I’d driven over earlier that afternoon, sure that my mum wouldn’t notice that her car had gone. I sat back on the warn down sofa finishing off the crumbs of the homemade cinnamon cake. I’d hated 94% of cakes that I’d tried in my life, but this didn’t seem so bad.
“The Somalians and Jamaicans have been beefing again. It’s been kicking off down my road these last weeks,” Robert said, scratching at the whiskers that he called his beard, not that my own was much better at that point.
“Oh,” I said.
“Yardies moved in, brought guns over and started smashing up growing kits. There were several destroyed in our road alone,” Robert said.
“All in your road,”
“Yeah, it surprised me too. One evening we all got this bout of three-way paranoia and decided that we’d stuff all our shit – or almost all of it, into two cinnamon cakes. I didn’t wanna catch them sniffing anything out. You don’t wanna get dragged into that,” Robert said and opened a vintage looking cake tin “You want another slice of cake?” he offered.
I took up his offer, stuffing myself as I waited for Robert. Thinking of everything and nothing as I diverted my attention from the roach ends and stones of the Go board, to the accentuated rhythm of the rising incense smoke.
Outside, the summer sun had already begun to set over the city. As I stuck the keys in the ignition, it seemed that I’d half forgotten that the car wasn’t mine and that I was in a rush to get it back, not to mention giving Robert a lift. It had all crept up on me slowly and just as we drove out from Stapleton Road, I suddenly realized that I couldn’t quite focus on the speedometer. That was when it dawned on me, that that stupid little cinnamon cake was trying to possess me.
We reached the next set of lights as a police car pulled into the lane alongside us. It was then that time was suspended, I tried to act normally and gingerly fiddled with the pine scented air-freshener. Riding shotgun, the cop car was on Robert’s side, as he tried his hardest to avoid eye contact, but even I could see that they were staring at him. A flash of blue panned across the dashboard, but they were off elsewhere. We moved away from the main road and drove off past the Polish church still fighting the cinnamon cake. I wound down the window and flicked some music on, DOOM played over the speakers as I searched for something more appropriate and braked gently to a stop as we reached the next set of lights. I tried to assure myself that I was overcoming it, my mind was stronger – this was nothing huge, just some minor psychotropic indulgence. I stared out of my window – I stared at some near by greenery, the blades of grass that seemed to vibrate in the breeze, some birds attacking a bird feeder, a passing dark haired woman tonguing at a lolly from behind her shades. I put my foot down and from nowhere came another car. We came closer and closer then we collided. I knocked the side of it and continued with my foot on the brakes, skidding across the road, the air bag deploying, as I wrestled with it and the steering wheel, sounds of glass and metal raining down on the concrete floor before finally I stopped and fell into the airbag. I knocked away the air bag and got out of the car. Through the smoke I could see another battered car. The driver flung open his door but I was in no state to negotiate anything.
“We’ve got to get out of here before the police come back, I’ve still got shit on me,” Robert said.
He was right, one way or another I was in the shit again, though how deep was something that still seemed debatable. I handed over some details to the other driver and tried to remember his, as we made haste. Black smoke filtered through my window as I drove on through the back roads, while Robert leant out of his, looking for someplace we could ditch the thing and walk.
Years have passed since then, but I remember it every other time I see a cinnamon cake and recall how I came to hate 95% of cakes.
Gwil James Thomas lives in London, England. He is the author of the novel Captains of Sinking Ships (Kenton) and a short story collection Halfway to Nowhere – which is available in Greece (Strange Days Books). He was also a member of the short lived punk band Irreparables and is a regular contributor to Joe England’s Push Literary Zine.