"What about him?"
"Not sure. I think he looks a little dim. Strange how you can tell how intelligent a person is just by looking at their picture, and I don't want no idiot".
In one corner of 'Kitty's kafe', Angela Howard and her friend Judy Bell scrolled through a dating website on a laptop for Angela's potential relationship.
Judy was 28, Angela 30. Judy with a woollen hat and wavy blonde hair wearing a white polka dot dress. Angela with long straight brown hair and pale blue denim jacket with pear drop earrings. They had both been school friends and had gone through university together studying Economics.
She scrolled further through the pictures but nobody immediately leapt out at her. Some though, warranted a profile read.
"Here we have Gary" said Angela, "'I'm an honest, genuine, nice guy'".
"Oh well that's alright then" said Judy, "As long as he said he's honest, then he must be. There you go, that's him".
"They're just so...boring and generic," said Angela. "All of them say the same things. Good sense of humour. Genuine. Trustworthy. As if by saying they're trustworthy I'm just going to take their word for it. Sorry guys...you need to 'prove' I can trust you".
"Look," said Judy, "He looks like Mr Average. Boring picture standing at the mirror. Boring picture on holiday with sunglasses and a pint of beer. Boring picture standing by a door in a suit".
"Here we have Karl" said Angela, "Bit plump, unshaven...says he's a 'good guy'. Well that's me sold then. I think I'll marry him and have ten babies because he's a good guy."
"Yep," said Judy. "Loves animals. Good sense of humour. Respectful...loving...yawn...wake me up when one of them says something of interest".
"Honestly," said Angela, "They're all so ordinary. Here we have Bob. A few pictures of him smiling. One with a dog. One with him looking out into the distance. One with his top off. Ooh look at my bod. His profile has got nothing, just 'I don't know what to write in these things, so let's meet instead'. Yes alright I'll just run to him".
"Aww, poor guys," said Judy, "They're just looking for love".
"I know, I get that. So am I, but honestly, some of these blokes..look, here we have Paul, 'hopeless romantic'. Two kids. On the first date would love to go for a drink". Judy shook her head and sighed.
"Is there just one profile for all men on dating sites?" she asked, "They all love animals. Love their friends. Love music...yes mate, you and everybody else on the planet".
"Here's a picture of Bob in the gym, in just a T-shirt. 'My family and friends are important to me' No, really? 'I'm easy-going, non-judgemental. Sometimes I like cosy nights in...' you and hundreds of others, 'loves to have a laugh' dear o' dear, 'You and 'billions' of others...right I've had enough of Bob".
"Here's Thomas. 'Most people call me Tommo. I'm looking for a partner in crime...'"
"Oh we have a comedian do we?" said Judy, "looking for a partner in crime, ha ha ha, well I'm sold. Can I have him instead of you?"
Angela scrolled down further.
"Ok, who's this?....hello Kieran".
That same night, at Magnolia wine bar, dressed in a black cocktail dress with brown court shoes, Angela was sat on her own, scrolling through her phone when he seemed to emerge from nowhere.
"Hi, I'm Kieran" he said.
"I'm Angela," they shook hands.
He wasn't dressed for a night out, she thought, wasn't dressed to impress, although he was 'smart but casual' she thought this was probably the best attire he had for any occasion. With black jeans, navy blue cotton shirt, long straggly hair, he stood and walked with a stoop and looked rather edgy and awkward.
"Are we having a drink?" he asked, sitting opposite.
Five minutes later Angela was bored. In those minutes he came across as half-decent, but nervous, agitated, and talkative. Talkative because it seemed in order to impress he was kind of trying too hard and talking covered any anxiety, or at least it tried to, but because he began to bore her, her attention diverted elsewhere, although she put on a mask in order to appease him, to tell him she was listening. Nodding and smiling. The menu took on a more interesting appeal. Hmm, not a bad price for the Mojito cocktail. The couple chatting at the end of the bar looked enviously comfy together...
