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It Only Takes a Phone Call

Based on a true story about what might have been.

By Simon MorrellPublished 3 years ago 12 min read

“I thought you said you would never go there. You would never behave like your father.”

The contempt in her voice is obvious, but it is not for me, but the man who raised me.

“I take another shot of my drink before turning to my wife.

“Sylvia, what choice do I have?”

It saddens me we have come to this, but here we are.

I see her nod and her lip quiver before she takes her own shot.

“I remember the first time you know,” I say, and then I see her shudder.

“I know,” she whispers, and then we are back some fifteen years in an old warehouse my dad used to have.

“Just get it done,” he says to me from behind the safety of his desk. His “power desk” he calls it and then he laughs. Laughs at me, at my gentleness, at my lack of courage, apparently.

“What?” he’s says. “You don’t have it in you?”

We both know there is nothing further from the truth, physically at least.

Many years of boxing and wrestling make me a very capable man, but not that capable that I am going to thrash somebody within an inch of their life over four hundred pounds and so I ignore his almost childish remarks. We both know better.

“Don’t worry, I have people who do this kind of thing for me. Close the office door on your way out.”

His words are scathing, certainly not meant with any kind of fatherly love. No, it is more like controlling abuse. I’ll not rise to it. Not worth losing a job for, not with a young wife and a child to support.

I see him reach for the phone as I glance back, before heading back to the ‘big-room’ as we call it, the one where the staff toil all day, manufacturing to feed their own children and my dad’s ego. He is a man that likes to control people.

An hour or so goes by and then they arrive. Two large, angry looking men who throw me a glance, pitying as it is.

Without knocking, they enter my dad’s office. Money changes hands and there is not a person on the factory floor that doesn’t know someone is about to get hurt.

Sorry, not my circus, not my monkeys. Of course now, well now, I see things a little differently.

I turn back to Sylvia, who stands at the kitchen window, looking out at the quiet road we live in. It used to be a better place than this, a happier place until a turn of events that changed all that.

“He knew what he was getting into, nobody forced him,” I say nodding t the house next door and reaching for another drink, this time a large one.

“He used to be your friend,” she says, and I am slightly annoyed that she seems to think I should let this go.

“A friend doesn’t take twenty grand of a man’s money,” I say, trying to keep the edge out of my voice. And then I remind her of how we got here.

A great chance is what Andy called it. We could make it work because that’s what friends do, make things work. That was his hard sell.

I was sceptical as we walked around the shell of a building, but he was persuasive enough for me to see the bar, the dance floor, the crowds flooding in, and indeed, they did. Yes, they did.

We hear the door open behind us and in walks my life. Sylvia and our daughter Laura. Only thirteen and the beauty of her mum. I’m going to have to keep my eye on this one, but deep down I know I’m not, for not only does she have her mum’s looks, it also her pride, her heart, her generosity she has inherited.

There is no harm in this girl at all and heaven help a guy who may try to take advantage of her when she reaches the right age. Heaven help him.

Andy gives me a nudge.

“So what do you say, Adam? Twenty grand and you are in,” and I am indeed. It has persuaded me.

A bank transfer into his account, a partnership drawn up and six months later Jake’s bar opens for the first time. The crowds flood in as promised, but I am surprised that the money doesn’t come in as fast as I thought it would, but we will get there. It will happen when it happens.

Except it doesn’t and we co-exist with a dozen other pubs and clubs in this seaside town, we fight for the same punters.

Theme nights, bouncy boxing, big screen TVs showing big screen sports and the crowds are there. We threw the lot at it, but it is still a scramble to see the money. I’m at a loss to understand where it is and so how does Andy rock up in a new Mercedes? What is his magic formula?

He has never been exactly Gangster Number One, but always thought he was on the edge. He isn’t even close, but that doesn’t stop him from hanging around the bouncers, pretending he is one of the boys.

Trouble is, when they have to go to work he is nowhere to be found, but I suppose, at the risk of almost repeating myself, not his circus, not his monkeys.

Still, they seem to tolerate him even if I catch the looks between them all behind his back. Contempt, I think it is called.

