Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Day 22

It's kind of coming together, but I'm worried I haven't got enough plot to get to the end. I can always pad but I don't want to, but at least I'm still ahead, if only by 27 words!

I had vaguely suggested to mum that me and Shuggs would take her out somewhere the next day, but by the time she’d got ready, the weather had gone right off and she said she’d rather stay indoors in the warmth, in front of the racing on Channel Four. She’d developed a love of horse racing after she’d met da, probably because she thought he’d share his interest with her. He had taken her to a couple of meetings, back in the days before I’d arrived, once taking her to the three day Cheltenham Festival which she still remembered fondly through a sepia mind-set. I suppose I must have carried on the tradition by accompanying da to the bookies but I just didn’t get the same thrill as my parents did watching a load of midget Irishmen ride horses round a field. Having said that, we always made a point of sitting down and watching the Grand National together every year, even splashing out on a pound each way on a couple of our fancies. One thing mum wasn’t really into was the gambling side of racing, which to me was the only thing stopping the whole thing descending into farce. I mean, do the jockeys never just think mid-race, ‘what the fuck am I doing, here I am, a nearly grown man riding a horse for a living’ and just get off and walk away? Mind you, I could say the same thing about all professional sportsmen and women, it just didn’t seem right getting paid for doing sport, the concept is pretty alien to me. And, yeah I know, it’s not a real job, not like knocking out second hand books, or assembling butties for a living, maybe everyone’s job is a sham based on a very thin conceit and if we really thought about it, we’d all go off and live off the land or something. I know what da would’ve said about his job though, ‘it’s the most important job there is son, because it’s mine.’ He was full of bullshit homilies like that, probably how he justified his gambling, and more specifically the not telling mum part of it. I think she always suspected anyway, and that probably fed her fear of wagering more than a couple of quid every year. It’s why I hadn’t told her about my wins at the bookies and the casino anyway, at least that’s what I told myself to stop me thinking I was turning into my da.

I left mum in front of the TV, where she was quite happy picking her selections out of the Mirror and seeing how they got on without the pressure of money riding on them. What Marlene had said about me not getting help had spurred me into contacting Initial Care and seeing what they could do for me. First of all though, I googled them and found that they had a website which gave me some details about the kind of work they did. Normally, it was counseling people who had been through some kind of major personal trauma, resulting in close friends and family dying or actually being involved in an accident or some such disaster, but they did offer guidance and welfare on an individual basis, usually to organisations who had contracted them to provide their service to members of staff. I wasn’t sure I fitted into any of these categories, but I had nothing to lose I guessed. Then I rang and spoke to a very pleasant woman called Pat, who explained that my circumstances didn’t necessarily preclude me from speaking to a counsellor, even though I didn’t know da’s current whereabouts or career. She gave me the number of a person based in Manchester who would be happy to speak to me on a one-to-one basis, either in person or on the phone and we could take it from there. I thanked her and rang off, then went to make a brew before I made the next call. Obviously I wasn’t going to tell her about the Dream Police straight away, she’d probably ring the local asylum and have me checked in but I could at least give a bit of my history so she could decide if she wanted to be alone in a room with a possible nutcase.

I received two more phone calls that day, one good and one which rocked me right back, but the good one came first, not long after I’d spoken to the woman from Initial Care. It was from Astrid’s flatmate, Natalie, asking if I was free that week to come into the BBC studios in Manchester and record a piece for potential use on the pilot show of the DVD review show, which was to be called Viewers Commentary. The title seemed a little bit obscure to me, but I wasn’t arguing. She asked if I was free Thursday as she had three other people coming in to record auditions and it would be ideal if I could do one then as well. I mentioned that I worked during the day, but then decided that I would take the day off. Sod it, Grant could manage, literally for a change, without me for one day. The idea would be that I would talk about two favourite DVD’s, focussing particularly on the extras that came with the discs, or any other bonus material that wasn’t included in the cinematic release. Sounded right up my alley, my only problem would be narrowing my choice down to just two films, I already had ten in mind off the top of my head. I arranged to come in on Thursday afternoon and ask for Natalie, then decided to kill two birds with one stone and try to arrange a session with the Initial Care counsellor the same day. Luckily, she could fit me in and also didn’t want to know any of the gruesome details of my condition over the phone. We arranged to meet Thursday morning, giving me plenty of time to make some revisions to my audition piece before I pitched up at the BBC.

Whilst I was in a productive mood, I corralled Shuggsy into taking us to Morrisons and getting some provisions in for my Mexican spectacular that evening. He moaned about it for a while, but when I pointed out that I’d be doing all the cooking and all he had to do was sit on his arse and scoff it, he brightened and relented. On the way to the supermarket, I rang Astrid to check she was still OK to come round. She seemed to be a little distracted when rang, but then explained she’d been called into work to oversee some project that her boss had landed in her lap at the last minute. She assured me that she would be free by six at the latest and would get a cab over to the house. Now all I had to do was buy enough food and drink to satisfy five people and one shaved gorilla, who was currently driving me.

