PART Four: The Rented Terraced House
Knock, Knock, Knock, thumped a large tubby fist on David’s front door. It vibrated against its frame with a pronounced judder. David was in the kitchen rubbing his temples leaning over the kitchen surface. He had had another bad night’s sleep. He was absorbing the smell of the last two slices of bread burnt black in his cheap green plastic covered toaster. It had come as part of a three piece set from a catalogue shop. The other stuff that had come with it was a matching kettle that David had dropped when he moved in, splitting its side, and there was also a paper towel roll holder that he slung straight away so that his mates would never see it.
The smoke detector worked. He had wondered if it ever had and now he had his answer. He’d never put a new battery in it let alone thinking, his so very competent landlord had done so, on one of his check-ups on the property. The high pitched sound pierced his ear drums and combined with the heavy banging on the door, it was too much at that time of day. David had been coming down off one set of antidepressants to try another. This was to see if they would give better results. The doctor said it would take a week before he could start on the others because of the high dose he was on and then they would take up to a couple of weeks to work. He slapped his hands down on the crumb covered chopping board in brief frustration.
Knock, Knock, bloody impatient knock after knock. David walked out of the kitchen and through to the front door of the two up, two down terrace. ‘Hang on I’m coming, easy up on the door please’. It was on its last legs – another thing that he had to ask the landlord to fix.
The laminate floor was cold to the soles of his bare feet. They carpeted the kitchen and put a wipe clean floor in the front room. Surly it should have been the other way round. Before he could reach the door he heard a gruff young male shouting down to a few doors away from David’s own water swollen door. ‘It’ll be the last thing you do, I’ll finish you, you funny fucker, before you can even start… dick! Funny that, very funny. Yeh, piss off.’ This was all said with a cock sure swagger.
Through the small window on the door, David saw the side of a meaty head with flushed red cheeks. The young fella, from what David could see of him, had a school white shirt on, grubby around a blue tied collar and framed in a grey v-neck jumper. A stud diamanté looked freshly pierced in his inflamed left ear lobe. ‘I wacked that lad the other night and I’ll do it to you too for having a go at fronting me up, yeh, you can wipe that grin off your mug too… nob head’.
His head turned to face the door almost pressing his nose against the small pane of glass. He shut up and drew up when he saw movement and heard the door unlock. First impressions mattered to a salesman. He got ready to deliver his spiel. David had heard everything that had come out of the cold caller’s mouth. The lad didn’t seem to be aware of the world outside of his. He’d blown any sort of a sale before the door opened.
As the door opened he put his left foot onto the door step, immediately invading David’s personal space, well… his rented home. He lent his elbow against the stone door surround at his shoulder height, with a flyer advertising his business hanging from his pinched, chewed and grubby fingers. ‘Alright fella, mate…’ after a quick rethink, he changed tack, ‘…. Morning sir, lovely day isn’t it’. He’d been told by his guru boss that a good salesman matches his banter with the class of customer he is selling to. The truth was, it was cold with occasional winter showers. He was full of it from the off. The lad even frowned, recognising his mistake but carried on.
David stood there resting his hand on the top of the door. The alarm was still pulsing high pitched in the house behind him. ‘Burnt your toast sir, doesn’t sound like a good start to the day does it’. ‘Not really mate its…’ David managed to squeeze in but the lad just wanted to get on with it. ‘Well I can make your day sir. What I’m giving you here, is an opportunity to sell off some of you gold for scrap value. Bit of extra cash in these hard times for you’.
He pinched at his gelled, US-Marine type hair cut as he looked shiftily around at the outside world. David thought that this was small karma for not letting nick squeeze in a word at the pantomime. This lad had done to him what he had done to nick. He sympathised with nick’s momentary, now in the past frustration.
‘No you’re wasting your time mate. I’ve got none, I’m skint’. The lad’s tone changed, he’d heard this sort of knock back before. He knew otherwise. This guy had some and he wasn’t going to let on. But the truth was the truth and David had no gold at all. ‘you sure mate, don’t wanna waste your and my time. You dress like you’ve got money. Nice laptop on your floor I saw through the window. You sure mate?’
