by David Gower
“Bored, bored, bored.” The speaker tossed a pebble into the pond and watched as the ripples spread and then the surface of the water returned to a glassy smoothness.
“Are you bored, Mick?” Bob posed the question with a sense of irony. The two of them sat on the bench beside the village pond watching the fish swim through the weeds.
“Fish have no memory, they can just swim around in circles and never get bored.” The voice continued bitterly.
“Who says they have no memory? Has anyone asked them? Excuse me Mr Fish can you tell me your earliest memory?” Bob had decided to amuse himself by antagonising his mate Mick. They had nothing to do now that the exams had finished and the days of the summer holiday offered freedom…if only they could find something to do. Something new, something exciting would be good.
Mick muttered, more to himself than his mate, “Still bored and getting more bored.”
“C’mon, Mick. Got an idea. Mum wanted me to put a postcard in the supermarket to advertise my old bike. She asked me to write it but I forgot. I was going to start when you called round. I put it in my pocket.”
“A postcard? So what?” snorted Mick, disgusted that a postcard was suggested as a cure for boredom. He spat into the water. There was a satisfying plop made more so when one of the fish thought a fly had landed on the surface. It was disappointed.
“Watch and be amazed.” Bob’s pen produced several lines on the plain white postcard until he smiled in satisfaction and presented it to his mate with a flourish. It read
Got a Problem that needs sorting?
No questions asked. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Bob spoke, almost to himself “Now what phone number to put on it? It can’t be ours because Mum will find out. I’ve got some birthday money. Let’s get a cheap mobile on pay as you go, like ‘da boys in da ‘hood’. He mimicked the gangsta style he had heard in the street. “We’ll make up a name if they ask us in the shop. We can have a laugh over the summer answering the phone, giving people appointments, not turning up, like a white van man! We will never know when the phone will ring. Every time it does we have a new mug to wind up. Magic!”
“Rubbish. If that’s the best you can do I’m going home for me tea.” Mick’s reply was a mix of tedium and frustration..
Bob liked the idea, it was his idea and having bought his cheap phone the next day he slipped into the big supermarket in town. He had two postcards, one to sell the bicycle and one for his Problem Solvers joke. The Helpdesk lady took the payment for the bike card. While she was distracted he slipped his other card into the display and moved away quickly. Now to wait to see who took his bait. Like spitting in the pond.
Supermarkets provide the community with a central location – a one stop shop in the true sense of the phrase. Food, petrol, coffee, booking a holiday…so much for people to buy.
Thousands of people use a major supermarket every day. The advertising board by the cash desks was placed to catch attention as people paid for their groceries.
Bob’s postcard was ignored by almost everyone as they rushed about their business. Harassed parents with wheedling offspring, lunchtime office staff grabbing sandwiches and canny shoppers waiting for the magic ‘yellow sticker’ moment to eke out their budget. Some people did see the card, interpreted the wording and noted the number.
Mary Ashley had spent years in a hurtful relationship and had reached the point where she wanted her husband to disappear and never be found. Could a stranger be the answer? Her mind recalled the plot of Strangers on a Train and she saw herself as free. Could it be so easy?
Ricky needed to get hold of his dealer but had lost his phone. He had tried to remember the number of the dealer. He had spent half an hour writing various combinations of numbers on scrap paper. As time passed he became more needy. He had taken a lifted a phone from an open bag. He was sure he had the right number at last and could dial. Relief would come soon.
Lee was a sad case. Too much time alone watching crime shows and building fantasies of violence towards strangers. He saw reality crime television as a school for crime. A victim not knowing the criminal was always a disadvantage to the police. The postcard made him curious.
Bob’s phone rang.