Cherry Smack

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Tinsel Town

Jimmy had grown tall, ready to take on the world despite his lack of circumstance. He trawled his contacts, an extensive list of two, searching for leads. Simon left Shatkin soon after Jimmy to escape the rising tide of abuse and got entangled with a mobile phone company, selling Vodafone bricks. He offered to get Jimmy in but sales commission was barely enough to pay the rent. With an offer of a bed from a disused flat and some money, he took up an offer from Pra’s uncle, Kalpesh.

Kalpesh ran an Estate Agent with his wife, Blu. Blu Kapoor was the Company Secretary, or as her staff put it a pompous power tripping bitch. She would routinely sack receptionists for bringing the wrong herbal tea, which had a name so pretentious you’d think it was a prescription for the psychotic drug she was on. Kalpesh was from Liverpool, a skinny short scally with blotchy face and slick back hair. They had a swanky office in Water lane over-looking Camden Lock they could ill afford and acted as if they were King and Queen of a business empire, when in fact they were a sly, under-handed couple in charge of a has-been dying concern. Jimmy knew something was up on his first day when The Sheriff, complete with tin star, moseyed on through the door demanding back rent. Blu would switch off the lights when she saw the bailiffs coming. They didn’t give a damn. The other Director was smart and skipped to the Swiss Alps before it got sticky. Jimmy discovered after his first week the staff was owed two months back pay. Debts were mounting; he grew anxious. They made a killing on a sale in The Barbican, but instead of paying everyone off blew it on a brand new Mercedes M class and family holiday to Disney. It was a real smack in the face. Jimmy reached out for some answers.

“Pra, did you know what they were like? I’m doing the rounds, collecting rent, calling maintenance. Tons of work, no money.”

Pra winced. “Ah sorry, he told me that was over.”

“Well it’s not over. The job center said I should take them to the Tribunal.”

“Waste of time. He’ll wind up the company and re-open. He’s had six name changes since I’ve known him.”

“And you didn’t think to mention that?”

“I thought he had changed.”

“Well he hasn’t.”

“Don’t sweat it, I got an idea.”

They owed a huge sum of money to a printing company Pra knew, a firm run by two notorious East End Brothers. These were not the sort of men you messed about. Pra contacted them. They began calling incessantly asking for Kalpesh, chasing their debt knowing full well he would not pay. They made threats and one day stopped with the promise to pay him a visit. It was not long before they were leering up at the CCTV cameras; two huge men carrying a black holdall. Kalpesh told Jimmy to get rid of them.

“Just say I’m out whilst I slip out the back. Buy us some time? There’s a good boy.”

“Nah, can’t do that. Pay me first or I’ll let them in.”

“You’ll get paid next week.”

“What like the others?” The intercom rang again. ”You see that bag they’re holding? I don’t suppose it’s a presentational gift set from Boots do you?”

“Are you blackmailing us?” said Blu.“Kalpesh do something.”

“Shut up ! You don’t get it do you, the helicopters not coming.” bawled Kalpesh.

He looked straight at Jimmy. “Alright, alright follow me.”

Jimmy stood behind clocking the numbers as he opened a large bolted safe and handed the money over.

“That’s it, after this you’re done.”

Jimmy couldn’t believe his nerve. “Are you for real?”

Jimmy went down to meet them. They made their threats for the cameras, his hands pointing to the holdall and left. After Blu and Kalpesh disappeared Jimmy let the Brothers in via the side entrance and they got to work, making it look like a crack.

Jimmy checked in with Pra later. “We hit the jackpot, £50k, can you believe the gall? I got paid, everyone got paid. Thanks man, you came through big time.”

“You should thank Kelly. It’s her Dad’s printing company. Soon as she heard it was you, she twisted his arm.”

Jimmy brushed confusion aside and embraced the gesture. “I’m flattered, did she say why?”

“No, she crazy you know that. Who knows, I ain’t second guessing this time, you work it out.” Jimmy was intrigued but not enough to call.

He heard a week later, Kalpesh put in an insurance claim for more than double. He felt sore. Even though he got paid Kalpesh played the system and won. It didn’t seem right; he felt cheated yet again.

Jimmy moved into a flat in Wood Green, North London. His digs were above a shop at the top end of Market Parade. On the side was an insignificant blue plague. It had an aluminium front and yellow on blue facia. The rooms had wooden sash windows three floors up displaying late night brawls from the Rose and Crown. His bedroom backed onto a huge building construction yard busy with cranes positioning clay brick palates and bags of shingle. Jimmy lived it large till the money ran out then crawled back like a washed up z-lister to the one option left.

