Quad Bike by Chris Green
‘If you don’t buy me a quad bike,’ Kylie says. ‘I will stop going to school and join Danny Rocco’s gang.’
Doug and Tracy Little are becoming exasperated by their daughter’s outbursts. Children are more defiant than they used to be when they were growing up. Do they learn their no-nonsense negotiating skills at school along with cyber-bullying and mendacity? Or does rebellion come through peer pressure outside school?
In days gone by it might have been a pony. Not that this would make any difference. In fact, a pony would be even more expensive. But a quad bike? For a girl? At twelve years old? Doug hadn’t managed to get a bicycle by then.
To further her case, Kylie shows them videos on her iPhone of Danny and his gang terrorising shoppers in the town centre on a Saturday afternoon, Danny urinating on a street beggar, and …… surely that isn’t a real gun that Danny 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 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 seems to be the one with the power. Several of Doug and Tracy’s friends’ teenage children have joined gangs like Danny’s. Every day you hear stories on the news about out-of-control teenagers. And not just in the cities. Only last week there was the siege at a school in a 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 wants a quad bike and that is that. Tracy tries to reason with her. She says, ‘Where do you think we are going to get the money, Kylie? We have a cash flow crisis. You know your Dad lost his job at the warehouse 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,’ Tracy says. Tracy 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 payday,’ Doug 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 Doug nor Tracy dare tell her that Kiefer has already sold the guitar to buy drugs.
Brendan Shirt had not always wanted to work in a bank. When he was younger, he dreamed of being a footballer, or a pop star, but like most dreamers, he found the openings for footballers and pop stars gradually 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, Brendan was also overweight and unattractive.
So, after some poor A level results, banking it was. It was 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, of course, originated in the days before banks became more likely to say no. Although the bank’s slogan is now the less snappy Local Banking for Britain, it is one of the few where you can still talk to an actual human being.
Doug Little is Brendan’s first client on a Monday morning. Brendan has his details up on screen. They are not impressive and Mr Little 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,’ he says. ‘Well, at least you are honest, Mr Little. Not that this particular quality counts for very much in banking. ……. That was a joke, by the way.’
Doug tries to force a smile. He has had to wait three weeks for the appointment. He is not at his cheeriest. Things have been going badly at home. Over the weekend the police came round looking for Kiefer. 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,’ Brendan Shirt says.
‘A temporary cash flow hiccup, Mr Shirt. I’m afraid I was laid off last month.’
‘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,’ Brendan says. ‘I’m expecting a call from Head Office.’
Doug gets up to leave the room, but Brendan gestures for him to stay. He 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. A riot seems to be breaking out.
Brendan meanwhile is having a difficult phone conversation. ‘I thought we were supposed to tighten our belts,’ he says, raising his voice.
Danny Rocco is urinating 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. Doug 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,’ Brendan barks. He slams the phone down. He seems angry.
Kiefer has turned his attention to the walls of the office block. Black paint this time. Where did he pick up these racist views? Kylie, meanwhile, is driving the vehicle around in circles, churning up the dianthus beds.
Oblivious to what is going on outside, Brendan turns to face Doug.
‘You’ve got your loan, Mr Little,’ 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 2020: All rights reserved