combuster (noun): a person or thing that causes combustion

‘It’s probably nothing.’

                ‘What’s probably nothing?’

                ‘Just that when we go for food – ’

                ‘He doesn’t chew with his mouth open, does he?’

                ‘No, not that. His table manners are fine… well – ’

                ‘Shit. He’s one of those guys who’s an arsehole to waiters, right?’

                ‘No. It’s just that he’ll only order beige food.’


                ‘Pasta, or potato, or bread.’


                ‘Well, he’ll eat cauliflower or, like, pannacota.’


                ‘And the waitresses all make that face you’re making right now.’

                ‘That face, darling, is called ‘disgusted and appalled: a portrait’. You could hang it in an art gallery. I mean, what kind of serial killer only eats white food?’


                ‘That’s worse.’


                ‘Well, it’s not fucking better, is it?’

                ‘It’s only a small thing, though.’

                ‘Break it off. Now. Get your phone out of your pocket and send him a message. Right. Now.’

                ‘He’s lovely, though.’

                ‘Can you imagine anything freakier? Would he eat, like, a carrot, maybe? If it’d been boiled down until all the colour leeched out of it… or, is that worse? That is worse. A fucking anaemic carrot.’

                ‘We met at a silent reading party.’

                ‘Oh well, I take it back then. No psycho would ever go to an event in a pub where every sad-sack is sitting reading without even a whisper of conversation. He’s fine then. Nothing to worry about.’

                ‘You’re a sarcastic bitch.’

                ‘And he’s a serial killer.’

                ‘It is a bit embarrassing. The food thing.’

                ‘Darling, it’s downright psychotic. He only eats white food. Is he a fascist? I bet he is – I bet he’s a fucking fascist. Wait… does that mean he only eats white chocolate?’

                ‘He doesn’t eat dark chocolate, no.’

                ‘White chocolate. Darling. White chocolate.’

                ‘But he’s very sweet – ’

                ‘You would be too – ’

                ‘And we’re into all the same things: hillwalking and reading and nights in on the sofa and – ’

                ‘And thunderstorms… Everyone puts those things on their dating profiles.’

                ‘We met in person, though.’

                ‘And – wait – what about the sex? If he’s not into anything except beige on the plate, then there can’t be much imagination in that department, am I right? A flavoured condom must be his worst nightmare.’

                ‘It’s not flavour he has a problem with.’

                ‘So it’s strictly standard johnnies, is it?’

                ‘Well, we’ve not actually got that far yet. That was only our third date on Friday and we just… well, we spoke about it and – ’

                ‘You spoke about it? Darling, you and I do nothing but speak about it. That’s not his purpose, my love, that’s not his function. No, dump him. If you don’t, then I’ll do it for you. In fact, give me your phone across. Give it here. What’s his name? Is he in your contacts?’

                ‘You’re not dumping Mark.’

                ‘No, you are. I’m just your facilitator.’

                ‘We had a kiss. We just said we’d wait to take it further. Until the next date, until we could have the house to ourselves.’

                ‘Wait, what? This house, the one you share with moi?’

                ‘Is that not ok?’

                ‘Is it ok that you’re bringing a serial killer home from a silent reading party, so that you can have silent, beige sex and he can strangle you in your sleep? Is that ok? Hmmm. Will I come back to find the walls painted beige and the cat fucking bleach-blonde?’

                ‘He’s not going to strangle me. All you know about him is that he eats beige food. He’s so nice otherwise.’

                ‘Did he have a childhood trauma with a curry, is that it? Or choke on some red jelly? I mean, what kind of – ? ’

                ‘Actually, I think it was to do with when he was younger.’

                ‘Dump him. Now.’

                ‘I think he had problems with his stomach, with his digestion. He didn’t tell me the full story, but he was in-and-out of the hospital with it. Everything he ate seemed to react and he was surviving on nothing but Lucozade – for the glucose – but then even that started to give him a stomach ulcer. So they gave him some porridge and he put on some weight. Then he moved on to bread and that, and – what are you doing?’

                ‘Looking for him on Facebook.’


                ‘Is it Mark Storey, is that him?’

                ‘Don’t you dare – ’

                ‘Must be, you’ve only been friends a fortnight.’

                ‘Are you just having a look?’

                ‘Nope, I’m posting on his wall.’

                ‘What – ? Give it!’

                ‘Can’t. Too late.’

                ‘What the hell. What did you write?’

                ‘I tagged you.’

                ‘You’re the worst.’

                ‘You’ll thank me, darling.’

                ‘You’ve just posted a link, have you? It’s a recipe for lamb tagine… You bitch.’

                ‘If he makes it for you – if he eats it – then you’ll know he’s the one. If not, then not. You’re welcome.’

                ‘It could literally kill him.’

                ‘You’re so over-dramatic.’

                ‘Have you not been listening? He had problems with his stomach as a kid, they had to cut some of his intestines away, I think. He couldn’t go to school. They were genuinely fearful that it might kill him.’

                ‘First of all, I wasn’t listening. I was trying to remember how to spell tagine. Right? Second of all, if it’s something that he can’t help then it seems a bit harsh to judge him for it, darling. Like, if it’s not just a weird phobia – if it’s actually physical.’

                ‘Exactly, but you’ve just posted on his wall.’

                ‘At least see what he’s like in bed first…’

                ‘A fucking recipe for lamb tagine.’

                ‘Maybe avoid seeing him at mealtimes.’

                ‘He’ll see you’re my housemate and I’ll have to explain that I told you.’

                ‘It seems like it’s basically nothing to worry about.’

                ‘I am worried. What do I tell him?’

                ‘Not that – the beige food thing.’

                ‘You really think?’

                ‘Yeah, it’s probably nothing.’