Simon was doing the double, signing on for benefit and selling Vodafone bricks on the quiet. He had moved out of his house and was living with the proprietors of the business. Jimmy never saw much of him, got the odd phone call. He called it Jonestown, a cult commune with a maniacal leader, Consar. As well as being Simon’s boss, he was an ex boxing champion with an ABH prison record. One day Simon rang him, panicked. Jimmy grew concerned. Consar was in a rage over the other business partner who had made off with all the company funds. He was quizzing Simon as to his whereabouts. Consar was getting more frustrated and with every passing minute believed Simon to be a co-conspirator. Jimmy heard things getting heated over the phone so told Simon to give him the address.

He screeched into a parking space and sped up the path to confront the situation. Consar answered the door. The hallway smelt of boiled cabbage and looked a mess.

“Hi is, Simon there? Can I come in?”

“Simon is busy.” He slammed the door in his face. He knocked again. “I said he’s busy, he’s not coming out.”

He went back to his car and tapped the roof, trying to plot his next move. All the while he could hear the commotion building. Consar was known for his temper. He knew he had to calm the situation down and get Simon out of there quick. He went back and knocked again.

“I just want to chat to Simon about his Mum, somethings happened. Can he come out I will only be five minutes, I promise.” he held his breath.

“Ok, you got five minutes then bring him back.”

His ruse worked and Simon was released. They calmly walked up the path and edged towards the car whilst Consar gazed through the curtains.

“Si, get in the car now or you’re dog meat.” Simon looked at Consar, thought about it and hopped in sharp.

They took off fast up Palmers Green High Street, skidding to a halt at the traffic lights. Just as he thought they were in the clear Simon glanced his mirror.

“He’s behind us.”

A ferocious super-charged beast pulled out from three cars behind; crossing into oncoming traffic. He screeched, blocking them in, got out of the car and came towards them. Jimmy calmly lowered the window. Consar asked him to pull over just for a chat and Jimmy agreed. As he went back to his car Jimmy quickly reversed and took a left down a side street, driving the brakes off it, speeding to eighty. Just as he thought he was clear, yet again there he was; a snorting bull in the rear view mirror. They were afraid for their lives, the car tilted, one slip and they were gone. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he backed off.

They went back to Jimmy’s and called for a Police escort so he could get his stuff. Incredibly Simon reconsidered and later when things calmed down made peace. Jimmy listened as Consar spoke, Simon instantly relayed.

“He says he’s sorry and wants to know if we can go out for a drink?” Jimmy shook his head furiously then astoundingly Simon put him on the phone. Jimmy grimaced but held back for Simon’s sake.

“Thanks for the invite. Yeah, maybe when things calm down we can meet up, I’ll let you know.”

He put the phone down and screamed at Simon. “Man you must be out of your fucking mind if you think I’m going to have a drink with that nutter. He’s bad news. Have a drink? What we going talk about, the time he tried to kill us? You need to get out of there.”

Simon raced to his defence. “I know it’s twisted but he backed off, we could be dead now if it weren’t for him, it’s true.”

“Man he’s really got you hasn’t he?”

Simon took a moment and apologised once the fog cleared. They went to the off license for a pack of Special Brew. “I feel like we’re going backwards, remember Shatkin, that’s where we should be.” said Jimmy.

“You should have seen after you left. I would gladly have welcomed John fucking Jones back.”

“It was a career, a prospect. Now look at us, rats in a sewer living off scraps.”

“I know, I miss the good times too but it’s over. I know I’m clutching at straws, I know that, but we are in the middle of a recession, I got to do it for now.”

“You go back and I don’t want to know you anymore.” Simon agreed to stay round Jimmy’s that night and moved out permanently the next day.

Consar was calm and insisted he take a couple of phones to keep things going. Despite the bad blood, Simon tried again to hook Jimmy. He caught him that morning, evading the landlord chasing back rent. His cupboard was empty and the flat a mess. Jimmy was running out of time and he knew it.

“I got a client that’s interested in buying. Why don’t you handle it? Take the sale for rent. Maybe we can keep it going?”

“With Consar?”

Jonestown is over, he knows that but yeah it’s still with Consar. It’s money Jimmy. I know he’s bad news but you need help.”

