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yarddog.jpg
Art by Pattie Mulligan 2015

Yard Dog

 

GJ Hart

 

After 40 years in the game Thompson's lungs were fucked, fucked beyond pills or pipe cleaner; sticky as morning snot and useless as last year’s balloons. He stumbled from the workshop followed by plumes of spray dust, pulling off his mask, coughing hard.

He steadied himself on the bonnet of a rotting Toyota Sunny and took a cigarette from his pocket. He was just putting it to his lips when he saw two men entering the yard.

Looks like Trouble, thought Thompson.

Trouble always had a look these days.

The first guy, big, big as a cell door seems your first night inside. The second man, smaller, wiry beneath his clothes like some dodgy Christmas toy.

Both men wore suits, cheap suits and Thompson knew, good news rarely dropped by in a cheap suit. Bailiffs, he guessed. These days it was easier to list the fuckers he didn't owe.

The two men began to circle a car parked at the yard's entrance.

Thompson walked toward them, rubbing his hands on his overalls.

"You like it?" He said, nodding toward the gleaming Lamborghini.

The two men straightened, looking Thompson up and down.

"We've come to pick up Mr. Chapel's car," said the big man, ignoring the question.

Thompson relaxed. Not bailiffs, Chapel's men.

"Well, it's all finished. Even had it valeted," said Thompson, "but I was expecting Mr Chapel himself."

"He's away, on holi..."

"...On business," said the big man, interrupting his colleague.

Thompson tensed a little. Chapel was slippery. Always had been. They'd met at school and become friends, of a sort.

Chapel was smart, too smart, with a talent for pissing people off. Thompson less smart, but good with his hands. Any trouble Chapel landed in, he would rectify. In return, any sums he couldn't add, essays he couldn't write, Chapel would sort out. The arrangement had worked, for a while.

After leaving school Chapel had fast become a millionaire. Thompson most definitely hadn't. He was in no doubt that Chapel only brought him his cars to remind him of this.

"All looks good", said the big man walking round the car, "nice job."

"Thank you," replied Thompson.

"Well, if you give us the keys we’ll be on our way," said the big man, looking anywhere but at Thompson.

 "We just need to settle up," replied Thompson smiling, "two and a half. As agreed."

The big man turned and walked toward Thompson, stopping inches from his face.

"Mr. Chapel said he'd be in the next couple of weeks, to settle up."

Thompson's smile held. Just. But he knew once the car left the yard, he’d never see the money. No leverage.

"Mr. Chapel knows it’s payment on pickup" replied Thompson.

The small man passed him, disappearing into the workshop. Thompson imagined deep scratches in his new paint work.

"Nice little yard you got here" said the big man thoughtfully. "You are insured, I take it. Accidents can happen, they really can. They happen every day. All that equipment, the tools, not to mention the cars."

He looked past Thompson.

"What you got round the back? Propane, oxy-acetylene, paint? Mixture like that could go up like a fucking bomb."

The place wasn't insured. The payment had died of starvation five months back.

"Course it’s insured," replied Thompson, but too quick.

"Right, course, course," said the big man, nodding slowly.

The two men stood staring. Thompson blinked first.

"Anyway, we've wasted enough of your time," said the big man, his eyes still on Thompson. "I think it's time we left."

The small man had reappeared and was now bent, inspecting the Lamborghini's front wing.

"Looks like a blemish here,” he said, "under the paint."

"Take it off the price," replied Thompson.

The small man looked up with loose, doll-dead eyes,"how much?"  He replied, oblivious to the sarcasm.

"Keys. Now," said the big man holding out his hand

Forty years ago maybe, thought Thompson, his fists clenching, but not now, not anymore, the guy would pulverise him. He reached into his overalls.

 "Mr Chapel said he didn't have a spare. So be careful with um," he said, handing over the keys.

Both men climbed into the car, Thompson watched them through the rear window. He waited, but the car didn't move. By their movements he could tell they were arguing.

He walked up and motioned for the big man to lower the window.

"Having trouble boys. Doesn't Mr. Chapel let you drive his cars then?"

"Whatever, clever bollocks," said the big man.

"Just tell us how to start the fucking thing, will ya?"

"The keys just an immobiliser," said Thompson slowly, "It. Sends. Out. A. Signal. As long as you've got it, all you need to do is press..," Thompson leaned in through the window, "this button."

The Lamborghini roared into life. Thompson pulled himself out of the window. "You'll need to stop for petrol" he said, "she's nearly empty. There’s a petrol station at the end of the road."

"You really are a funny fucker," said the big man, composed now. He booted the accelerator for effect.

"Bye eeee," said the small man, waving with his fingers. The big man gunned the accelerator once more and a second later they were gone.

Thompson sighed, spitting down. He remembered that time at school he'd climbed the cubicle wall and watched them force Chapel's head down into the shit smeared bowl. The memory made him smile.

Thompson lit a cigarette and walked slowly back to his workshop.

"I hope you've got fucking insurance," he said, leaning against the Toyota, exhaling a long, thin cloud. "I told um, BE CAREFUL," he continued, flicking the butt to the floor, "told um, there ain't no spare."

He guessed they’d be at the petrol station by now, probably already filled up. But that car was never gonna start. Soon they’d be pummelling that start button like it was prom night.

Thompson checked up toward the gate one last time. Nothing.

          Silly little boys, he thought and pulling on his mask, he dropped the gleaming Lamborghini key into the safety of his overall pocket and disappeared inside.

GJ Hart currently lives in Brixton, London. He has been previously published in The Pygmy Giant, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Spelk Fiction.

In Association with Fossil Publications