The Second Chapter of Book One
So I have decided to post the second chapter of my first book here, why not the first chapter? I hear you say. Well some of my content is not for little ears and I happen to know that some of my followers are younger than the age range I would pitch my book to. Anyway it’s also a good reason for you to comment below and I will be more than happy to email you the first chapter for free!
The rain pours down outside and inside the car it starts steaming up, I put the heaters and wipers on and drive along the seafront. Off through the huge wet puddles to the Arches Café to meet my mate, John. We have lived in Southend all our lives we went to school here together. Some people see it as the end of the earth, with one road in and one road out but to me this is paradise. For some people familiarity breeds contempt, they need to move away from where they grew up, so that they can spread their wings. I have done all the growing I need. I love this town. I once did a bit of travelling and I ended up in San Francisco. It is similar to Southend really, just with bloody great big hills. There is a magic there and there is a magic here, from the pubs that the Cray twins used to frequent and the idiots that think they are the Cray twins, to the huge beautiful sunsets and of course the beautiful women. It is all good here in sunny Southend.
As I push the heavy door of the café open, the smell of fried food and coffee envelops me. The warm smile of John greets me as he looks up from his breakfast.
‘Started without me, you old tart,’ I say, giving him a friendly whack on the arm.
‘You’re late! What is the matter? Had a bit of trouble getting it up this morning?’ John jokes to me.
‘As if. I have the lovely Tabatha today. I might just surprise her while her man’s out.’
‘Have your wicked way with her, eh?’
‘I can only dream!’ I think of Tabatha, she is a sexy 18-year-old girl who would not look at me twice but I can dream of whisking her away from the shitty flat she lives in. Looking down at John’s breakfast, I realise I am starving.
‘I better go and order, as you couldn’t be arsed to wait for me!’
Just then, Kellie brings me over my usual, what a love.
‘Thanks gorgeous,’ I smile at her and give her a wink.
‘How are things going with that girl you met at the supermarket, seen her again yet?’ John asks.
I lick my lips. Ahhhhrrrr Stacey, Stacey, Stacey. You are beautiful, I think to myself.
‘God John, she’s bloody lovely, very nervous, you know husband and kids, working, she’s got it all going on, your regular superwoman.’
‘I don’t know how you do it. Here I am bloody wanking every night to bloody Crime Watch and you seem to reel them in, in the bloody supermarket of all places! I just don’t get it, I must have been some nasty shit in my last life, and you my friend must have been some super angel.’
I look at John and smile, watching him scratch his head, one of his many familiar little gestures that makes John, well John.
I am a lucky bastard, I admit, ‘I have no idea what Stacey sees in me,’ I say.
‘I guess being number one to someone is probably nice when you’re generally clearing up and giving all your love to everyone else,’ John says. ‘These superwomen need a cheerleader too don’t they?’
‘Wise words John, wise words, anyway down to business, any referrals?’ I ask.
‘Yeah there’s this couple down on North Street. They have just moved in, two kids and they look like they need a hand. Funnily enough she is a hotty but please do not start shagging her too, my ego cannot take it! Two more on Vincent Street. All the info is in there.’
John hands over the file we keep. We have been friends since school, he is a grease monkey, and I became a money monkey. After school we both went straight to college, I did two years of business and finance with some of the worst lecturers but some of the hottest chicks. John did a year and half of mechanics and went straight into an apprenticeship. I am proud of him, his own business, nice house, but no wife or kids. He has always found it hard with women. It is a shame, but he is a man of many vices. He gets his kicks racing cars round tracks, putting one of those ridiculous red Ferrari all-in-ones on and off. He goes zooming round Brands Hatch in a beat up Renault. He is my oldest friend and we look after each other. If he sees a couple, or a family he thinks could use my help, he will pass the word to me and vice versa. If my clients need a cheap service, I will give John the nod. It is a nice little vicious circle, which benefits us both. We continue our breakfast and chat over the events of the week.
‘Seeing Stacey later then?’ says John seriously.
‘Yes, she makes me happy,’ I say, realising I am justifying myself to myself, more than to John.
‘I can bloody see that! Good luck to you mate you deserve it,’ he says with that grin of his.
John saying this means a lot. My mind wanders back to when he had been there for me when I nursed mum through cancer. I watched everyday as she disintegrated before my very eyes. When she knew it was terminal, she sold her house and came to live with us, which at the time I thought was the obvious solution. Obviously, my lovely wife Linda did not quite see it that way. We had your run of the mill 1940’s semi and had managed to get it just the way we liked it. We had converted the attic for the boys, now sixteen and eighteen, who spent most of their time up there playing records, probably smoking and fighting over girls.
‘It’s not that I don’t want your mum to live with us, it’s just the boys are at such a tricky age’ Linda had said.
‘The boys have always been at a tricky age. This is the end of my mum’s life and if you seriously don’t think we can accommodate her, then I seriously think I need to move in with her until the end,’ I had replied.
‘You can’t do that,’ Linda said, the frown lines that I had watched grow over the years appearing on her brow.
‘Look, she wants to sell the house and we will get most of the money. Can you please just give me the last few weeks of my mum’s life, please?’ my voice quivered.