“I hate it.”

“If you got an alternative I’m all ears.” Simon took the phone and slapped it in his hand. “Just try it, saying yes always leads on, you never know you might find Shatkin Mk II.”

“Did Jim Jones tell you that?”

“No, it’s me ’TV’ ok?” Their bond was strong, even now, he trusted his opinion, so took the gift, made the appointment and went down to make the sale.

The offices were situated in Knightsbridge. A haughty blond in a blue pinstripe called him over.

“Mr. Bramble?”

He was shown to an office overlooking leafy Park lane. Fiona, a brassy late forty something sat behind a desk. Her thick chavette accent placed her somewhere between Southend and Rayleigh, Essex. She worked for SaTA a new age satellite company, a relatively unknown technology at the time. Jimmy had no idea what it was. She greeted him, flicking through the SaTA Channels.

“We make this show, Gardeners World people love it.” He watched with disbelieving eyes. She detected scepticism.

“We have over thirty thousand subscribers.”

Jimmy smiled back incredulously. It all seemed a bit sci-fi; everyone knew there were only four Channels? She continued flicking through with accidental purpose.

“Whoops, that’s the adult channel,” She smirked “ – sorry about that.” It knocked him off kilter. He pulled himself together and took out the phone for a demonstration.

He ran through the spiel Simon made him memorise to sound pro.

“This is DynaTAC 6000XL it has the world’s first vacuum fluorescent displays. The battery allows for a call of up to sixty minutes, it comes with a spare battery with a ten hour trickle charge.”

“Wow that’s amazing,” she said.

“Yes, as the leading tied agents, it comes with a two year no quibble guarantee. If you change your mind for any reason we will refund you in full, no questions asked.”

He went on to make sure, breaking out performance stats and a list of celebrity endorsements.

“Ok, I’ll take it.”

“Great, l’ll just right up the sales slip and it’s yours.”

“Oh, I thought I was getting a new one?”

“This is new.”

“I want it fresh, out of the box or no deal.” She was adamant, at her insistence he agreed to drop a boxed model to her home later that day.

Fiona had a semi in Buckhurst hill, a middle class leafy suburb in Essex. She welcomed him with a broad smile on arrival and showed him through to the lounge. The smell of potpourri wafted across, warm and inviting. He took out the boxed phone, presented it to her and began writing up the paperwork.

Her tone shifted, she looked at him intently and began to scheme.

“How much do you earn from this Jimmy, is the pay good?”

Jimmy unpacked the phone to insert the SIM. “I do alright.”

“l was a secretary before I started. I was doing alright too, if you call getting by doing alright.”

Jimmy feigned interest. “How did you get into line of business?”

“Someone got me in. It’s always who you know?” She looked him up and down.

“You seem pretty clued up, maybe I can help you out?” His ears pricked up, but felt deeply suspicious.

“Why would you do that?”

“I’m feeling charitable.” He knew he was onto something and was keen to learn more. Emboldened, he crossed the line, safe in the knowledge he’d made the sale.

“What’s the catch?”

“Don’t be so negative, why would there be a catch?”

“I just met you and now you’re offering me a job?”

“Straight up, just so happens we are looking for a floor runner for a private concern of mine. I think you got the right qualities,” She looked him over again. “You know potential.”

Jimmy was astonished. He could not decide if this was TV glam or a siren making a play. He followed through out of shear curiosity. “What’s my chances?”

She whispered in his ear. “Well, as I own the company I would say pretty damn good!”

She took his hand, led him to the kitchen and poured two glasses of Chardonnay. He was keen to uncover the truth. If this was a real prospect he had to push now for something solid.

“Where are you from Jimmy?”

“I was born here. My parents are from Guyana,”

“Very exotic. So what are you?”

“You mean race?” She nodded. “Black, a bit of Indian.”

“That’s funny,” she smirked looking away coy, “I fancy an Indian right now.”

He felt center stage in a Carry On movie but despite the absurdity held fast, closed lipped, not wanting to compromise his position by saying the wrong thing. She turned round and ran her nails through his hair, he seized opportunity.

“You’ll definitely get me a position?”

“Guaranteed.”

She pulled at her untie dress, guided his head, teasing instruction. Jimmy catered to every whim and upon subjugation reached for the wine before she pulled him back. He raised his hand to a halt.

“Not so fast, make the call.”