"....so all governments," said Kieran. "Everyone of them throughout history are corrupt. You see, it's power, and power goes to people's heads. If you could tell people what to do and they did it, if you could get anyone locked up or shot because you didn't like them and then not be arrested then that sort of power twists minds and you start getting all meglomania then you see, start throwing your weight around 'cos you can get away with it, and the money. Money's no object to them. They just click their fingers and they can have it", Kieran clicked his fingers.
Angela tried her best to look interested, and realised just how boring it was to listen to someone who tried to talk about subjects they had no knowledge of, talking as if they had all the answers. Like a child, or an alcoholic trying to talk science...'Let me tell you all about quantum physics'.
"...an island. If they want it, they have it. All the gold and jewels. All the poshest cars and mansions. They click their fingers and they can have them...so we don't need them really. They would be nowhere without the public, so I don't need them you know...I've got me dog. He knows what I'm thinking".
"What breed is it?" she asked, not really caring.
"Little Yorkshire Terrier. Mixie, eats anything. I cooked meself some pasta the other day and it leaped up on the table. I thought I've just fed you. But you know when it looks at you with those eyes, I had to give it some and you know what...loved it. Eats anything" he said, smiling.
Great, thought Angela, another 'dog-man'. Her previous potential relationship ended when she realised she would be second to any one of his three Beagles. They only had to look at him with big sad eyes or yap and bark and he would leap to their attention. It was clear who ruled the roost in that household so that relationship never even got off the ground.
"If you could excuse me for a few moments, got to go the ladies...." Angela said.
"Ok, I'll get the drinks in".
After a few minutes, Angela was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror. This was the place where so many women had been before where a life changing choice is made, a path long since trodden, where the poor date could be abandoned, wondering that she's been a long time, until it dawned on them that she had gone.
If she turned left, she would walk back to the table. If right, she would hurry to the exit.
When she came out, she turned left.
Outside the wine bar, it was late and raining slightly.
"I suppose I'd better ring for a taxi," she said, taking out her phone.
"I only live ten minutes down the road," he said, hooking a thumb over his shoulder.
"Fancy a night-cap?"
"I've heard that before," she said, "What actually is a night-cap?"
"I've no idea".
She could see he was still nervous as he seemed agitated, looking around for no obvious reasons, and waffling on about nothing as they walked along gloomy, rainy roads with hardly any people around.
"...ye so ten-pin bowling. It's not as easy as it looks. There's a certain skill to it you see. The weights of the balls is important because of how strong you are. You might have noticed the finger holes. Well, you've got to get it just right, you know, 'cos when you bowl it you have to twist it from the back so you can get a good swing. That's what you do for the first bowl anyway, that's the best way to get a strike".
"Really," she said. She was gradually losing him. If I go back to his place, there may be a few drinks and a one-sided conversation. Poor guy may even be thinking he might be getting some action.
Well, thought Angela, there was something about him that made her continue. Maybe beneath all the bluster and nerves there was just a decent ordinary bloke. He wasn't bad looking really, and he did offer to buy all the drinks. She would give him a chance though, but probably only one.
"...got to admit, I don't mind a bit of bird-watching. Can't do much round here though"
"I spot pidgeons and seagulls all the time" said Angela.
"You'll never believe what I spotted last year in the local park by the pond. A purple sandpiper".
"A purple sandpiper, wow" she said, trying her best to sound interested.
"Yes, I was amazed. I was walking Mixie and there it was, purple sandpiper by the pond, 'cos you don't see them outside of the beach on the shores. I told my mate whose more of a birder than me, and he was like 'you're messin', I don't believe you. So I was like, it's true...really. He wanted a photo, but the bird went into the pond and I didn't get a decent enough picture. I sent it to him and he was like, nah I don't believe it, get a better one. So I tried but I think it kind of spotted me tryin' to get closer and got scared away. I was ages trying to convince me mate and he wasn't having any of it...here we are".
They had reached where he lived. It wasn't anything special. Converted housing that once used to be student accomodation. There was a gate which never locked, and he led her through and into his abode. There were other people who lived in the block but for now all was quiet. The place looked nicer on the outside than in. A place where everybody thought someone else will take responsibilty for cleaning the place, for taking out the bins. Someone else will do it. It's the landlord's responsibility.
