What Are They?

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by GJ Hart

“Fizzy strawberry pencils.”

The man had been watching Dave so intently he’d felt obliged to offer him a sweet.

“Nah, not for me. Filthy things. Full of E numbers and additives and fuck knows what.”

“Suit yourself,” Dave said, turning to face the front of the bus.

“Bit rude.”

“Sorry?”

“Bit rude, suit yourself. Bit rude.”

Still feeling obliged, although unsure why, Dave reached into his shoulder bag and pulled out a tin of mints.

“Would you like one of these then?” he said.

“What are they?”

“Mints,” said Dave, rattling them his way.

“No, what brand are they?”

“Rochester, Rochester Mints.”

“Nah, not for me, thanks.”

“Really? So now you don’t like mints either?”

“Never said that. I actually love mints, but they’re the brand my wife’s lover used to buy. Rochester Cool Mints. Cool — like him. Knew something was up when I found them in her glove box. Then bit by bit things just fell into place.”

“I’m very sorry.”

“Oh, don’t be. It’s all sorted now. Love is a funny thing after all.”

Yes, it is, it really is, thought Dave, popping in a Rochester.

“Do you mind?” said the man.

Before Dave could reply, he was sitting at his side.

“You see,” he said, fishing in his pocket. “I buy these. They’ve got a hole in the middle. Bit of a con if you think about. Would you like one?”

“What?”

“A mint, a mint with a hole in.”

“No, I’m fine thanks,” said Dave, trying to force his legs apart. But the harder he struggled the harder the man pushed back. He felt cold glass against his ear as the man shifted even closer.

“So, Mr Rochester Mints, where are you off to today?”

“Mortlake,” said Dave, staring ahead.

“What a coincidence,” said the man. “Me too!”

As Dave turned, the man smiled and poked out his tongue. A mint was impaled on its tip and he wiggled it in Dave’s face before sucking it back in and biting down hard.

“Me too,” he repeated in a whisper, as droplets of blood fattened at the corners of his mouth. “Me too.”


GJ Hart currently lives and works in Brixton, London, and is published and forthcoming in The Harpoon ReviewJersey Devil Press99 Pine Street, Apocrypha and AbstractionsThe Jellyfish ReviewFoliate OakThe Eunoia Review and others. He can be found arguing with himself over @gj_hart.