She smiled. He was playing her at her own game. “You’re going to make an excellent runner Jimmy.” She reached for the phone then turned back. “Ok but you don’t get a free ride, not that easy. You understand?”

Jimmy was a man with dwindling options. He took the bait in wilful ignorance.

She made the call and put the wheels in motion. Unbeknown to him they were in fact looking for a skivvy they could mould, someone like them, an unscrupulous opportunist.

With the deal sealed he proceeded to the lounge and worked from the table to the sofa, in front of the patio doors in full view and on to the rooms upstairs. Marital aids were toyed with, hair pulled, wares and objects trashed, every position exploited without reserve. He completed the trial in the bathroom. She looked up at the wall clock. “You better go… before my daughter gets home.” Jimmy scrambled to attention and got dressed. She stamped his report card and he snuck out like a thief in the night. Within a week he had magically usurped his predecessor and strolled into Tinsel Town.

Jimmy ventured to an Industrial estate in Wandsworth, South London. It was a far cry from the glamour he expected, a soulless desolate wasteland. There were no people, no houses or shops. Next to a car mechanics stood Criss Studios, a converted warehouse cold and unfussy. He pushed at a grubby yellow door as a man stomped out.

“Fuck you, I’m still gonna invoice.”

“Yeah, why don’t you take your invoice and shove it up your ass.”

You knew Peter Criss was there before you looked up, such was his preceding fanfare. He was a slick dude, solid with rock star presence. He approached Jimmy, stumped out a cigarette on the floor and flipped back his hair.

“Hi, you must be Jimmy.”

He was a slender good looking man in his early thirties, had a suave curtain fop, wore leather pants and burgundy leather jacket.

“Fiona said you were coming, please to greet you. Sorry about that, union dick. I can’t stand Cameramen, fucking moaners.”

“Is there a problem?”

“No they’re a pain. He demanded a hot meal so I slammed his salad in the microwave.” Jimmy looked down at the steaming lettuce and tomatoes strewn across the floor. “That’s gratitude for you.”

Eager to impress, he picked up a piece of the smashed plate and put it in the bin. “Thanks, just leave it. Let me show you round.”

He led him along a shabby corridor pass partitioned rooms into the main studio, a cold empty space with cameras mounted on tripods and a few lights, hanging from overhead rigs.

“It was a photographer’s studio before I took it over.”

He saw the remnants; a box full of discarded photos.

“They use to do make overs, part of a spa day, Christ knows what they thought when they entered this dump,” He led him on to a set of large rooms.

“Green screen; when they shot Superman flying, same kind of thing. I set the lights, takes an hour.”

“You do the technical?”

“Yeah, nothing to it. The techs would say otherwise, so they can charge. You ever switched a light on?”

“Yeah.”

“Then you’re a fucking technician.”

“You got any staff?” asked Jimmy.

“You’re looking at them; Camera, Producer, Sound. The budgets are tiny, choice really.”

He walked past the edit suite to another room with a crate full of merchandise.

“We shoot Ads primarily.” He picked out something at random. “Swift Vac. Light, portable, cleans all surfaces; wood, carpet. Cleans, my fucking arse, load of ’ol crap. I took it home, nearly burnt my fucking house down.”

Jimmy spied a shimmering fish tail “What’s that?”

“A mermaid tale, you can actually swim with it on. These are not your typical TV Ads, it’s what we call Infomercials. Think The Wild West and the old travelling salesmen preaching from the back of his horse drawn; that’s us. It’s all tat, goes out on SaTA in the dead hours.” They walked back to the set floor.

He poured Malibu into two glasses. “You drink don’t you?”

Jimmy was taken aback, it was way better than he expected, two in the afternoon and on the sauce, he couldn’t believe his luck. “Yeah, why not?”
“Good, not like that sissy she sent before, fucking tree hugger. You know how to operate a camera?”

“Not really.”

“Don’t worry it’s all set up on a wide. Just whack the red button when I tell ya. We’re shooting a Dominance scene later.”

“Dominance?”

“S&M, SaTA content, didn’t she tell ya? Sorry about that, I told her to lay it all out.”

“That’s okay.”

“Cool, well I hope you’re not squeamish The Dom does CBT.” He downed the short and poured another. “It’s all a bit weird if you ask me but it helps pay the bills.”

“What’s CBT?”

“Cock and Ball torture” Jimmy winced.

