Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Sydney Jugg's Book of Grievances


By Dawn Knox

Campari (Nice and bitter!)



Sydney Jugg was a man who bore a grudge. Actually, he bore many. Ever since he’d been a small boy, he remembered his mother telling him to ‘stop bearing a grudge’. At first, he wasn’t sure what a grudge was and Ma’s explanation when he’d enquired, hadn’t really enlightened him.
“Don’t be so cheeky!” she said and swatted him round the head. 

Over the years, he’d worked out that bearing a grudge was a justifiable reaction to the injustices that life threw at him. And there were many. For example, his brother, Toby, could charm and beguile anyone. His decorating firm was successful despite Toby’s lack of practical skills. And women! Toby’s face could best be described as unfortunate, and his body was shaped like a barrel. But women were attracted to his ridiculous patter in a way they’d never been to anything Sydney had to say. 

And as for business acumen, Toby had none. Sydney, on the other hand, thought up so many business ideas his head spun, but none so far had amounted to anything. 

But this time, he had the King of Ideas. Now all he needed was a rather large bank loan. 


He arrived at Bboyds Bank ten minutes before his appointment with Mr. Harbottle, dressed in his best suit and shiny shoes. 

 “Mr. Harbottle won’t be long. Would you like coffee?” the personal assistant asked. But before he could reply, the bank manager appeared at the door. His shoulders sagged when he saw Sydney.
“Ah, Mr Jugg, isn’t it? Please come in.”

Roland Harbottle steepled his fingers and resting his chin on the tips, he surveyed Sydney who was sitting on the edge of his chair on the other side of the desk.

“Another King of Ideas, Mr Jugg?” Roland asked.

“Yes, but I think you’re going to like this one. It can’t fail.”

“Hmmm. Well, it’ll have to be better than the edible chopsticks. Or the magnetic dentures.”

“Yes, this is guaranteed to succeed.”

Roland sighed, “Well?” 

“You know how everyone loves the smell of bacon…”

“Vegetarians probably don’t. But I agree it’s a popular smell.”

“I’d like to develop a men’s toiletries range…”

“Please tell me you’re not proposing an aftershave smelling of bacon!”

“Well...”

“I really don’t think so. Have you done any market research?”

“No, I use common sense. People like the smell of bacon. It’s bound to work.”

Roland pressed the button on his intercom, “Milly!”

“Yes, Sir,” said the tinny voice through the intercom. 

“Milly, if you could pick an aftershave for a man to wear, would you pick one that smelled of sandalwood… or perhaps, bacon?”

Bacon?” said the tinny voice, “Sorry, Sir, I thought you said bacon!” Peals of laughter could be heard through the intercom. 

“I rest my case,” said Roland showing the palms of his hands in a gesture of resignation, “Milly has spoken… Now, Mr Jugg, if I were you, I’d forget your get-rich schemes and concentrate on your plumbing business. Your brother’s just done an excellent job redecorating my house. You’re a perfectly good plumber. Isn’t that enough?”

The bank manager got to his feet and held out his hand.

Sydney’s interview was over. But before he could leave, Milly poked her head round the door, “Oh, Mr Harbottle, while you’ve got Mr Jugg here, the radiator in the ladies’ toilet is leaking. I wonder if he could fix it.”

Sydney stomped out to his van to get his overalls and tools. 

What did the bank manager know? Or silly Milly? He wouldn’t give up. He’d try elsewhere.
As he worked, he committed the conversation he’d had with Mr Harbottle to memory so that when he got home, he could record it in his Book of Grievances. The bank manager had turned down several requests for loans and consequently, he had a whole page to himself in Sydney’s Book of Grievances. This further insult would be added. Keeping a record each evening assured that no slight, however small, was forgotten. Milly would be added as well. And in the meantime, Sydney thought as he whacked the radiator valve with a wrench, he’d charge the bank an arm and a leg for this job. The valve parted company with the radiator, allowing a spout of rusty water to gush over his shiny shoes. 


Sydney wanted more from life than scraping a living tinkering with toilets and taps. He not only wanted more, he deserved more. 

But how? 

Yet again, he’d been compared to his brother, Toby, and been found wanting. As he walked past Mr Harbottle’s office, he noticed a poster on the notice board. A young couple posed with dumbbells raised as if they weighed nothing, well-defined muscles beneath shiny, tanned skin and their smiles revealing gleaming teeth.
Be The You, You Always Wanted To Be,
Muscle Bounders Gym
Book your first session now!

Sydney had once been quite fit. Fitter than Toby, anyway. And a toned body would give him confidence. Yes, he’d sign up with a personal trainer for a month at Muscle Bounders Gym. 


“I am Vilya Chekarova,” said the personal trainer in a heavy accent. She towered over him, bulging muscles straining her Lycra top and leggings and she shook Sydney’s hand, almost wringing it from his wrist, “You must be Syderney.”

“Err, it’s Sydney.”

“That is vot I said… Syderney.”

Sydney dared not disagree. 

“Now, let us see vot you are made of, Syderney.” 

Sydney showed her what he was made of.

“Hmm, ve have a lot of vork to do, eh, Syderney?” 

As he limped out of Muscle Bounders Gym an hour later, she called after him “Do not vorry, Syderney, I vill turn you into a man of steel.” 

His muscles screamed as he gingerly climbed into his van, eased into the driver’s seat and slowly drove home. He was too exhausted to make more than a cup of tea and certainly too tired to write in his Book of Grievances. But tomorrow Vilya Chekarova, Mistress of Sadism, would also have her own page along with Roland Harbottle and Silly Milly. And he would cancel his next training session.


