Sunday, November 14, 2004

Day 14

Almost halfway through the month and I'm not quite halfway there. Not panicking though, a day off tomorrow and I should be back on track and touch wood above target. Need to work on a bit of a plan though, but I'm feeling confident again.

I’d been screaming almost non-stop for an hour, seemingly. Marlene had been trying desperately to wake me nearly the whole time and was on the verge of ringing for an ambulance when I’d finally stopped as if I’d been switched off at the mains and just lay there deathly still, and breathing all but imperceptibly. In fact Marlene had checked my pulse and held a mirror up to my mouth just to check. What would already have been an almost intolerable situation for her was made worse because Shuggsy wasn’t in the house to help because he was working away on a job for the week, somewhere in South Wales. When I finally came round, Marlene had made us both a cup of hot sweet tea, even though she normally didn’t take sugar, and was we were now lying on top of the duvet. She was still shivering, despite the heating being on, though whether it was from the cold or the fear I couldn’t tell.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she asked.
“I would if I could remember, but it’s all a bit of a blank, I don’t even know when it’s happening.”
“But you do know it happens, you told me after the last time.”
“I know, but it’s happened less lately and it’s been so long since the last one that I thought it was never going to happen again.” I said. Marlene put her hand to my cheek and stroked it.
“Poor you. I was so frightened. I think the worst thing was that you weren’t moving at all, it was like the sound was coming out of you but your mouth wasn’t moving.” I shuddered involuntarily at this.
“I know, well I don’t know, but I can imagine.” Marlene started to cry softly again. I put my tea mug down and held her again, brushing her hair out of her eyes, and trying to stroke the tears away.
“Promise me you’ll get some help George, please. I don’t ever want to go through that again,” she whispered.
“I will, I will,” I said. I didn’t know how, but I’d have to try something or I could see me having a breakdown some time soon.

Friday night, mum came home as normal, she looked tired but insisted on cooking dinner for the four of us, a full roast chicken with all the trimmings, I helped pull things out of the oven, but other than that she wouldn’t let anyone but Marlene in the kitchen. They shared a bottle of wine whilst the chicken was cooking, talking about their week, while I sat in the living room, straining to hear if Marlene mentioned anything about my attack and watching the Simpsons with Shuggsy. He was halfway through his third can of lager, having endured a slog of a journey back from Wales in a transit van with two workmates. Being back in a transit van hadn’t helped his state of mind after the incident at the industrial estate. Every time he’d spotted a police car anywhere along the carriageway he’d had to close his eyes until they’d passed it. And no, he hadn’t been driving.
The episode where Homer goes to clown school was just coming to a close, Shuggsy pissing himself laughing at the sight of Homer and Krusty on a tiny bike trying to do the loop-the-loop, when the phone rang. I strolled across to answer it, whilst Shuggs killed the volume. It was Mr Pardew, Shuggsy’s solicitor. We exchanged pleasantries then he told me he was anxious to speak with Allan. I passed the receiver to Shuggs and got half the conversation, the half that I could hear at this end. A long pause ensued where Pardew was obviously outlining something in his usual ponderous manner, punctuated only by the occasional ‘ach’ or ‘yeah’ from Shuggs.
“So what does that mean for me, Mr Pardew,” Shuggsy eventually interjected. More solicitor speak , then Shuggs leapt from his chair, punching the air. “Get in!” he exclaimed, then after a bit more from Pardew, he said “that’s great, I understand, thanks very much, thanks, bye now.” Shuggsy rang off, grinning broadly.
“Bad news then Ted,” I said, imitating the hapless Dougal from Father Ted.
“Great news George man, I might be getting off the charges. Those pills they thought were E’s. Well they’ve had them analysed and it turns out they were crap, full of aspirin and baby powder, no drugs in ‘em at all!”
“Bloody hell,” I said, “so they’ve got nothing on you then?”
“Well, there’s still the van which were stolen and the money and something called conspiracy to be knowingly involved in the supply of something contravening something but Mr Pardew reckons I’ll get away with community service or summat for that.”
“And he’s absolutely sure there’s no way they can prove it was supposed to be drugs?”
“No, he did start explaining it but he was talking in jargon a bit, didn’t really understand it, but it boils down to me not being charged with drugs possession or supply anyway.”
“That’s fantastic news big man,” I said, slapping him on the shoulder. I almost told Shuggsy about hiring the detective, but thought better of it, I didn’t want to jinx it. Marlene and mum came through after hearing the noise of Shuggsy celebrating. When we relayed the news, Marlene hugged Shuggs. It was only then that I realised that mum didn’t know about any of it, but with Marlene and Shuggsy’s help and promptings, we managed to skate round the fact that Shuggsy had been arrested for drugs possession and concocted a tale where he’d just been duped into being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mum was very anti-drugs and it wouldn’t have been right for her to think Shuggsy was even innocently mixed up in them, sometimes discretion is the better part of valour. Mum tutted and made the right noises and then said something like “well as long as everything’s sorted out that’s the main thing.” She didn’t like anything clouding our home life. And with that we sat down to dinner and more drinks and everything was OK in our happy little family, for now anyway.