“It’s cool, I normally put my phones on and watch the snooker. Ok let’s get started, you see over there?” He pointed to a pile a metal bars “That’s the cage, shove it up quick will ya, they arrive in ten.”

Peter bent the truth so as not to put him off. Once settled he put him through his paces. He removed the camera from the tripod and got him to operate handheld, framing the most unconscionable shots, close up. Jimmy left Peter to lock up and retired back to Wood Green, mentally withdrawn. He traipsed in at 2am. Simon was still up on the Atari slashing Zombie Dogs on Crusader;

“How was your first day?”

“I’m gonna need therapy, those people are warped.”

Jimmy explained the set up. “Fully grown men, I mean butch bikers with beards wearing nappies, breastfed, spat on, it ain’t right.”

“Wow, what about the Madam?”

“Miss Whiplash. Fifty something dressing thirty years too young in a baby-doll cami, flab bulging, not good. They wanted me to join in, can you believe it?”
“You lucky fuck.”

“You’re sick, you know that.”

“Does it pay?”

“£100 a session,”

“Fuck, you gotta get me in.”
“You heard of the phrase CBT?” Jimmy explained the process.

“Ok pass on that. What about Pony Play, it’s just a nose bags and a tale.”

“Do I sound like your fucking pimp?” Jimmy pulled back apologetic. “Look, if we get something I don’t need treatment for, I’ll let you know.”

“You are jammy man, you started off with jack and now you’re a studio runner, you’re in TV, not a bad turn up.” Despite the trauma, Jimmy agreed, he saw potential, something solid he could build on.

He was just Peter’s type, a cheap enthusiastic grafter, not a goon with a media degree. Now it was useful he wanted to learn it all. He was keen and Peter was only too happy to teach. He arrived early and left late, spending weeks honing his skills. He picked Peter’s brain, experimenting with camera and lights and assembling rough cuts in the edit.

All the while Fiona made her demands, popping in and collecting her debt. She became possessive and was intent on owning him, moulding her latest accessory. He tolerated her affections and played along accepting gifts. He didn’t mind it in private. It was a small price to pay to claw his way back from the edge. In public it became acutely embarrassing; casing point when he was introduced to her daughter of the same age at a SaTA works do. From then the countdown had begun. Question was could he survive long enough to coax Peter into keeping him.

Kelly was still at college on the acting tract. She had many plaudits but was keen to break out and land a paying gig. She caught wind of Jimmy’s foray into TV and rang. He was surprised given their last encounter and wagered it a sign of desperation. Nonetheless, Jimmy felt guilty for not calling after she helped him out and was eager to make up for his bloody-minded reticence.

“I can try to get you in but can’t promise nothing, I just started.”

“Whatever you can do, it’s got to be better than my agent. He’s useless. So far he got me an audition as an Easter Egg in a kid’s pageant.”

“You got to start somewhere.”

“You don’t understand. I didn’t get the part. Do you know how depressing that is? They gave it to a guy with one arm, can you believe that? Equal ops my great aunt fanny.”

“I’m going to try hard for you. Pra told me what you did, I owe you.”

“You don’t owe me.”

“No I should have rang you at least. It was a bit rubbish. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be silly. I’m just glad I could help.”
Jimmy reflected on her struggle and his own moral dilemma. If he could salvage something perhaps for himself or for her it would be easier to bear the unrespectable truth.

Marvin’s ride into the sunset echoed deep. He searched for a parallel managing only to gaze longingly at the horizon, his dignity in tatters, bartered on the open toy-boy exchange.

Fiona’s behaviour was becoming ever more intrusive. During her daughter’s summer break, Peter would have to leave early to accommodate Fiona’s indiscretions. Tensions surfaced.

“We’ve got work to do, can’t you leave it for the weekend?” argued Pete.

“This is my company I will do as I please.” said Fiona.

“We are losing clients, the Infomercials are bombing and all you can do is shag the floor runner.”

“You can’t speak to me like that.”

“Okay let me put it this way, no studio, no Jimmy.”

Peter refused to vacate one evening, intent on standing his ground, making protest. After Jimmy had done his duty Peter hung around, thumbed his nose and insisted Jimmy join him for a drink. Fiona stomped off as she had to meet her daughter and left them to their own devices. They went across the road to the Bakers Arms for a drink.

Peter talked about a new series of infomercials he had in the pipeline. ”I want to get shot of Victor, the presenter we use. He’s shit but Fiona forces him on us.”