‘Jesus you don’t give up do you fella. I said no. I’ve got no gold and I dress as best as I can with what I got’. ‘Bit flash though init’. David had managed to take care of his things and the clothes he had on were near two years old. ‘you don’t need to make excuses up mate’ he said in an almost aggressive tone, ‘Right I’m off. I’m getting no joy out of you, am I’. ‘looks that way doesn’t it’ David said sarcastically. The lad looked right back at him. ‘So, where you off to mate? To anyone who got gold? You can take a few of these to give to your mates and old dears in your family, they usually have gold about’ he said this while handing David a small handful of leaflets.
“Old Uncle Terry’s Gold Brokers” was written at the top and at the bottom was a selection of three mobile phone numbers, with some pixelated photos of gold rings, watches and a sliver candle stick. They had been cut out by hand and they dripped with nastiness.
‘No, we’re all short mate, I’m off to sign on’, David said not thinking, handing the small hand full back. He had just lost his tolerance and so had the meathead at the door. ‘Alright mate, cheers for nothing. Have a nice day’. With that fine statement the lad cocked his head forward a couple of times in an agitated twitch. Removing his left foot from the door he turned and walked off to knock on some other doors. As David shut the door he heard the lad shout down the street. ‘Fucking waste of my time that Uncle Terry, so much for your sales technique. Where’s Danny gone? He needs a crack’. The voice took a while to fade away. It took several doors down before David could hear him no more and the situation would take even longer to leave David’s head. He knew he would dwell on this for a while. On the upside the open door had blown fresh air across the face of the smoke detector and peace had returned to the house. All until he stubbed his toe on the kitchen table leg as he reached for some socks out of the washing basket, which was sat on it.
He took a moment to calm down and compose himself while he rubbed his toe between cool fingers. As the pain calmed he pulled his socks on, hopping unbalanced towards the kitchen surface to down the rest of his warm black coffee. He knocked it back so hard a tidal wave of liquid passed over his top lip and ran down his chin. He quickly jutted out his chin as far forward as he could so the running fall of coffee dripped on the kitchen surface and not on his clean ironed shirt. Without thinking he wiped the remaining drips off his chin with his clean sleeve.
With a sigh, he chastised himself, thinking, what a twat. He walked into the front room, sat down, grabbed his boots and pulled them on, mindful of his sore toe. Once on he grabbed his keys, the little cash he had and his signing on plastic wallet with its paperwork in it. Stashing it all in his pockets, David took his coat off the hook and left the house slamming the door behind him. The loud bang of wood on wood caught the cold caller’s attention. They turned their heads to have a good look. David hadn’t noticed them, his mind was on justifying his actions for the fortnight.
He walked on down the street throwing the coat around his shoulders slipping in one arm after the other and shrugged it on so it came to a rest comfortably. Rows of terraces always attracted cold callers, surveys, paid agency staffed charity donation sellers on an unfair wack of pay and people who just forgot where they lived. They didn’t have to open gates or walk up and down driveways, it was door after door after door. A quick constant line of potential customers and they could be finished and gone after lunch time, maybe it was sometimes dependent on how athletic they felt on the day.
Each of their allocation dropped on mats and folded jammed in letter boxes or they’d knock on and give a little crafty banter to the odd pretty mum or nan. This was all done to try for a sale of some inane product that no one really needed. On a good day that everything got handed out and lines passed lips followed by a good number of nervous rejections. These were inevitable for the cold calling salesman but there was the odd score. All in all, the job was over quicker than in the typical middle class areas.
David remembered one fella that came to the door. A friendly Irish traveller offering to clean out guttering, mend and replace old with the new stuff he had on the roof of his transit van. After the banter and the rejection of David’s practiced line ‘the land lord sorts all that stuff out for me’, the traveller David had noticed stood there without his foot in the door and a good couple of feet away. He asked if he could use David’s pisser. Pisser was his words not David’s. ‘Now you’re taking the piss,’ David laughed. ‘I’ll be quick mate, got a couple of coins to give you, a couple of quid. If you let me…’ he paused and frowned and then smiled ‘er. Sorry, please. Would it be ok, if I could use your lavatory?’
