‘There are seventeen,’ the salesman said.
Cameron Beg nodded.
‘Would you like to see the colour chart?’ continued the salesman, Simon Gillfish.
Gillfish was a slim man with a penchant for icing sugar, and would be thirty-six in four years time. He reached onto the wall-mounted rack and pulled out the folded glossy, opening it to allow his customer to see.
Beg’s eye roved over the small coloured squares set in a single row across the middle of the pamphlet. ‘I’m looking for a yellow,’ he said, as if to clarify.
‘Well this is the right chart,’ Gillfish replied, a little bemused.
‘Hmmm.’ Beg pondered the graduated illustrations of colour. ‘Is this a fair representation of the actual colour?’ he asked finally.
‘As good as it can be made, sir.’
‘What about this one?’ Beg asked, touching his finger to the fifth square from the left.
‘Sunshine,’ Gillfish said, reading out the word under the colour. ‘A good choice.’
‘Hmmm.’ Beg gently screwed up his face. ‘Not very yellow, is it?’
The normally calm salesman, five years in the paint department, began to feel his hackles rise just a little. Got a bit of a one here, he thought. ‘What about…Golden Orb?’ he suggested.
‘I was looking for something yellower.’
‘Not really yellow, is it. Less yellow than Golden Orb, in fact. Do you see?’
‘Yes,’ Gillfish lied.
‘Something less yellow than this one, but more yellow than that one.’
‘That one’s too yellow?’
‘Of course, isn’t it obvious? It screams yellow. It’s so vulgar and in-your-face. It’s too overstated.’
‘Well perhaps not too yellow, but too obviously yellow.’
‘Ah.’ Gillfish was wishing he’d taken his lunch break a little earlier.
‘That one’s just screaming “Look at me, I’m yellow!”.’
‘It is bold, I agree. Some people like that.’
‘Well they’re peasants. Yellow, yes, but not attention-grabbing-look-at-the-size-of-my-love-truncheon yellow. It makes me want to vomit. Copiously.’
Gillfish quickly ran his hand over the right side of the chart. ‘These are more understated. Perhaps…’
‘That one?’ Beg asked incredulously, jabbing a finger at the offending square. ‘That doesn’t deserve to be called yellow. It’s little more than a very bright cream. Pretentious colour. Yellow my arse.’
The salesman took a long breath, fighting his rising impatience, and decided to take a slightly different line. ‘Did you have a colour in mind?’
Beg stared at Gillfish like the man was insane. ‘Yes! Yellow!’
‘I see,’ Gillfish said, backtracking. ‘Like… this?’ he suggested, daring to hope, gently touching a colour in the centre of the chart.
‘Now you’re taking the piss. Not yellow like that. More…’
‘Yellow?’ Gillfish mooted.
‘Yes! Not this piece of crap. Less yellow than these two, but more yellow than, well, most of the rest. And no slutty yellows. Not the kind of yellow that pulls up outside a nightclub in a Ferrari and steps out hoping all the women are looking at it. But not some prissy yellow that spends all Saturday afternoon at home watching the golf. Just a good, honest, pint-of-beer-and-a-packet-of-crisps yellow.’
Gillfish nodded sagely, hoping with all his might that armed raiders would break into the superstore and kill him. ‘This one?’ He pointed at a shade halfway across the sheet.
Beg looked like he would explode. ‘You’re not listening, are you?’ he demanded.
‘Sir, this is the only chart of yellows we have. As you see, there are seventeen.’
‘Hopeless,’ Beg said, throwing his arms up. ‘I should sue you all under the Trades Descriptions Act. Yellow? A colour chart purporting to display shades of yellow? Horse manure. I wouldn’t let my daughter out at night with any of these so-called yellows. It’s a travesty.’
‘I’m sorry sir.’ Gillfish prayed that this meant the lunatic was going to give up and leave.
‘I mean, all I want is yellow. Is that too much to ask?’
‘As I say, sir, this is the manufacturer’s chart of yellows.’
‘Well they’re obviously colour blind. Or have no idea about what a good shade of yellow is all about. Pimpled morons, the lot of them.’
Gillfish looked round at the sound of this new voice. A lady was approaching. From Beg’s expression, the salesman could tell that this was his customer’s wife. Poor woman, he thought.
‘The paint company,’ Beg elucidated. ‘No idea of colours, these people.’
‘Really?’ Mrs Beg queried.
‘I mean, all we want is a nice yellow.’
Cameron Beg looked taken aback for a second, then realisation dawned. ‘Oh, yes. Red.’
Gillfish felt his life force drain away.
Beg looked at him. ‘Sorry, yes, red.’
Gillfish nodded silently, straining to hear the sound of aliens arriving in the car park to abduct him and perform atrocious experiments on his genitals. But it was unhelpfully quiet.
Suddenly his torture was interrupted. Mrs Beg reached out an arm and lifted a pot of paint from the rack. ‘What about this one, darling?’ she asked, showing it to her husband.