“It’s very good of you,” says Big A appreciatively.
“It’s no problem,” I reply, and it really isn’t. That is the good thing about living in a small village. People borrow other peoples’ stuff all the time. I start decanting the petrol into his can.
“Are you sure you don’t need this?” he asks.
“Nonono,” I reply. “To be honest, I never use it since I got rid of the petrol mower. The electric one’s a pain in the arse, but at least it starts every time.”
There is a small amount of crud in the mixture. I fetch some kitchen roll to filter it.
“What happened to your petrol mower?”
“Heap of shit,” I reply. “I don’t know whether it was the starter, or the filter, or the carb, or whatever.” I scowl. I had enjoyed having the mower whilst it lasted, but that wasn’t very long, and £150 is a lot of money for what is basically the equivalent of a gardener’s cock extension. Also, even after eighteen months, my arm is still a bit sore from tugging away at the starter cord, punching and kicking it, etc., during my heroic yet vain attempts to get the thing to work.
The final drips emerge from the can; I reach for the lid.
Something nags at me as go to screw it on. I hold the can up to my face.
“It smells a bit odd. Does this smell odd?” I ask.
We both smell the petrol, then smell the petrol again. Neither of us are sure that it smells like petrol. It smells, perhaps, like the can has once had petrol in it, but has been refilled with – say – weedkiller, or a weak lemony drink.
“Are you sure that’s petrol?” he asks.
Big A dips some kitchen roll in the mixture and waves his lighter at it. The flame burns a square inch of paper before fizzling out, wetly.
“Well I thought it was petrol. To be honest, I haven’t used it since I had to dump the mower because it wouldn’t start.”
We look at each other.