This is a story I wrote the other day. It's just a bit of fun. I'm including the first third of it, in the hope that people might actually read it! Criticise and all that jazz if anyone does!
I was waiting in a bar for a friend to arrive. It was my regular haunt, a fair distance from work, so there was little chance of running into a workmate and having to make awkward conversation with them. Unlike most at the museum, I could not have cared less about antiques and relics. Being a tour-guide was good money, and learning the information could make you sound intelligent if you used it in the right circumstances. Some women dig antiques.
My friend was late, as always. Every day I told myself that I’d arrive late as well, but I just couldn’t do it. I’d drag my feet and pretend to be tying my shoelaces, or reading an important text message, on the way here, but I was always exactly on time. Punctuality ran through my veins.
But that day; no amount of sense or punctuality could have prepared me for what would happen.
I was sitting at the bar, sipping a beer, and trying to avoid the sticky spots on the dirty wooden surface. A man in an oversized trench coat sat down on the stool next to me and looked around suspiciously, before clearing his gravely throat.
‘I have Stalin’s beard,’ he muttered to me in a thick Russian accent.
I turned, checked to see if he was talking to me, and when I realised he was, replied tentatively with ‘excuse me?’
‘I have Stalin’s beard,’ the man repeated. If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn I could see the pebbles grinding in his throat as he spoke.
‘Umm…what?’ I asked, bemused.
‘You work at museum, yes? I have Stalin’s beard.’
At this point, I worked out that it must be a joke my friend was playing on me. ‘Mate, Stalin didn’t have a beard,’ I informed him jokingly.
‘For a short time in the winter of 1925 Stalin had a beard. I have it in the boot of my car,’ he told me, sustaining eye contact.
‘Really, well, good for you!’
‘It has certificate of authenticity,’ he said, a sense of pride creeping into his voice.
‘Oh, well, in that case, show it to me!’ I replied sarcastically.
‘Come to car, is parked outside.’
I decided that I would play along, to see what the punch line would be. He led me out of the bar, all the while looking around him like a bad spy. A battered brown Ford Fiesta was parked haphazardly outside, half on the pavement, half off. I laughed at the sight, but the Russian beetled straight to the back of the car and unlocked the boot. He ushered me around, and then ceremoniously lifted the door as if about to reveal hard proof of Father Christmas.
Instead, I saw what appeared to be a collection of miscellaneous rubbish. The boot was lined with red-velvet, and displayed across it were various tattered bits and bobs; there was an old wooden smoking pipe, some kind of satanic knife, and in a tiny glass case, what looked to be a smudge of excrement on a piece of snake-skin.
‘What’s that?’ I asked, pointing at it.
He picked it up delicately. ‘This, my friend, is Gorbachev’s birth spot, from head.’
I grinned. ‘How did you come by that then, considering that he’s still alive?’
‘Is easy, Gorbachev shed skin like snake, every five year.’
‘Right,’ I said, anxious now to move on, ‘what are those?’ I asked, pointing at two slugs in a plastic box.
‘Brezhnev’s eyebrows, you see…’
I cut him off before he could continue, ‘OK, great. So, the beard?’
The man leaned into the boot, and tapped a rhythm on the back that sounded distinctly like a dance version of the Russian national anthem. A small flap dropped down, revealing a safe door with the hammer and anvil painted on it in red. The man entered a code into the digital display and the safe snapped open. Smoke escaped from inside, obscuring my view.
When the smoke cleared, the man put his hands slowly into the safe, and took out a red velvet pillow. Resting on top was a neatly trimmed black beard, with the odd fleck of grey here and there. My scepticism cleared with the smoke. The beard was incredibly handsome. It hadn’t been shaved off, but somehow taken away from the face as a whole. It looked as if it could be worn like a mask. And there next to it was a certificate of authenticity, bearing the names of numerous Russians, and that of a renowned antique dealer I knew of from Antwerp.
‘How did you get this?’ I stammered in disbelief.
‘Is top secret. But know that it was not easy.’
‘How much do you want for it?’ I asked eagerly, taking my wallet out from my pocket.
‘Ah, for any other man it is priceless, but for you…one hundred pounds.’
At this point I should have smelt the rat. A hundred pounds for such an item was obviously some kind of set up. But the beard had bedazzled me, and at the time I couldn’t see beyond the fact that on paper, it was a fantastic deal.
I ran back into the bar to use the cash machine, and had the money in the Russian’s hand within the minute. He smiled, counted the cash, and slipped it into his inside pocket. He wrapped the beard delicately in brown paper, and handed it to me. I almost grinned my mouth straight off my face.
With promotion glinting in my eyes, I began making my way back to the museum. They’d refund my expenses, and there was sure to be some kind of finder’s fee.
I stopped at the red man signal when I reached the top of the road. Blinded with greed and happiness, I didn’t notice the low-flying helicopter, or the black van that screeched to a halt behind me.
‘Put the box on the floor and get your hands behind your head!’ A drill-like voice yelled from behind me.
I span around incredulously, to see five armed policemen pointing machine guns at my face.
‘Put the beard on the floor, now!’ An officer with a potato-shaped head shouted.
At this point I threw any sense I had left straight out of the window. With the specific mention of the beard, I knew they wanted to take away my prize, and for some reason I was unable to comprehend such a disaster befalling me. A great sense of pride and protection welled up in my gut; I would have rather died than relinquished the beard.
I sprang into action, running toward the officers, the box held in front of me like a shield. They yelled some commands, but appeared unwilling to shoot at the box. I ducked the attempted rifle-whip from one of them, and sprinted away back toward the bar.
The low-flying helicopter was less concerned about damaging the beard. It wheeled around and gave chase, firing heavily at me. I weaved in between cars and jumped over rubbish bags, still clutching the box, to avoid the bullets. They actually do make that noise when they ricochet of metal.
I reached the bar in one piece. The Russian was still outside, sitting in his car. When he saw me approaching, the helicopter ripping up the street behind, he got out of his car, panic striking his face.
‘Put on the beard!’ He yelled to me. ‘Put on the beard.’
Diving behind his car, I tore open the brown package, took the beard from its pillow, and, with a deep breath, pressed it to my face.[/u]