The Nicest Motherfucker

There are (were) two tabletop stores on one street in Glasgow.

One is bright yellow outside and bright-lit inside. It has twice the selection, three times the staff, and what must be the most micromanaged binder of Pokemon cards ever compiled. No matter when you go in, whatever the position of the stars or the waxing of the moon, some guy is rearranging it to some pattern only he knows.

One has wire security doors and a sign so faded that you can’t direct people there by name (and when you do, you tell them not to show up any earlier than one, even though the window says 12:00-17:00). Inside, the bulbs are a little dim and the air is a little cold. Cash, no cards – the owner is still steadfastly holding back the ’90s.

One of these stores doesn’t want to know you, and barely wants to know your money. One of these stores closed down last month.

Yes, of course it’s the bloody nice one.

Looking at these fine establishments, it’s easy to guess which has the unshakeable rep for ‘you want to interrupt our chatting with your customer malarkey?’ shenanigans. It’s the shabby little joint, obviously, else we’d have gone through these contrived parallels for nothing. What, you thought those florid descriptions served nothing greater than a telegraphed gotcha twist? Come, now. We’re both women of the narrative cliche world, you and me. They were in service of a meandering joke about gotcha twists.

Psyche.

Static is, except on Saturdays, staffed by the most apathetic bastards to ever grudgingly ring up a game. Do they have what you’re looking for? Fuck knows. They certainly don’t. Their fucks are jealously hoarded, reserved only for those most hallowed of tasks, and you sure don’t look like an uncorralled Gyarados.

Our plucky little hero, that underdog of the wire doors and consumptive lightbulbs, is The Dragon and George and it was run by the nicest motherfucker.

You know how many people I coaxed in with that promise? Must be, oh, upwards of three. At least. And all of them walked in looking curious and all of them walked out repeating it, like it was a revelation to me, like it was something they needed to make sure I knew, too. And now when I meet new Glasgow gamers, I have to say wow, why didn’t I know you two months ago? you missed meeting the nicest motherfucker.

The first time I went in, he told me that gaming groups got ten percent off. I was not a part of any gaming groups. At this point, I was only halfway to being part of the human race; still shades of the mad-eyed twitching paranoiac I’d been in England. I told him this – give or take the more socially-awkward details – and he tapped his pencil against his pad.

“Well,” he said, leaning conspiratorially over the counter. “Let’s just say you are.”

The second-to-last time I went in, he stood there, surrounded by his going-out-of-business sale stickers, and gave me ten percent off. The bastard.

The only reason he didn’t do it the final time is because I didn’t buy anything – my boyfriend and I brought him two tins of hot chocolate as a goodbye present. He tried not to take them at first, so I put them on the counter. He looked at them like a cat owner looks at half a vole. When he finally picked them up, after his couldn’t possiblys and his don’t have tos were brushed aside, I think he was planning to give them back. Once they were in his hands he didn’t seem to want to.

He hefted them. “It’s the wrong time of year for hot chocolate.”

“Well then, it’ll tide you over until you come back.”

“Yes,” he said, almost thoughtful. “Till I come back.”

Back in the good old days of May, you could stroll into The Dragon and George and say that you wanted something four-player (or maybe eight), light-hearted (but not wacky), and preferably with blue cubes (or red, but not green). Five minutes later, you’d have six suggestions in front of you and an astonishing lack of clips around the ear.

And now that’s gone.

There’s no more lazy bickering about games which haven’t existed in years, or running to the cash machine because you’re a fiver short and he’s still convinced debit cards are a passing fad. No more badmouthing cricket just to wind him up. No more getting back with that five quid, only to find he’s knocked off six.

No more nicest motherfucker.

There’s probably a handful of smug wanker jokes to made now, if you’d happen to be a smug wanker. ‘Dragon:1, George: Nill.’ ‘An independent tabletop store? He must have known it was a fairytale.’ ‘Smug, smug, fuckedy-smug.’

I’m not going to make those jokes. I’m just going to say what everyone else is:

“Aw, fuck, really? I can’t believe it.

“…Wait, does this mean I’m gonna have to start going to Static now?

“Man, those guys are dicks.”

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