Quad Bike

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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

 

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Toker’s End

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Toker’s End by Chris Green

My DuckDuckGo search came back with the names of several estate agents in my area, but King and Castle seemed to be the premier firm, not least because their advertisement said so. So, later that day I called into their High Street office and asked if I could see Mr King or Mr Castle to talk about my requirements. Mr King it transpired was in prison and Mr Castle, according to Saskia the heavily made up blonde haired girl who greeted me, was fictitious. Thus I found myself talking to a disarmingly young man called Matt Black. He wore a shiny grey suit and a grey knitted skinny tie. He fiddled nervously with an empire of desk accessories.

I told Matt I was looking to buy a small town and asked him what King and Castle had on their books. He told me that there were not too many small towns on the market, because with other investments taking a tumble, small towns represented a popular option for the great and the good to invest their capital. The smart money was going into large plots of real estate, he said. In the last week, King and Castle had sold both Bridgewater and Bideford, Bridgewater fetching the full asking price.

I looked at him aghast. ‘Bridgewater, really?’ I said.

Twiddling his grey bullet pen, Matt explained that the cellophane factory that had been the cause of the notorious Bridgewater smell had recently closed. Bideford of course had been snapped up because it was in Devon. Devon was the cream of the crop when it came to mass freehold residential. Even Barnstable, the epitome of blandness, had sold within forty eight hours.

Setting his Newton’s cradle in motion, Matt confided that he had Cheadle at £4,000 million and Yate at £3,000 million and also Didcot and Hythe, but he felt that at £5,500 million neither was realistically priced, and if I were to consider either of them he would recommend I put in a lower offer.

I began scanning the details of Cheadle and Yate, but despite what Matt called ideal renovation opportunities, neither of them captured my imagination. Cheadle’s proximity to Manchester was not in its favour and Yate was just plain awful. I remembered the Crap Towns description of Yate, citing it as a hell hole, a mecca for chavs, goths, skaterboys and griegos. Didcot did look more attractive but there was the power station to consider. I understood Hythe being on the Kent coast, to be overrun with asylum seekers.

‘Or you might contemplate renting a small town,’ Matt continued, massaging the keys on his laptop. ‘Our letting agency has several to rent.’ He directed his delicate, manicured hand towards Saskia, who apparently was in charge of lettings.

It was not a reflection of Saskia’s attributes or abilities that I did not look up. What would be the point in taking out a rental agreement on a small town?

Matt could sense my apprehension. He tried a new tack.

‘I have here an interesting opportunity,’ he crooned. ‘And it has only just come on to the market. It is a fabulous little suburb. It has a quaint name, Toker’s End. Its on the fringes of a smart Regency town. And its a steal at £999 million. It has a bohemian feel, a cosmopolitan population, and a falling crime rate. And there are plans to renovate the derelict shopping centre.

‘You might even be able to get a 95% mortgage on it,’ he added encouragingly.

I told him I might need to borrow the 5% deposit as well.

‘No problem,’ he chirped. ‘A lot of buyers are doing the very same thing.’

I enquired what the repayments on £999 million might be.

Taking out a calculator that looked more like something Scotty might use to beam up Captain Kirk, he started to press some buttons. He finally arrived at a figure. ‘£5,570,000 a month based on 25 years,’ he said.

At first this appeared like a large commitment, especially as I owed £29 million on my Titanium card. I quickly regained my composure, at least I like to think that it was quickly, although when I came to, Matt was on the phone talking to another client. Saskia smiled across at me and carried on painting her nails.

By the time Matt was free I had reasoned that although I owed £29 million, this had not stopped financial institutions pleading with me to borrow more, almost on a daily basis and it was impossible to use the internet without pop ups for loans appearing all over the desktop. Debt encouraged lenders.

‘Let me show you some pictures,’ Matt purred.

Looking at the virtual model of the estate on his laptop, I began to discuss with Matt what I might like to do with Toker’s End.

‘I think it would be better if these two streets were knocked into one. What do you think I should do with the residents?’

Matt confided that there was a small refugee camp nearby, where they could go. ‘New government initiative,’ he revealed. ‘You know, to stem the influx of immigrants.’

‘And I’d get rid of this unsightly Catholic church.’

‘I think I might do the same,’ Matt chuckled.

‘I might want to extend this park and knock down these tower blocks here and build a lake.’

‘No problem,’ said Matt. ‘I think we would be able to arrange a favourable rate for a loan to do that.’

I began to wonder what had happened to the restraints on financial institutions that were brought in after the meltdown. You heard nothing now about sub-prime lending or due diligence. It was business as usual for the banks. Even if you were hugely in debt, there were few obstacles to buying a small town, well at least a suburb with an interesting name. Even my speculative plans for an airport it appeared could be easily accommodated. All I had to do was to say how much I wanted to borrow.

© Chris Green 2017: All rights reserved