I’d always been a bit of a night-owl, no matter how early I get up, I always find myself staying up later than I probably should, not that I go out much, it usually means that I stay up watching up a film, or reading, or now that we’d got broadband, listening to some obscure radio station whilst surfing the internet. Tonight I was listening to John Peel, but via a Helsinki radio station, one of the many wonders brought to the world via technology. Funnily enough, I very rarely listened to Peel on Radio 1 but for some reason hearing him on a Finnish radio channel, made him feel even more eclectic, something I got a kick out of as if I was the only person in England hearing it. Whilst listening to some unknown band from the Isle of Wight, I picked up Be Lucky! again and flicked through it looking for some inspiration to magnetise Astrid back into my life. Once again Mr Mattinson was frustratingly ambiguous;

* Lucky people always seem to believe that something good is about to happen.
Well, yeah, I’m trying, but I need something solid, mate.

* Lucky people see the good even in situations that others might see as bad or troubling.

I doubted that Shuggsy saw that when he was locked up, or Marlene when she was on the plane out to Santa Barbara.

* Lucky people act quickly to take advantage of opportunity when others continue to sit and think of reasons why they should not. How many times have you thought back to a situation and said, "If only I would have"? The "lucky" person did it!

I supposed that was more like it, but I couldn’t think how when I was going to get the opportunity to put into practice. The next paragraph was almost there, the bloke who had given me the book had even highlighted it;

* Visualise yourself being lucky before an important meeting or telephone call. Luck is very often a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Well, I didn’t have an important meeting scheduled and I wasn’t planning on making any telephone calls but if I could attain the prophecy of self-fulfilment, I was going to give it my best shot. I visualised Astrid walking into the Book Exchange on Monday morning, just as Peely gave Teenage Kicks another emotional spin for the people of Northern Europe.

Two things happened on Monday, which made me think that lucky things were happening. The first was a letter from Pardew’s office confirming that the more serious charges had been dropped, and inviting Shuggsy to come into talk about how they could come up with a defence for the lesser charges before his appearance at the Magistrates Court in a month’s time. Then Ted Churchill rang me just after I’d seen mum off back to Lytham. He told me that he had some interesting news and could I meet him later that day. I told him that I was working till seven but I could meet him just after that. I told him where the Book Exchange was and he named a pub just round the corner where I arranged to meet him. Oh and then Astrid came in the shop, but I’ll come to that first.

I hadn’t actually got to work when she arrived at the Book Exchange and when I did arrive, I was perturbed to see that Grant was schmoozing all over her, the oily twat. He was actually leaning against a doorway, with one foot resting against the door jamb, and he was wearing cowboy boots! She had her back to the main door, but I could tell from her body language that she wasn’t impressed. I sauntered in and took up my post behind the counter.
“Oh, hi Astrid,” I said, casually.
“Hi, er, George,” she replied, as Grant nearly shit a brick. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, alright Grant?” I tried not to smile as his face dropped, “I see you’ve met my friend, Astrid.”
“Yeah, George, just been letting her in on a few trade secrets.” I bet you had, you unctuous prick.
“Great, I bet you’ve learnt a lot eh Astrid? There’s no beginning to things that Grant knows about selling books, and I should know. I didn’t get where I am today without learning from the master,” I said. Luckily, (see I could visualise luck now just by using the force, suck on that Yoda) Grant’s mobile trilled into life at that moment and Astrid took the opportunity to prise herself away.
“Actually, I came in hoping to see you,” she said. Oh God, it was really working! “I wanted to apologise for the other night when I came to the Sub Stop with my friends. I must have seemed a bit rude.”
“No, don’t worry about it, I’d forgotten about it completely.” Liar.
“And I also wanted to see if you could recommend some other books like the one I bought from you before.” Grant was desperately trying to see how this conversation was going whilst keeping an ear on whichever chinless wonder he had on the line.
“Well, let’s see.” I came out round the counter and guided her to the travel section. Fortunately (there I go again!) I’d personally restocked it last week, so there were some reasonable choices to be had. I pulled out ‘Sean and David’s Drive Thru America’ and ‘McCarthy’s Bar’ and threw in another Tim Moore where he attempts the Tour de France solo and charged her a fiver for the lot.
“You can have them on approval, if you don’t like them you can bring them back and I’ll refund the lot.” I said, dropping my voice so Grant had no chance of hearing. She paid, and seemed to be hesitating as she put the books in her bag. Oh Christ, visualise success Kelly, what could go wrong? “Erm, I was wondering would you like to go for a drink sometime, with me, if you haven’t got anything on, sort of soon.” Stop you’re killing me!
“Yes, of course, I’d like that.” I had to stop myself sliding behind the counter there and then. We exchanged mobile numbers and I said I’d ring her later that week. She smiled, then left just before I turned into a puddle. Grant finally cut his caller off and hurried over to assess the situation and see if he could make it worse in any way. I told him to butt out and he nearly had kittens. Well, if I was on a lucky roll I might as well push it to the limit.

Word Count: 2,152
Total count: 22,822
% below target: 2.22
Words to go: 27,178
Word of the day: unctuous


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