“Why don’t you ignore her, you’re the manager?”

“She owns the company. Anyway Victor, is SaTA talent, it’s synergy or some such crap. She likes to tinker, play around, it’s an ego boost.”

Jimmy began to scheme, seeing an opportunity to promote Kelly. “Maybe if she saw someone new for herself she would realise. You say he’s a lazy git, doesn’t put in the work?”

“Truth is this is our last chance to get it right. They’re our biggest customer without them we’re in trouble. They’re probably already shopping around.”

Jimmy freaked, he could not afford to lose his job. “No, no, no you can’t afford to lose your biggest customer.”

“She’ll never agree to someone new. She’s a control freak, you know that.”

“Think of the business.”

Peter was hiding under a mound of debt no-one knew about. Jimmy finally got him thinking straight. He inadvertently set a plan in motion. Peter was through brooding. He prepared himself to face it head on. “I hate to admit it but I think you’re right.”

Jimmy’s motive shifted purpose. He was now more interested in saving his own skin than promoting Kelly but offered her up anyway as it was the right thing to do. Jimmy put her forward and saw it as a debt repaid.

“Has she got any experience?” asked Peter.

“She’s good, got great presence.”

“I see, that would be a no then. I’d like to help you out but I need someone established, someone hot right now.”

Jimmy selflessly pushed it. “She’ll do it for nothing.”

“You’re good Jimmy I’ll give you that.” He looked at him seeing it from his angle. Jimmy had been a good soldier so felt obliged. “Okay, I tell you what, bring her down and shoot a taster; in your own time mind you. If she’s any good, I’ll make a case.”

He broke the news to Kelly. She was over the moon and came down especially insisting she treat him. They met at Porchetta, a Trattoria in Primrose Hill. Jimmy order Calzone and Kelly breadsticks with Panzanella. They sipped on a full bodied Merlot. Jimmy pandered.

“What made you get into acting?”

“I love movies, you know the old black and whites, Watched them with Mum to avoid the Saturday sport, still do; Twelve Angry Men, The Clairvoyant, Young Man with a Horn.”

“Young man with the Horn, you mean Horny young man?”

“Very funny ha-ha. I didn’t expect you to understand.”

“Sorry, Young Man with a Horn. Let me see.” He put his glass down “40s Film Noir starring Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall?”

“Oh my god yes, you’ve seen it too.”

“I’m not a big sports fan either. I totally got Kirk, frustrated musician, creatively neutered. Reminds me of when I played in a wedding band to pissed up Dad dancers. I absolutely hated it.”

“Well if you’re Kirk who am I, Amy or Jo?”

He laughed. “Neither I hope. The ending really sucked.”

“You are full of surprises Mister Bramble.”

They went back to Jimmy’s digs. Simon had been excused for the night. He set the products down on the bed and began to brainstorm. Kelly surveyed the goods and looked unconvinced.

“How am I supposed to talk about this tat for ten minutes?” She grabbed an item at random “What’s this? Glow in the dark toilet paper.”

Jimmy tried to encourage her by having a go himself. “How many times have you gone in the middle of the night and wiped your bum on..erm- -“

“- - yeah, toilet paper that doesn’t glow in the dark. Yeah, like all the freaking time.”

“Ok you’re right, not an easy sell.”

“Most bathrooms have a window, you can see anyway.”

“Ok what about the half loo under the stairs.”

“What, the loo that’s two foot wide with a light?”

“Yeah, not exactly a herculean task. Still give it a chance there’s plenty more.” Jimmy took a sip of Sunny C a drinks product. “Oh my good god, that is vile, ‘Orange juice with a hint of Penicillin.’ Why? Hand me the toilet paper.” He spat it in and wiped his lips. “It’s like sand paper. I don’t think I’d want to find it with the lights on much less off.”

He grabbed another product. “Banana slicer?” A device allowing you to slice a whole banana into small pieces in one move.” I love bananas but isn’t it a drag, I mean all that chopping… Why not?

Eat it, with your mouth !

“Be serious I’m trying to help? Oh look, I would actually buy these, Picnic Pants.

“Put them on.” As he sat crossed legged a triangular cloth table sewn to the knees and crotch pulled out.

Be the envy of your neighbourhood and- -”

- -Look like a complete ass.”

“Can you stop doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Making sense.” He reached for another. Ok smoking mittens.”