On the first floor he opened the door into his pokey little flat from which it was clear from the outset, that he had made a half decent effort to clean just incase he brought somebody back. A group of shoes were neatly stacked behind the door and there was vague odour of air-freshener.
Kieran tried to make an effort to take her coat but Angela took it off and hung it behind the door along with her suede shoulder bag. He turned on the lights.
"Well here we are, it's hardly a posh mansion".
"Nope," she said, "It doesn't matter. It's fine". Although the placed was 'lived-in', it was quite untidy but could have been much worse. Not that it would have been a deal-breaker, but she did like someone who looked after himself, not a lazy scruff whose true colours would be revealed behind closed doors. A sloven slob with long greasy hair, broken yellow teeth with litter strewn around a sofa where he watches televison all day smoking roll-ups. Now that would be a deal-breaker. Angela would simply turn and walk out, but Kieran came across as a guy who was halfway there, but that was ok, it was not like she was heading for the hills. If he tries anything on then she would leave. Kieran would join the ranks of men whose brain was in their trousers. She wanted personality, somebody to 'like', to have affection for.
To engage in such activity Kieran would have to lower all her apprehensive defences and prove that he wasn't a lecherous pervert. Not that she was in any way prudish. In one of her previous relationships the boot was on the other foot. She had grown to like the guy but he had seemed so reserved and coy. As it turned out he was asexual. Had no interest whatsoever in lustful affection, and that was the deal-breaker for Angela.
"Can I get you a drink?" he asked without waiting for an answer. He went into the kitchen and took out two bottles of low-alcohol Peroni.
"Come through," he said and she followed him into the living-room. Mixie the dog came yapping over, exited. Angela stroked it and Kieran smiled.
"She likes you". The living room was not much more than a small rectangle. Some prisoners probably had bigger spaces, but it served its purpose, nothing more. There was sofa, an armchair, a television and not much else. A sun-bleached picture of the Eiffel Tower that had probably been up when he moved in, and probably there with the previous tenants wasn't angled properly on the wall.
"...ye, so I wouldn't buy a car in this day and age. The congestion is mental" he said, sitting down in the armchair, gesturing to the sofa. "You know there's more cars that come onto the roads than go off".
"Can I just use the bathroom?" she asked.
"Ye, just through there" he said, pointing.
Two minutes later Angela was looking at the frosty mirror, listening to him waffle. It seemed he was one of those people that carried on a conversation even when the other person was out of the room by raising their voice.
"...not a chance. Some drivers shouldn't be allowed on the road. You know who's the worst for it? Taxi drivers. They think they own the roads. I'll tell you where they've got the traffic system right. Australia, so I've heard anyway. They seem to do everything right over there. That's a place I would love to move to. Nice and sunny, no congested roads..."
And there it was, thought Angela.
If she got with him, there would come a point where he would want to emigrate. She was happy here, but if he wants to move then he may go without her, or he may stay and mope around all the time, depressed because he wasn't in Australia.
If they had children, then it would make things a lot worse.
'Well I'm going to Australia and I'm taking the kids'!
No way, she thought. She could see it happening. Sorry Kieran, you're not the one. She left the bathroom and walked across to her hangbag, reached inside and pulled out a shiny M9 handgun, then marched through into the living room where Kieran was sat in the armchair, his back to her, where he reached down to pick up Mixie so she could lick his face. She pointed the gun inches behind his head and pulled the trigger, literally blowing his brains out.
The following day, Angela and Judy were sat in the same cafe, in the same place, the laptop open.
"You should have seen it Judy. It was a good shot if I do say so myself. I pointed the gun behind his head just as he was holding the dog and the bullet went through his head and blew half the dog away as well".
"That gun certainly comes in handy for these guys," Judy said.
"Yep, good old Dad, sending it over from the States as protection. Protection against any guys who try anything on or who don't measure up to what I want".
"Exactly," said Judy, "Let's see who we can find. Maybe we can find somebody who you won't kill".
"That's the guy I'll marry," Angela said, opening up the dating website.