The following morning, he ate his breakfast standing up, his joints having locked rigidly overnight. Ahead of him was a full day, plumbing in a bath in a rather small bathroom, and if he was finding it hard to bend down now, how was he going to squeeze himself into whatever shape was necessary to get to the waste and pipes? 

He phoned the gym before he left for work. 

“Hello, Muscle Bounders Gym, Betty speaking, how can I help you?”

He explained he wouldn’t be able to make his next training session because of work pressure.
“I’m sorry you can’t make it, Mr Jugg! Never mind, I’ll tell Vilya and she can bring round a few weights to your house and do your training session in your home—”

“No!”

“Oh, don’t worry, it’s no problem. Vilya’s used to it. You’d be surprised how often this happens. Have I got your address? Oh yes, here it is. Well, I’ll tell Vilya to be there at seven. How will that be? Goodbye now! Have a good day!”

He thumped his mug down on the table, groaning at the pain that radiated throughout his body. He would add Betty to his Book of Grievances. Stupid woman. Why hadn’t she minded her own business?


Vilya arrived the following week at seven o’clock with a bag of weights and equipment. 

“Good evening, Syderney. You are ready to vork?” she asked holding out an exercise band which was wrapped round both meaty fists like a garrotte. 

“A cup of tea?” he asked in desperation. 

“Water vould be good please. It is important to keep hydrated.”

“Yes, yes!” he said rushing into the kitchen. How long could he spin this out? He turned the tap on very slowly.

She followed him and stopped at his liquidiser. “Vat is this?”

“I’ve been experimenting. It’s a salad smoothie.”

“I may taste it?”

“Oh yes, indeed!” 

Before Vilya had arrived, he’d been considering what to eat and had decided he didn’t have time for a meal. One thing led to another and he’d wondered about developing smoothies for busy people on the go. A search on the Internet told him someone had beaten him to it but he’d had another idea. Suppose he blended the starter, main course and dessert together? Many people appreciated gourmet meals but didn’t have time to sit down and eat one. With his Three Course Smoothies, they could enjoy a complete meal through a straw while they were on the go. Disappointingly, his fridge had only yielded some wilted salad, a tiny piece of Brie and a large onion. He’d liquidised the lot. When he’d removed the lid of his blender, the smell had hit him like a punch on the nose. He was writing his shopping list for the next day, when the doorbell rang and Vilya had appeared with her rubber garrotte, bringing his mind firmly back to the present.

Now, she removed the top of the blender which Sydney had rammed back on earlier. She didn’t flinch. Instead, she dipped her chunky finger in the brown sludge and sucked it. 

“Mmm,” she said, an appreciative expression on her square face, “I may have more of it?”

He almost tripped over his feet in his rush to get a glass and disregarding the smell, he poured the entire smoothie into it. 


He managed to stall for fifteen minutes, while she drank and he told her about his idea. Nevertheless, it took a week for his muscles to stop complaining and he was dreading his next session. There was no point trying to cancel; Vilya knew where he lived. 

Then Sydney had an idea. He’d arrive at the gym two hours early with some tools hidden in his gym bag. Once he’d gained access to the boiler room, he’d make a few adjustments to valves, thermostats – basically, anything he could twiddle. With no water and with soaring temperatures in the gym, they’d be forced to close and he’d offer to fix the problem, but by the time he’d finished, it would be too late to train. All he’d have to worry about then, was his final session, the following week. How he’d get out of it, he had no idea. Perhaps he’d catch the plague. Or move house. 

“Mr Jugg, you’re early! I’ve been phoning you,” said Betty when he entered the reception, “I’m sorry but Vilya’s resigned. Would you believe it? Just like that! Apparently, she’s got some hotshot new business idea and she’s setting up a new company. Three Course Smoothies or somesuch. I’m sure I can find another personal trainer for you though...” 

Sydney was too stunned to answer. That square-jawed, sadistic monster had stolen his idea! 

“Mr Jugg?” Betty said, “Are you okay?”

He nodded.

“You can have a refund if you’d prefer. Oh, and I wonder if you’d leave your business card please? My shower’s not working at home. If you have time, perhaps you’d come and look at it?”

He nodded, unsure whether his relief that Vilya had gone was greater than his fury at her stealing his idea. There would be plenty to write in his Book of Grievances tonight! He might even buy a new notebook dedicated to Vilya Chekarova.

“Mr Jugg? Your card…?”

He handed one to her silently. Yes, there would be plenty to write on the subject of the personal trainer. Perhaps he ought to have a page for Muscle Bound Gym too. After all, they’d sent her round to his house. In fact, it was Betty’s fault. She already had a page and he’d be sure to add this insult.
If you could come round tonight,” Betty said, “I’d really appreciate it and I’ve made Shepherd’s Pie, if you’d like to stay for dinner…”

She smiled shyly.

“D…dinner?” he spluttered.

“Well, only if you’d like…” she was now blushing.

“That would be lovely,” he said. Perhaps he’d been a bit hasty putting Betty in his Book of Grievances. He’d tear her page out when he got home… later… after dinner at her house.

About the author

Dawn’s third book Extraordinary was published by Chapeltown in October 2017. She has stories published in various anthologies, including horror and speculative fiction, as well as romances in women's magazines. Dawn has written a play to commemorate World War One, which has been performed in England, Germany and France. www.dawnknox.com

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