Mittens with a grommet to place a cigarette.

“Actually that ain’t bad, nothing worse than smoking in the cold, my hands freeze, you can’t enjoy it.”

“You see you just did it, hold on.” He got up. “Ever had a picnic in the cold and fancied a fag?” He sat back down cross legged in the picnic mode smoking a cigarette through the mittens.

She fell over reeling. ”They will lock you up.”

Jimmy went again determined to crack it. ”Spaghetti fork.” A fork with a rotating motorised end to save twirling by hand. He passed it to her. “Give it a try.”

I love spaghetti but all that twirling makes my hand ache.”

“Wait a minute, I think you got something there, try ‘my mums loves spaghetti but her bad joints make it difficult to eat …blabla makes the perfect gift.’ Jimmy hit on an angle, Kelly beamed, they had turned the corner.

They shot the taster after work the following day. Kelly arrived unexpectedly early. She wore a Maui top with acid washed jeans. Jimmy was busy clearing the S&M set.

“What’s the cage for?” asked Kelly.

He scrambled to hide the whip and chains. “Oh that’s where the last presenter

wound up.”

“You got something you want to tell me?”

“No,” Just then Albert, a sixty year old codger, tottered across the set floor in a PVC Gimp suit with mouth gag and manacles still attached. He murmured gesturing Jimmy to free him.

“- Actually, there may be something.”

“Oh my giddy aunt,” Kelly laughed it off as Jimmy freed him.

“What sort of stuff do you shoot here?”

“It’s a side line. Anyway shall we get started?”

They got busy creating a set. She rummaged round grabbing a flat of a London Skyline.

“Great put that there we’ll use it as a backdrop.”

Jimmy assembled a white laminate trestle and positioned the camera and lights. He checked the monitors, clapped the board and counted her in.

She presented the first product like a pro. Jimmy gazed at her in disbelief. He looked up.

“What’s wrong?”

“You’re really good.” She smiled appreciatively.

“Don’t sound so surprised.”

He began to think she stood a chance and attacked the remainder of the session with added zeal. They shot the taster straight through stopping only for

cutaways and close ups. He ejected the tape.

“Follow me.” They went to the edit suite and started cutting.

“I got to say Jimmy I’m impressed. You’re really are doing it, camera, editing. How did you manage to land such a sweet gig?”

“Luck I guess.”

“Don’t be modest. People like you Jimmy. I mean after all that happened in Manchester and now you’re doing all this?”

“I said I owe you.”

“You sure that’s it? You haven’t even asked me about Roger?”

He sat shuffling the jog wheel, ingesting the footage. “Ok, how’s Roger?”

“Don’t know. We split up.” He smiled. “Ok your turn. What’s that mark on your neck?”

It was a hiccie from Fiona. He blushed but instead of denying it he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m glad Roger’s gone. He was a real dick.”

“I know.”

They finished up Jimmy ordered a taxi to take her straight to the train station.

She paused before stepping into the car. “See you around Don Yuan,

“Hush up!”

He was glad he had the opportunity to reconnect and heal old wounds. She had gone but this time he had left things right.

Jimmy spent hours polishing up the fine cut, dropping the weaker stuff figuring she could re-work those if she got the gig. Once he was happy he picture locked and presented it to Peter after his morning fix.

“She did this on the fly you say? Damn she’s good.”

“I know.”

“I like her style.”

“She was going for Sally James.”

“That’s it, the Tiswas girl, very good I like it.”

“I think Fiona will be round later.”

“Perfect I’ll play it to her before I leave. Good stuff, Jimmy this could really save us.”

Fiona pulled up mid-shoot in a red Mercedes. Pete waited anxiously to greet her on arrival and ushered her through. Jimmy was on camera. The on air light was on. She squeezed his bottom on the way through and tip toed, heels in hands, on her way to the edit.

“What’s all this about?” He slipped on the tape.

“This is Kelly. She could sell ice to Eskimos.”

“What’s this? I told you we’re using Victor.”

“Just watch.”

She sat in silence. “She is good, where did you find her?”

“Jimmy’s contact.” His words rebound and smacked him in the face. He could see the rage building.

“Oh really? How do you mean contact?” She stomped around. “Never mind just get him?”

“Calm down she’s just an old school friend. He’s just trying to get her in, what’s wrong with that? She’s good.”

“Just get him now please.”

