You cannot be too early, and you cannot be too late. Brian learnt there is a sweet spot to buying discount food from his local supermarket. Seven thirty in the evening was the peak, when yellow stickers smother the original bar code. You have to sort through the blackened beansprouts, the wilted sandwiches, and the dying meat with the fervour of a starving bear.
Sometimes Brian came away with nothing but sweating radishes. But today, nestled in the corner, the label looking like it had been chewed by a giant mouse, was a chicken tandoori.
Nothing too strange about this. Curries have a short self life, and are often found here at this time. But the label made Brian’s jaw drop. The curry was on sale for one pence.
One pence! It must be a printing error. The prices were never that low. But Brian remembered something about shops having to honour whatever price was on the label. And nothing would taste as good as once pence tandoori.
Brian picked up the container from the chiller. Despite the cold temperature, the box was warm, like it had stayed out in sun for twenty minutes too long. Thoughts of food poisoning briefly flash fried his brain.
But at one pence…
No need for a basket. Brian walked to the counter with his curry grasped in one hand. He had the loose change in his pocket. He would not even need to open his wallet.
It was in the drinks aisle that something stung his palm. Not too painful, but nasty, like jabbing yourself with a steak knife. Brian thought that maybe the plastic bottom of the container had snapped into his skin. He lifted up the container, and smelt spices and blood.
The hole in his hand was no bigger than a one pence piece. But it ran all the way through his palm. He spotted the cashier through the hole, a big line of yellow stickers in his hand, eyes wide.
There on the bottom of the container was the head of the creature, bald like a newborn mole rat, soaked in sauce, bits of flesh and bone stuck between needle teeth.
All Brian could think of what he was going to have for his tea, and how much this was going to cost.