Majella and Tom are in the pokey office canteen when I walk in. They’re good friends, and Tom‘s in the middle of a cracking anecdote.
As I make a cup of tea, Majella laughs so hard at Tom‘s punchline that she farts. There’s an audible arse-parp. She can’t deny it.
‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph,’ she says, ‘I’m sorry.’
Tom and I laugh … but that was in the good times, before the smell hit us, and we forgot what it was like to feel joy.
Because this isn’t a fart; this is a radiation leak. Even though I’m breathing through my mouth, the smell somehow enters me through my pores. I can feel it altering my DNA. It’s a sulphurous inescapable haze that eats up every cubic inch of clean air in the room. It smells like brown bin day after a bin lorry workers’ strike, or the inside of your welly boot on the way home from Electric Picnic. It’s a tyre fire of a fart.
‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry,’ says Majella with her hand up to her nose.
‘It’s not that bad,’ I lie, with watering eyes.
‘Holy God!’ says Tom, still laughing.
Just then, one of the bigwig office directors walks in, looking a bit irked at having to make his own coffee. He immediately pulls up short, with the shocked look of a man who has just stumbled into a chemical warfare zone.
Without missing a beat, Tom says, ‘I’m sorry, that was me. Dodgy curry at lunch.’
‘Right… Fine… I’ll come back later,’ says the director, and he turns on his well-appointed heels and exits the canteen, smartly.
It seems that chivalry, unlike my olfactory sense, is not dead.