He stepped out and relieved him. “You better go in and calm her down. She’s losing it, thinks you’re with Kelly.”

He sheepishly edged round the corner guarding his un-severed neck.

“Who’s she?”

“She’s just a friend.”
“You think I’m stupid. We both know better. You knew the deal. That’s it get out you’re done.”

Jimmy pleaded but she ignored him, ejected the tape and threw it in the trash. Jimmy stomped off to the exit. Peter grabbed him. “Where you going?”

“You better ask her.”

“She can’t do that. Wait Jimmy I’ll talk to her.”

Everything came to a head. Peter was furious he stormed in determined to salvage the situation.

“What are you doing. She is the best thing that’s happened to us. We need her and Jimmy is the hardest worker we’ve had. He’s clued up great with the talent, what the fuck are you doing?”

“If I was you I would forget what you just said. Get back out front and do what I pay you for.”

She saw it as a deep betrayal. The situation was untenable.

Jimmy wandered the streets aimlessly, his purpose ripped from grasp. He went out of his way to repay a debt. Now the cynic poked sore and vindictive. How could he be so naïve as to think Fiona would reward his efforts? He risked it all to win over a girl that did not care. Instead of basking in success he was left out of sorts, slipping down the serpent’s wind back to where he started.

Simon was still up dancing around in a silk kimono to a 12’ remix of Dr. Beat. Jimmy came in and slammed the wall. “I’m sick of it.”

“Christ you look like shit?”

“Not now Si, I’m not in the mood. Can you kill the music?”

Jimmy relayed the whole pitiful affair.

Si poured two glasses of Peach Schnapps. “I told you not to help her.”

“You were right I should have listened, happy now?”

“No I’m not, I told ya she’s trouble, the pretty ones always are.”

“That’s cliché bollocks.”

“You’re too nice.”

“Who me?”

“Let’s take a look shall we? You get her a job as a TV presenter.”

“Yeah what else?”

“That’s it! Isn’t that enough? That is way more than anyone has done for her in the past.”

“She didn’t ask for that.”

“What you talking about I was here when she called you.”

“Yeah maybe. So what?”
“Okay, you want more? How about losing your job. Did you consider that? Do yourself a favour, get yourself someone needy.”

“What like Lucy?”

“Yeah, so what?”

“Nothing man. When she coming round?”

“Oh you noticed. Sorry do ya mind?”

“Course not, I’m a nice guy.”

Simon went to get ready. “Don’t worry mate, give it till morning. I bet you anything you get call.”

Dawn broke. Jimmy woke, stepping on a crushed beer can jolted him back to reality. He checked his answering machine, praying Simon was right. The counter flashed one, but it was Kelly trying to spy news from the audition. He stopped it abruptly. He couldn’t face it. He decided not to call but instead crawled back to bed determine to undo the torment. He ran through the sequence in his head, unpicking every torrid moment, as if the key to unlock the problem lie within. His old pals, gloom and pessimism checked in; holding him close, blotting out all else. He checked his pocket for change. He had just enough for a can of Brew. He got ready to face the day, opened the door and right on cue staring back was Peter.

“Good morning. You alright Jimmy? Come on let’s get brunch, my treat.”

They strolled to The Lordship, a pub at the bottom of the road recounting yesterday’s fallout. Peter ordered two pints of the Guinness and they parked themselves down by the open fire.

“It’s over. I told her to shove it.” Jimmy held his breath. “Don’t worry it’s not down to you.”

“I don’t understand. It’s me she’s upset with.”

“It’s been going wrong for a while. Last night it all came to a head. She pushed me too far. Truth is I’ve been thinking about it for a while but never had the bottle to leave.” He supped the creamy beige froth and gasped. “I had dreams once, wanted to be the next Scorsese. Can you believe it; look at me now. She convinced me to bury it and work for her. We were an item once, just like you.”

“You were with Fiona?”

“Yeah, then she moved on. She was easier back then but she’s got worse with age, more controlling. Well, I don’t have to tell you what she’s like. Still not to worry, these are new exciting times Jimmy, I never felt more alive. It’s time to do what I want and I want you to join me.”

Peter managed to snag a couple of shooting kits before he jumped and promised to call as soon as he had news. Jimmy sat tight waiting and when the call came he was ready. He packed light; hiking boots, thick socks and as many pants as he could stuff into his backpack. Peter pulled up in a black minivan and they set off to Heathrow.

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