘Watch this – you’ll see how daft she is.’ He presses the red button and speaks in a slow, mechanical voice.

‘Is there a problem Madam?’ There’s no movement at the pump, no sound except the whir of the pumps and the low murmur of running engines. He tries again.

‘Hello Madam? Do you need any help?’

The two men stand, giggling and watch as the smartly dressed young woman leans motionless against the pump. After a few seconds, she lifts her head a little and a small, halting voice crackles over the battered speaker screwed to the counter.

‘Yes, yes, it’s … it’s, I’m OK, really. I’ll be finished in a moment.’

A minute, two minutes, pass before the figure moves, pulls the nozzle from the car, replaces it carefully in the pump and slowly makes its way to the shop.

‘That’s just £2.71,’ says Mazhar. ‘Receipt?’

‘What?’ she asks, looking up from the purse she’s exploring for coins.

‘A receipt – would you like a receipt?’ Another pause.

‘Oh no, no. Thank you.’

The daily ritual, and the entertainment it provides the two youngsters, continues for a few more weeks. It’s the third Friday of the month, pump maintenance day. The station closes for the morning while the Abco engineer works his way along the line of cabinets, stripping, adjusting, testing. He’s finished by twelve, hands and face streaked with grime and sweat.

‘All done guys,’ he calls, peering into the chilled food shelves. ‘I fancy a couple of those big old pasties for me lunch too.’

Glynn’s head pops up from behind a stack of Pepsi boxes. ‘Err – wouldn’t if I was you Bob, best keep to the crisps, eh?’

The engineer strolls to the staff washroom and Mazhar calls to him.

‘Pumps all OK, Bob?’

‘Yeah, not too bad, number 8 new relief valve,’ the big voice shouts from behind the door of the stinking closet. ‘Do wiv a bit of a clean up in ‘ere Maz. And a light bulb.’

He emerges, wiping his hands on a grubby rag, a scrap of toilet paper stuck to his forehead.

‘Oh yeah, I forgot – pump 3.’

‘What about pump 3?’ asks Mazhar, his neck straightening with interest.

‘Well,’ the boiler suit continues, ‘Would you believe it – motor bearings totally wrecked and the old rubber shock absorbers was not even there! The whole lot – pump, handle, nozzle, every’fing – rumbling and vibrating like a bleedin’ pneumatic drill. Runs like a Swiss watch now. Didn’t no-one complain?’

The boys study each other for a moment before collapsing in hysterics. Glynn finally recovers enough to speak.

‘No they ‘aven’t Bob, but we know a lady who will!’

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