Books and accounts aren’t my thing, don’t really understand them, but even I can work out that what is going in the till, what our local taxman will see is not adding up to the life Andy is living, but he is my friend, trust is trust right?

That trust starts to wear thin when we are seeing no return on our money and yet he is abandoning ship for another weekend away. Night at a flash hotel, putting his money behind someone else’s’ bar, zipping around in that flash car of his.

The conversations between his buddies on the door that turn to whispers when I enter the room start to help me put two and two together.

The sleight-of-hand tricks that take place on the weekends he bothers to turn in, as the Head Door slips him something that he slips somebody else further down the line, trips to the toilet, noses dripping after hours.

That is the thing with trust, you see. It makes you blind. It isn’t a case of I didn’t see it because I didn’t want to; it is a case of I never saw it because I would never, ever put him in for this.

Also, he knows I wouldn’t touch that filth with a big stick and so keeps me out of that loop and, thankfully, out of that payroll, but there is still the matter of my investment. Sylvia and I struggle with our mortgage whilst he struggles to choose next weekend’s destination for a big blowout, no sign of anything coming our way.

I try my best to believe this isn’t the case. He is my best friend,

God-daughter to beautiful Laura, a man I never thought would stoop so low.

Do I begrudge him his C class, all shiny and black? Not if it was from honest money and certainly not if we were in this together, but we aren’t. That much is now apparent.

Seems to me that as well as being skint, we, Sylvia and I, are doing more than our fair share of shifts. It is taking its toll, something we have never had in our marriage before. The constant battle with the bank balance and the sixty-hour weeks we are both pulling are driving us to snap at each other.

What is worse is the eye candy hanging off Andy’s arms of a weekend.

I take it up with him, but lately it is like talking to a wall.

“Andy, I don’t enjoy turning a blind eye to what you are obviously up to. I’ll do it to keep the peace between us, but in front of Sylvia? Come on man, you know she is best friends with Sharon.”

He gives me a hard stare, but the truth is he simply isn’t up to it.

“What my wife doesn’t know, doesn’t hurt her,’ he says, then breaks into a grin. “What, you aren’t even tempted?”

I shake my head, both angry and sad. “No Andy, not in the slightest. There is something else I need to speak to you about.”

He groans and rolls his eyes.

“Go on, Adam, what is it that has you so worked up now?”

“Money,” I say. “We were promised some return on our investment, but all I seem to get is holes in my shoes.”

He leans back against the wall, a cockier stance I’ve never seen from him before.

“When I see it, you will see it too,” he says with a smirk.

I have absolutely no idea when this started, when my best friend began acting like a complete bell end and it troubles me.

“When you see it?” I ask him in disbelief. “Do you not see it in the shiny Merc parked outside your house? Did you forget we are neighbours? It’s rubbing salt in the wounds.”

He gives it some thought.

“That’s fair enough, I suppose. I’ll have a look into the books, see what I can do.”

It is all I can do to stop myself reminding him he isn’t doing us favours; it is what we are owed, what we agreed on, but I know that should I kick off, he will dodge this.

I tell all this to my Sylvia. Sitting in the darkened kitchen and hearing the party noises next door as Andy once again spends money he doesn’t have on booze, drugs and young skirt, Sharon long since gone. I inform Sylvia of the truth she already knows and what steps I have already taken, honest steps to get him to see straight, get him to realise how his selfish behaviour is affecting us, but now I seem to have no choice. I also tell her that certain people are pushing me to take a path I really don’t want to.

“You know exactly who is putting pressure on me to resolve this his way,” I say and try to keep the anger from my voice.

“If he said put your hands in the fire, would you?” Her own anger is clear.

I shake my head sadly and as I take a drink, my mind wanders back to days earlier, back at the warehouse.

“You do know it is hurting my granddaughter, don’t you?”

It is all can do to laugh at the nonsense that comes out of my father’s mouth.

“I am sure that is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning. Come to think of it, since this all went shit shaped, when was the last time you came to visit her? What, you don’t like what you see next door?”

My dad shakes his head in despair.

“You need to sort this.’

He reaches into his draw, pulls out a sheet of paper and hands it to me. I don’t need to look at it to know it contains a phone number.

“They are around on Sunday. Other business in the area, stuff that doesn’t concern you, but make the right choice.”

I take a look at him, the man who is supposed to be decent and fair, and now I really do feel stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I mean what is fair about where I am? What is fair about teaching a young girl that violence isn’t really the answer when she sees her dad counting pennies as his ex-best mate, the one who took his money, return from yet another holiday?

Of course, the bar is all gone now. Jake’s bar shut months ago, but low and behold, Andy opens another one just around the corner. This time without me. New name, same story.

To make matters worse, he catches me coming home from a run one afternoon as he heads out with his new friends. He has the cheek, the fucking cheek, to invite me to opening night with them.

“Let’s put it all behind us, Adam, let’s move on,” he says with a sincerity I almost believe, but it is all I can do from choking the life out of the fucker and so I do what I do. I turn the other cheek and I turn it just in time to see Laura watching from the kitchen window.

Andy follows my gaze and sees her too, offering a friendly/not friendly wave. She ducks, but not before the three of us silently acknowledge what has just happened.

“I want our twenty grand back,” I say through gritted teeth. “I’ve been fair enough, but my patience does not run past Sylvia and me pulling all the shifts whilst you snort. It does not run past the motorbike you have parked next to your Merc whilst we traipse back to my dad’s factory and hit the slave zone again.

You know what he is like Andy, you know what he puts me though. That bar was my way out.”

He cuts me off. “Yeah, well, things don’t always work out the way they should do,” and then there is that salt in the wound again. “She’s a lovely bike, don’t you think?”

He pats the saddle of the shiny Harley. “Jump on, I’ll give you a spin on it,” he says with a creepy grin and it is then, it is then I think my mind is made up and this is what I tell Sylvia, back in the darkened kitchen, listening to the laughs, hollers and bass of the loud music, whilst we struggle with next week’s electric bill.

“And what then?” She asks. “You think he is just going to come up with twenty grand, just like that?”

I push my drink to one side and look her in the eye.

“I don’t know,” I say. “But there won’t be any more of this shit,” motioning to the party house. “I’ve tried everything else.”

She stands and takes a close look at me.

“Whatever,” she says. “Do whatever you need to do, but remember this, this takes you one step closer to being just like your dad.”

“That’s a chance I’ll take,” I say as I pick up both the phone and the piece of paper my dad gave me. I do what I need to do.

“They are in the area now,” I tell her, but she doesn’t look up from her booze and I see her tears drop on to the table.

Time passes, only an hour or so, but it is not enough for me to change my mind. I see the car pull up and recognise the two big men who exit it, engine still running. They don’t even look toward our house, but I know they know I am there. I am there watching them, the same as I was all those years ago at my dad’s warehouse.

Sylvia jumps as the larger one, big fucker he is, hammers on the door, and then she winces when she hears Andy’s voice.

“What? Who the fuck are you, banging on my door…” but they cut his words off and turn into a scream. I see the big man grab him by the throat and he is frog marched to the waiting car. His pain obvious, his terror shared.

At the last minute, he wriggles free of the big man’s grip and turns toward my house.

“Adam! Adam, please! I’ll get you the dosh, I promise!” His begging is pitiful, but somehow it fuels me on. I open the front door and look him in the eye.

“Well, we will see then Andy won’t we? Now we will see.” I know now that Laura has joined us in the kitchen, but is it approval or abomination I feel from her?

The big man regains his grip, nods at me and they put Andy in the car.

I pray he sees sense. I pray it isn’t too late for him, because I know he has the money to pay us back, but is he too stupid, pig-headed or ignorant? I simply don’t know. I pray for all of us. That he can convince these big men that he will do the right thing and I pray he can convince them in time and then I turn to Sylvia who at last regains eye contact.

“And all it took was one phone call,” I say to her.

It Only Takes a Phone call is based on a true story of what might have been.

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Short Story

About the Creator

Simon Morrell

I am the author of the award winning book From Bullied to Black Belt telling ofjourney from an agoraphobic, panic attack sufferer to award winning fighter & writer. My mission? To help people beat fear into submission & win at life!

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