After we’d battled our way round the supermarket, I persuaded Shuggsy to take me round to the only decent gents clothing store in town that didn’t only sell whatever overpriced tat passed for fashion. My wardrobe was hopelessly limited and I needed something reasonable to wear on Thursday if I was going to myself justice, but I didn’t want to wear some clobber that looked as if I’d been painting in it, then rolled through an industrial mangle. Basically, I didn’t want to look like a student. Piper’s Clothing was an institution in town, having been in business since before the last World War. It had its share of old school tailors who liked to linger around the inside leg measurements with a little too much relish, but overall the staff were attentive without being overbearing, and they sold some good quality clothes at decent prices. Shuggsy didn’t fancy accompanying me however, he gets flustered in clothes shops for some reason, probably because he likes to shop in TK Maxx and buy a whole load of their outsize ranges in one fell swoop to save him going back more than twice a year. I left him to mooch around the precinct while I went into Pipers.

Half an hour later, I’d selected two casual but classy shirts, a pair of plain dark trousers that didn’t look like work pants and a new pair of shoes, the price coming in at under a hundred quid. One of the assistants took my purchases over to the cash desk and told me her name was Andrea, which I thought was a little strange, until the cash desk assistant told me she was called Karen, I realised then that it must be store policy. After I paid, Karen drew my attention to a box on the counter which announced that each customer who spent fifty pounds or more was entitled to enter a prize draw to win a thousand pounds worth of Piper’s vouchers. I remembered a quote from Be Lucky! and thought what the hell and filled in an entry form, which asked in addition to personal details, the names of the assistants who had served you. I surmised that it was some sort of commision type deal, maybe if I won Karen and Andrea would be on a percentage. I recalled the line from BL! as I filled in the form, I didn’t think that Guy With Dead Wife had highlighted it, but it seemed apposite;

* Lucky people create, notice and act upon the chance opportunities in their life. No opportunity, no matter how seemingly trivial should be passed up.

I stuck the entry form in the box, thanked Karen and went off to rescue Shuggsy from his shopping centre purgatory.

It was after nine o’clock and the food was on the verge of being beyond reheating without going past its best. My tortillas were going floppy and my guacamole was sweating in the heat of the kitchen, so I gave up and announced to everyone to dig in. Everyone at that time being Astrid, mum and Shuggsy. Of Maarten and Marlene there was no sign. The wine and beer had kept conversation going thankfully, Astrid seemed to be getting on well with Shuggs and mum had offered her ultimate seal of approval by intimating to me that she was a ‘nice girl’ whilst Astrid was on a toilet visit. I had only had one beer all night, but took the top off another one now and sat down to eat. I was pissed off with Marlene, not only because of delaying us eating but also because tonight was supposed to be a bridge building exercise with her, I had gone out of my way to be diplomatic and try to sketch over her departure. I’d even be civil to Maarten for one night if he could stop being an arse for once in his life. Now it appeared that she was going to deny me even that opportunity.

By the time we’d stuffed ourselves and I was thinking about getting some ice cream to slide down for afters and they still hadn’t arrived, I was both pissed off and worried in equal measures. Mum had mentioned their absence about fifty six times and I could see Astrid was getting a little uncomfortable so I decided to give them until I made coffee then I’d send Marlene a snotty text and be done with her. As it was the phone rang just as I was putting the coffee machine on. Shuggsy answered it and passed the phone on to me.
“It’s a policewoman asking for you George,” he said.
“Is that George Kelly?
“It’s PC Kirsten Douglas here, Mr Kelly. Do you know a Marlene Bradley?”
“Yes, I do,” My heart disappeared down to my shoes, and my mouth went dry.
“I’m afraid I have some bad news, Marlene has been in a car accident.” I slumped in a chair, afraid to ask.
“Is she, is she OK?” I stammered.
“Well, she’s comfortable but in intensive care and unconscious. The doctors are monitoring her.”
“Oh Jesus. How bad is she?”
“She’s sustained head injuries and has a broken arm and collar bone but it’s too early to say what else at the moment. She’s in the Infirmary at the moment.”
“Was there anyone else involved? I mean was there a bloke in the car as well?” I asked.
“Well that’s what we want to talk to you about as well, Mr Kelly, is there any chance you could come down to the police station? Nothing formal you understand, we need to find out more about Miss Bradley and who she was with.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I don’t want to say too much on the phone, but we believe Miss Bradley was the passenger and the driver ran from the scene before the police and ambulance turned up.” I agreed to come down to the station and rang off. As I put the phone down, I realised my hands were shaking and tears were welling up in my eyes.

Word count:2,207
Total word count: 36,701
% above target: 0.06%


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