Quad Bike by Chris Green
Kylie comes home one day and says, ‘if you don’t buy me a quad bike, I’m going to stop going to school, join Jake Montana’s gang and become a juvenile delinquent.’
Peter and Trudy Lamb are becoming used to the their daughter’s outbursts. Children are more defiant than they were when they were growing up. Do they learn their negotiating skills at school, they wonder, along with mendacity and cyber bullying. Negotiation? Blackmail might be a better word for it.
Not even a pony, thinks Peter. In days gone by it might have been a pony. Not that it would make any difference. In fact a pony would be even more expensive. But, a quad bike? For a girl? And at twelve years old? He hadn’t managed to get a bicycle by then.
To further her case, Kylie shows them videos on her iphone of Jake and his gang terrorising shoppers in the town centre on a Saturday afternoon, Jake urinating on a street beggar, and …… surely that isn’t a real gun that Jake is pointing at the security man in the gaming shop.
‘That’s what it will be like,’ she says. ‘If you don’t buy me a quad bike.’
Whoever it was that gave the parenting advice remember who is the adult and who is the child needs to be updated on developments in the parent-child dynamic. Now the child is the one with the power. Several of Peter and Trudy’s friends’ teenage children have left home to join gangs like Jake’s. You see things on the news every day about out of control teenagers. And not just in the cities. Only last week there was the siege at that school in that small market town down south and the following day a gang of thirteen year old girls held up a village post office in Norfolk and shot the volunteer postmistress.
Kylie has decided she wanted a quad bike and that is that. Trudy tries to reason with her. She says, ‘Where do you think we are going to get the money, Kylie? You know your Dad lost his job at the plant last month.’
This might have worked for children of previous generations, but it cuts no ice with Kylie.
‘Bring on the violins,’ she says.
‘And my Disability Allowance has been stopped,’ Trudy says. Trudy was injured by a falling awning in the Lower High Street in a freak blizzard last winter.
This doesn’t work on Kylie either. She comes right back with, ‘D’uhh. Haven’t you heard of payday loans? KwikKwid is only up the street.’
‘But there’s not going to be a pay day,’ Peter says.
‘Then you’ll have to sell something,’ says Kylie. ‘You sold your motorbike to buy Kiefer’s Stratocaster last year. And he doesn’t even play it. That’s it! You can sell Kiefer’s Stratocaster.’
Neither Peter nor Trudy dare tell her that Kiefer had already sold the guitar to buy drugs.
Clinton Wetherby had not always wanted to work in a bank. When he was younger, he dreamed of being a footballer, or a pop star, but gradually like most dreamers he found the openings for footballers and pop stars close before him. Football was out, as his ball skills were limited and he got out of breath easily. While in the pop world, not being able to sing might not necessarily have presented a problem, Clinton was also overweight and unattractive.
So, after some poor A level results, banking it was. It was either this or insurance. Or something where you had to get your hands dirty. And he didn’t want that. After ten years of checking documents and sucking up to his superiors, he was put in charge of loans at the local branch of the bank that likes to say yes. This tag line was of course from the days before banks became more likely to say no.
Peter Lamb is his first client on a Monday morning. Clinton has his details up on screen. They are not impressive and Mr Lamb has come up with an unusual loan request.
‘An off road quad bike, eh? And you say that the one your daughter wants is nearly two thousand pounds. Well, at least you are honest, Mr Lamb,’ he says. ‘Not that this particular quality counts for very much in banking. ……. That was a joke by the way.’
Peter tries to force a smile. He has had to wait three weeks for the appointment with Clinton Wetherby. He is not at his cheeriest. Things have been going badly at home. Over the weekend the police came round looking for Kiefer and said they would be back with a warrant. As if this weren’t enough, he suspects that Kylie has stopped going to classes. Surely the torn cut off jeans she went out in this morning aren’t acceptable as uniform at Meadow Lane, and he couldn’t help but notice she had some new nasal jewellery. What might Mr Gaffney, the Deputy Head think about nasal jewellery, he wonders.
‘I see from your statement that payments into your account seem to have dried up lately,’ says Clinton Wetherby.
‘I’m afraid I was laid off last month, Mr Wetherby.’
‘I see. Perhaps you have some other information that will support your application. An income that doesn’t show up here, maybe.’
‘Not exactly. …… but I have plenty of options open to me. I think I may get a job offer later on in the week.’
‘That will be in packaging, will it? I see that you worked in a packaging plant.’
‘Yes. RapidPost. But I’m hoping to work for a larger organisation.’
‘That will be a zero hours contract too, I’m guessing.’
‘They haven’t specified the terms.’
‘You do understand what I’m trying to get at. We can’t lend money with the ease that we did a few years ago.’
The phone rings.
‘Excuse me, I’d better take this,’ says Clinton. ‘I’m expecting a call from head office.’
Peter starts to get up to leave the room, but Clinton gestures him for to stay. Peter goes over to the window. Through the window, he has a good view of the municipal gardens. Some youths wearing three stripe track pants and hoodies are throwing stones at the windows of the Town Hall. There seems to be a riot breaking out.
Clinton meanwhile is having a difficult phone conversation. ‘I thought we were supposed to tighten our belts,’ he says raising his voice.
Jake Montana is pissing up against the war memorial. A stocky figure in a black balaclava is spraying red aerosol paint on to the statue of Brigadier Barrington-Smythe. Peter cannot be sure but his build looks remarkably like Kiefer’s. And there is a girl with green hair riding a yellow quad bike through the municipal flower beds. ……… Bloody hell! ……….. It is Kylie.
‘Thank You, Mr Gilligan,’ barks Clinton. With this he slams the phone down. He seems angry.
Kylie is driving the vehicle round in circles, churning up the dianthus beds.
Clinton turns to face Peter.
‘You’ve got your loan,’ he says. ‘Your daughter can have her quad bike. Apparently the bank is not lending enough money. I do wish they would make up their minds.’
© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved