The Best Laid Plans of Mark Albert Fowler and Stephen Maurice Graham

Mark Fowler leaned over the expletive scored table to whisper in my ear, his leather jacket lightly pressed against and tipped his half full pint glass on its edge as he talked, I couldn't take my eyes off it, worried it might fall at any second and ruin our peanuts. We'd already had a bit of hassle from Peggy Mitchell this afternoon for splashing our pish all over the Queen Vics toilets in the frivolous way only drunks can muster.

"It's foolproof innit?" He gushed down my lughole, at which point I snap out of my pint pot piss reverie and looked him dead on in the eye, tuning back into the world around me.

"But you're dead" I said, searching his eyes for a soullessness, something inhuman, but he seems at this point very tangible. "You've been dead for years, Pauline was so worried when you left, it destroyed her - she eventually became a caricature of herself."

Mark ignored me and popped a peanut in his mouth, crunching it round his mouth, savouring the spicy prawn flavour. I had to admit they were pretty good, each time I had one I fell deeper into a surreal fug trance that rattled my head and left my stomach a scorched desert which could only be tempered with more of these pints of alcoholic Orangina. The more I had the more sense Mark was making. I watched his tongue flicker over his wonderful grin, it was very rare to see him this happy and I was glad for him. At one point he took off his mole and let me try it on.

"Keep it mate! Suits ya!" He blared into his pint before sinking the citrus dregs.

"It does look good, but I can't take this from you Mark, it'd be like stealing your indentity." and then popping it back on his cheek delicately, I said sincerely; "It really adds a European balance to your face - without it you'd no longer be the Serge Gainsbourg of the East-end." He looked up and gave me his trademark doe eyes and sad-smile-that-says-it-all and I felt that we had achieved a closeness not felt since last we shared a peanut all those hours ago.

"I'm serious Steve, this plan, it's foolproof." He grew dark, his eyebrows knitting in huge semi circles around his watery pin light eyes. "We loan ten grand from Phil Mitchell, reinvest it in a business of our choosing, perhaps a..."

"Cake shop" We both said simultaneously. Yeah, this plan was getting good.

"Yes mate, a cake shop is perfect." He continued "We set up and run the cake shop ourselves with Phils money, but we don't pay him back, we just tell him to fuck off" I was elated, I'd never heard Mark swear before and it made the plan seem daring rather than foolhardy.

"Won't Phil beat us up for stealing his money?" I said, before popping another prawn peanut in my gob.

"Nah, he's a pussy now without Grant to help him out, we can take him."

"Yeah I guh hess houuurrr aiiiiight" I slurred. My jaw was melting off again, couldn't chew these damned nuts, I was on my way out.

At that moment the doors of the Queen Vic flickered open like an eye lid and before us stood Mr Puffy-jacket-puffy-face himself, Phil Mitchell. Time was beginning to condense. Everything that Mark had said seemed to have already come into being. We had made a cropper of Phil Mitchell. Blimey.

"You've bleedin' ripped me orf" He growled at Mark. He cast a withering glance at me holding the foam of my jaw in my lap before slowly working his disparaging gaze back to Mark who still seemed buoyant despite this turn of events.

"What're you gunna do Phil? Go to the Police? Beat us up? You're pathetic." Mark was standing now, right up in Phil's podgy idiot face. "You. Can't. Do. A. Thing." with each word he prodded Phil harder and harder in the chest. As he glared at Mark his face went a deep shade of pink, he looked like a prawn who'd dressed up to go to a Right Said Fred concert.

With the last prod Phil bubbled over and exploded in Marks face.

"OH YEAH?! Listen Fowler - If you and your fizzy mate there think you've got the best of me you're dead wrong. I know your game, a bleedin' cake shop?" He laughed a grave chuckle and wiped the tip of his nose with his thumb. "If you fink that you'll use my cash for a cake shop round here you're seriously mistaken mate. You know what they say about cake shop tables don't yah?"

"What's that?" Mark spat, in an effort to seem composed.

"You saw off one leg, then another, and then maybe another and the laws of physics bring the table crashing down ruining all the cakes on top."

It was a laboured, bewildering threat to be honest, but effective, Mark was now ashen with fear. The cake shop dream was scuppered. Mark looked to me for support but I was losing my grip on this reality due to the slow sound of drums which began to pummel the scene, making everything resonate. Phil turned to look at me now, followed by Peggy at the bar and then the rest of the patrons swivelled round in their chairs. Even the bust of Queen Victoria turned to stare as my form turned to foam jelly.

"Gut Booer Gheaddd" I said to Mark before half of my head slid into the ashtray and everything went black.