The seller had become the paying punter. The product he had bought was relief. David jokingly bartered three pounds off him. True enough the traveller dug deep in his pocket and pulled out a wedge of notes passed them to his empty hand and dug deep again and fingered his pocket and pulled out the three coin’s he needed for a piss.
He gave David the three pounds and David stepped aside giving the traveller directions to the bathroom upstairs. He wasn’t that fussed that a stranger was in his house at that stage because he’d just moved in and the place was near empty. Bugger all to steal but he believed in giving people the benefit of the doubt and on giving a chance to prove themselves. His important papers were out of sight and all the other things he had were second hand or many handed, hand-me-overs.
He stood in the door way, enjoying the cool summer breeze and the sun on his bare arms and face. Five minutes later the man came back down, he’d wet and styled his dark hair, combed it right through. He neatened himself up in the front room on his way out and told David that he’d cleaned up after himself and put bleach down the toilet.
David gave him the money back with a smile. The traveller held out his hand and David took it. The hand shake was firm and he gave David a polite thank you and a good strong Catholic blessing on him and his house. ‘My name is Matthew o’donoghue…’ David gave him his name in return and then Matthew continued, ‘…thank you and good bye, oh, by the way, here is my number if you need it’ he said, handing David his plain business card with only his name and a number on it. There were no details of what sort of business he was in. Maybe just a jack of all trades and master of nothing much.
Matthew finished, saying while laughing, ‘I can see you might need furnishing, ya best keep that number,’ he said in a smooth thick accent. He walked away and David pocketed the card Matthew had given him and gently shut the door on the warmth outside. He was content that he had done a good deed and made a good acquaintance. David knew that he probably never would use the number but he kept hold of it anyway, it was doubtful he would see him again. He went up to the bathroom and before he could get there to check if Matthew was truthful, he could smell the bleach and bathroom spray. In happy amazement, he noticed that Matthew had cleaned the sink too.
David had walked out from the terraces, passed his three local tower blocks towards town. The clouds began to give in and spit down light rain. The drops absorbed into his clothing. With a mile or so of walking left, he’d be in the Job Centre, sat on the red chairs stained with a few years filth. He pictured himself sat steaming, the rain evaporating, uncomfortably helped from the standard over heating of government buildings. He would sit there fidgeting, sat in a row with the few damp smelling souls on either side, all waiting to be called up and counselled in how to find any job more efficiently.
He and those sat around him must think of moving to find work, this was said as a final warning by one member of job centre staff one time, another would say subtly that being a single dad wasn’t an excuse not to find full time work. They didn’t seem to care if you were a single dad having to get the kids to school for 7:45 and then be there to pick them up at 5:30 and that was if you could get places on the breakfast club and afterschool club.
A sex change started to seem like a good option. Being female seemed easier. Like if David sat in damp drag with other men dressed similarly but in their own take on feminine style, all sat to his left and right. It could be a picture. If they didn’t do more to find the jobs that complicated and forbid life, they would seem to lose out anyway. In some cases everything and worse access to their children.
He was sure that each member of frontline staff had their own complacent take on the Department of Work and Pensions forceful employment policies. They seemed to make them up, instead of reading the daily memos or weekly updates on how to deliver policy to the unemployed. He thought this was a maybe. Maybe because they needed to hit their targets and please their bosses into keeping their contracts going, so they wouldn’t have to find themselves receiving patronising shit from one of their own.
They all had temporary contacts apart from the lucky few who hadn’t taken some form of redundancy. They had managed to stay on a full time contract subject to annual review. But they were just as disillusioned as much as the frustrated souls that they came face to face with every working day.
This was all speculation, pub talk. David was thinking along the lines of minor conspiracy theories. No one knew for sure but they had their own suspicions and ideas. David walked in through the slow automatic doors into the Job Centre, his glasses immediately misted up with a thin layer of condensation. The spitting clouds had fallen low and turned on a misty drizzle. He sat down on one of the red dirt stained chairs next to a young lass and a couple of rough handed fellas.