Suddenly she stopped what she was doing. I do not think I have ever pleaded or begged with my wife for anything, not even sex and God knows we had not done that for a while. Well it worked. She looked at me in a way I had not seen for a long time, not pity as such, just her motherly instincts I suppose. She came over and hugged me tightly.
‘Of course, I don’t know what I was thinking,’ she said a tinge of guilt in her voice.
‘I know what you were thinking; she is going to drive you completely and utterly insane! Look I will stock up with Sauvignon Blanc; we are talking weeks now Lin.’
‘I know, I know. Let’s do it, bring her over tonight and I’ll cook a lasagne for tea and we will tell the boys in front of her. That way they have to be polite and we will deal with the aftermath of them losing their ‘chill out’ space tomorrow.’
As it happened mum did not move into the attic. I did not want my mum dying up there. I got my way and we converted the front room into a bedroom for her. We got some blackout lining for Lin’s Laura Ashley curtains; we hardly ever used the bloody room anymore anyway so it was perfect.
‘I’ve always liked this room, so much light,’ mum said when she moved in with all her machines and bottles of oxygen.
‘Wake up dopey!’ John was nudging me, ‘Another cuppa or have you got to get on the road?’
‘I was just thinking.’
‘I know mate, go and earn some dough and make her proud eh? I’ve got this,’ he says.
I nod and smile, ‘See you next Monday.’ I slap him on the arm and pull myself back from the gloom of this grief. I look up at Kellie and give her my full ear-to-ear grin. Oh, to be a teenager again.
‘Ok’ I say; clicking my neck,’ let’s get this show on the road.’
As I leave the café, the fresh air hits me hard. I zip up my jacket and jump in the car, one last think about mum.
I would come in from work and take over from Julie, the retired nurse I paid to sit with mum while I was out working. Every day Mum seemed to get smaller. It was as if the bed was eating her up, not the cancer. Lin was great and would read to her, you know, all those shit woman’s magazines. ‘How to lose Two stone in a week’. ‘Just get bloody cancer’, mum would say with a grin. I had never heard my mum swear until she was diagnosed with cancer. It was as if she literally just thought ‘Sod it!’ She had smoked all her life, so when the day came that we thought she might go, Lin, John and I sat around the bed smoking for her. She did not have the lung capacity for air anymore, let along carbon monoxide and all that other crap in fags. I have not touched a ciggie since that day and neither has John. Lin still smokes like a trouper.
I look down at my lap. On it is today’s debtors list in alphabetical order. Just because people see me as a ‘heavy’ does not mean I cannot be meticulous! It was Rick and Tabs today, a couple struggling to get by. They would scrimp every week to pay off the debt. Then when they paid that debt off, they would get a couple of hundred pounds again. It is an easy, vicious circle to find yourself in when you have no credit with the banks and are living beyond your means.
I knock on the door, forgetting about their new noisy dog. I hear Tabatha calling it
‘Gary, come here Gary’. Seriously, who calls their dog Gary!
She opens the door in a silky polyester nightie. She is completely oblivious to her alluring dress, nipples pointing straight at me. Her tits almost fall out of the top as she bends down to grab Gary’s collar.
‘Oh Harry, Rick didn’t mention you would be dropping by’ she says in a flat voice.
‘I’m afraid he’s late on his payments again Tabatha’ I say. This couple will probably be on my books for a good few years. If she flaunts herself around like this, she will be pregnant in no time!
‘Come in, let me see what I have,’ she says. Gary has calmed down and wonders onto the rooftop terrace – if that is what you would call it – tarmac on the top of a shop roof.
She walks down the hallway, her round arse clinging to the cerise polyester nightie and wobbling from side to side. I really do not think she has any underwear on. It stops just above the knee, her smooth, young, brown thighs clearly visible. I start to get a semi.
When we get to the kitchen, she is obviously flustered by this intrusion to her morning. Her body is lost on her, she does not realise what she has. Youth is wasted on the young! She leans down to look through her bag, showing me the fullness of her breasts and retrieves her purse. Her nipples are hard.
‘Can I give you twenty-five pounds for now and then you can come back next week. Sorry it’s all I have,’ she says, holding out the crumpled notes. I take the money.
‘Sure, look, I don’t need to take the last of your money, he could pay double next week?’ I ask feeling the pressure of her eyes on me, asking for a break.
‘He won’t have double next week’ she says flatly, looking to the floor as if in the hope it will swallow her up.
‘It’s just a hard time you know; he lost his job and now he’s back on his feet we are just trying to get back to square one’
I give her back the five pound note. ‘Look I’ll take the twenty off ok?’ I get out my receipts book and start writing it out for her.
What is this girl doing in this shit hole with this loser? Surely, she knows she can do better than this. Things like this really piss me off, but I cannot say a word. If she were my daughter, I would drag her kicking and screaming from this place and tell her to get her act together. I am just doing my job though and I hope the extra cash every now and then gives her some happiness.
I leave and sit in the car for a while before going to my next job. The veil of grief, although lifting occasionally, can become quite suffocating when I am alone. Without thinking I light a cigarette from the pack that we had on mum’s last day, I open the window of the car and inhale deeply. Then I chuck it out the window and drive off down Leigh High Street, past the shops down the hill to the sea. I park watching the ocean. Mum’s here somewhere I think, just not physically.
My book Sharks & Lovers is available to download here: