On the run from Andi Peters following a misunderstanding about cruises, Melissa begrudgingly agrees to follow her friend Joanne (and Joanne’s 17th century throwback ‘life partner’ Fax) to the Edinburgh Fringe. While leafleting for Fax’s dreadful stand up show about faith healing and vegans, Melissa endures the highs and lows of pretentious student plays, ‘street typing’, and the knowledge that her shop has been left in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand tills…

Crap Comedy is the follow up to the 2018 novel Crap Holiday. Read it here.

Where the fuck is Saif? He was supposed to be here half an hour ago. I try to summon enough enthusiasm to wonder if he’d dead. I don’t think anyone would be able to murder Saif without first agreeing to do ‘forex’.

I was planning to put him on the till today, so I can hover around and intervene if he starts trying to do ‘upselling’ or any other of his Alan Sugar crap.

My phone pings. ‘I CAN’T COME IN’

Fucking what? Oh for fuck’s sake.

My phone pings again. ‘I’VE LOST MY TROUSERS’

He’s… what?

Another ping. ‘LIL’

???

I dial his number furiously. ‘What the hell do you mean you’ve lost your trousers? What sort of thing is that?’

‘Right, here’s the thing – I had my trousers yesterday right? But I think my mum might have taken them.’

‘Why would your mum take your trousers?’ I hiss at him while I scan in a paper for a confused looking man.

‘I think she’s probably washed them.’

‘So?’

‘Now I don’t know where they are and my mum’s gone out.’

I have to physically stop myself smashing the phone on the counter, and then smashing my head on the counter. ‘Saif, Jesus Christ, just wear some different trousers then!’

‘I’m not supposed to do that though, I read that it “dissolves the customer’s trust in staff as authority figures”.’

‘Bloody…’ I take a deep breath. ‘Saif, listen to me. I am your boss, and I am telling you it’s fine to wear something else, as long as you get over here now. Quite honestly I don’t care if you turn up in a dress.’

‘I don’t have a dress.’

Jesus it’s like trying to reason with Joanne. ‘Saif. Put any trousers on that you own, and get over here.’

‘But…’

‘No, just get in here.’ I hang up on him, and I’m so annoyed I open a packet of Rolos. Subconsciously I’m scanning the shop for things I can throw at Saif’s head when he gets here. I’m not the most professional manager, if I’m honest.

He turns up half an hour later, wearing Adidas tracksuit bottoms. I wouldn’t even have noticed this if he hadn’t told me he’d ‘lost’ his trousers. Whatever, it’s a perfect excuse to stick him behind the till.

I go through the basics with him, then hang around tidying up the shelves to see how he gets on. It’s been pretty quiet so far, just papers and the odd sandwich, so he should be fine.

Jesus brain, why do you let yourself think things like that? Of course it won’t fucking be fine now you’ve thought that.

To my amazement and relief, he’s OK with the first few customers. He must know I’m watching him, because he doesn’t try to do any of his ridiculous sales things, like offering to give away the entire shop with every purchase of the Daily Mail. Maybe I can relax a bit.

My phone pings again. ‘Yo do you sell rose quartz?’

I text her back. ‘No of fucking course not. We sell newspapers and booze and ham.’

Another ping. ‘Oh.’

Another ping. ‘Coming round anyway I’ve got something 4 you’ Can’t fucking wait.

Saif pipes up. ‘Hey I’ve got a great idea! Why don’t we shake hands with the customers?’

‘Why would we do that?’

‘You know, to make them feel valued! Clients should always feel valued.’

‘No, I reckon they’re probably fine without you shaking hands with them.’

‘Shall I give it a go though? If the client feels valued they’re more likely to make a return visit.’

How do I explain to Saif that having some overenthusiastic nutter trying to grab your hand will probably make you less likely to come back? Especially when it’s a guy who’s ‘lost his trousers’.

I fall back on the old ‘company policy and insurance’ bollocks. Always works with Saif. ‘Actually, there are all kinds of problems if you initiate non-essential contact with the customers; for a start there’s the hygiene risk to take into account, and there is always the possibility of a customer thinking you’re making… unwanted advances on them.’

‘What, like trying to shag them?’

This makes me snort. Saif hardly ever swears. I mean, not that ‘shag’ is really swearing, but I doubt it’s on the list of approved business words in Saif’s textbook.

‘Well actually yeah, if you want to put it like that. Can’t be too careful.’

‘That’s stupid. If I wanted to get off with a bird that came in here I’d do my moves, and then I’d offer to buy her a Nandos.’

Oh God and Baby Jesus, please don’t let Saif demonstrate his ‘moves’. I’ll die laughing and then he’ll be left to run the Co-op on his own, and I’ll get in trouble, and no one wants that.

Luckily, Fred comes in before Saif can do his moves and I can rupture my organs. Fred comes in every day to buy four cans of lager. I don’t know his real name, but he looks like a Fred. I like Fred. Always asks how I am. Looks a bit like Santa, if Santa drank a 4-pack every day.

‘Alright sweetheart. How are you today? Ooh, I see this chap’s after your job!’ He nods towards Saif.

‘Yeah, I’m training him up so I can sit here eating chocolate.’

He laughs as he gets his lager out of the fridge. ‘That’s my girl!’

He toddles over to Saif as I look on with interest. If there’s ever a good customer for Saif to practice on, it’s Fred. Fred won’t get offended. I hope.

‘Just these please young man.’

Saif rings the lager up. Is he going to do try shaking hands? This is what passes for excitement in my life.

‘Thank you sir, and you have a lovely day.’

He sticks his hand over the counter. Fred is momentarily surprised, but offers his hand in return. Then does a fist bump. Then another complicated type of handshake.

‘You take care of yourself buddy. See you tomorrow!’

I give him a wave as he leaves. Saif doesn’t look too happy though.

‘What’s up?’

‘His hand was a bit greasy, and if I’m honest my hand smells a bit funny now. Probably not going to shake hands with any more clients.’

‘No, you do right.’

Things are peaceful for an hour until Joanne barges into the shop holding a pile of leaflets. She marches up to the counter, realises Saif isn’t me, and looks around in confusion. It occurs to me that Saif has never actually met Joanne, so as far as he’s concerned she’s just mental. I mean, he’s not wrong, but still. He did handle Fax OK though.

‘Hiya Jo. Saif, this is my friend Joanne.’ Saif smiles and goes back to whatever it is he’s doing. I think he’s still traumatised from the shaking hands thing.

‘Look at these!’ she waves one of the leaflets in my face. I grab it off her and study it.

Tolerant Vegan Comedy starring FAX – all welcome!

Oh God he’s actually going through with it, the mental patient.

‘These are the flyers for his Edinburgh preview show!’

‘Oh’ is all I can think to say.

Half of the text is printed in comic sans, and half of it is written in biro. I recognise the photo – it’s the first photo Joanne ever showed me of Fax. I’d forgotten about the tattoo on his arm; I never did get to the bottom of whether it was his brother or Jason Donovan.

‘It’s this weekend, so can I put these up on the door?’

I’m assuming she means the notice board next to the entrance. We normally host adverts for jumble sales or pictures of lost cats, but it can’t do any harm. ‘Yeah fine.’

I’m just checking the dates in the clearance bin, when Saif pipes up. ‘Mel?’

I look where he’s looking. What the fuck am I looking at is what I’d like to know. Joanne has sellotaped Fax’s stupid leaflets to half of the actual door. A small part of me is wondering how she managed to do that, considering it’s an automatic door that opens whenever someone goes within a foot of it. The bigger part of me is livid at her stupid carcass.

‘Joanne what the fuck are you doing?’

She looks round. ‘What?’

‘I didn’t mean tape fucking thousands of them to the fucking door! Get those off!’

‘You said I could put them on the door!’

‘I meant the notice board you prick!’

Saif suggests fetching a mop, as if there is any universe in which that would help. I ignore him, and I would advise most people to do the same.

She looks at the notice board and tuts. ‘What good is that one area gonna do? I want everyone to know about Fax’s show!’

A couple comes in. They look back at Joanne and the door ‘Oh, you are open then?’

‘Yes, sorry about the door, it’s being fixed right now.’

They look at Joanne warily and head to the back of the shop. Joanne stands with her hands on her hips, making no effort to take the leaflets off the door. I march up to her. ‘Take these bloody leaflets off the door!’ I hiss.

‘I thought you’d want to help get the word out!’

‘Joanne, if those leaflets aren’t off the door in five minutes – no, make that five seconds – this situation is going to end in one of us dying.’

‘God you’re such a shop-bummer’ she huffs. But she does start to take the leaflets off, while I stand there wondering what a ‘shop-bummer’ is.

Well?

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