I first noticed them at the meat section. I was leaning in to pick up a tray of skinned boneless chicken thighs when a heavy-set man pushed in front of me to seize the biggest T-bone steak I have ever seen. Vast, it was, and yet still not wide enough to span his enormous girth. A green and yellow polo shirt struggled to contain the kilos of flesh. He spoke in a boom. “This is more like it Trevor. In Capetown, we put two of these in a sandwich and scarf them raw.”
There were three of them: the man with the cantilevered belly; another in an England supporters’ shirt fiddling with his Blackberry; and a smaller man, eyes darting self-consciously about the supermarket. Blackberry man looked up from his screen. “What about the Foie Gras? Where is it Mallard, you soft prick? Is there any bloody decent food here? Why don’t we just go back to the hotel and see if the power’s back on?
They were loud, and really quite intimidating. Shoppers retreated into the aisles as the trio made their way through the store, the Englishman and the South African arguing noisily as they grabbed armfuls of food, pausing from time to time to mock their companion. I reached the checkout just behind them.
The young woman behind the till bowed her head shyly and scooted the items across the scanner as the man with the gut leaned his great hams of forearms on the counter and leered at her cleavage. “That comes to $2011.69” she said softly.
The foreigners both turned to Mallard. His hand went hesitatingly to his wallet. A red cardboard card bearing a photo of the Prime Minister and a short list of declarations fell upon the counter, followed by a platinum American Express card. “I’ve got $11.69 left on this one,” he said, and spun around on his heel towards me. He fixed me with a level gaze as I pulled a six-pack of Stark from the trolley. "It’s your party," he said. Turning back to the checkout, he declared to the operator “he’ll get the rest,” and with that he was gone, hurrying to catch up to the foreigners who were now at the exit door and singing loudly and off-key about a bicycle built for two.