Servitor grabbed the coffee and almost ran from the coffee shop in horror, feeling the shocked and amused stares drilling into the back of his neck, his down-turned face burning with humiliation. He walked rapidly down the street, slowing to a normal pace only when he was almost half a mile away from the scene of the catastrophe.
What had he said? How was that possible? He felt sick and shaky. If he were still a drinker, he told himself, this would be a double vodka moment. As it was, he gratefully saw a Boots Chemists sign ahead and went in to buy some aspirin.
“Do you have a Boots advantage card?” the middle-aged lady at the check-out asked him.
“No.” he heard himself say, with growing horror. “But I do like to take advantage of my little cock by wanking until it’s sore.”
This time he didn’t even pick up his purchase: as soon as the words were out of Servitor’s mouth, he was pushing past the stunned customers and heading straight for the door.
Out on the street, Servitor panicked. Loyalty card? As he thought that, the words “sweaty little cock” jumped into his brain. Loyalty card. (‘tiny prick’). Something about those words, about saying loy-…the L word. Or anything like it, remembering the Boots experience. (“Frequent flyer”? “Frequently wank myself silly”). He mustn’t even think it.
Where could he shop? He had to go places where they didn’t have a loya- a - a programme for rewarding customers. There was a corner shop just ahead, and steeling his nerves, he went in and bought bread and a few tins of food. He marched up to the counter, heart thumping.
“Four-fifty”, the man behind the counter said, not looking at him. Servitor held out a fiver with shaking hands and clenched his teeth tight shut. The shopkeeper pulled at the note, and looked up in confusion as Servitor’s fingers held it tight.
In a different town, in a different county, Mistress Valerie was tidying her toy cupboard. She picked up a box, rifled inside it and frowned.