Been a little too busy to work on this blog for the past week. In the meantime here’s a question for my numerous followers (well, about 12 followers actually). This is something that I began a year ago and then abandoned. I sent this one to an agent and was asked for the full m/s. However, I didn’t have the energy to continue past three chapters.
I’d appreciate a little feedback. Anyone?
‘Come off it Dino, you gotta be serious about this.’
‘I am serious, Jimmy. I mean it.’
‘But you haven’t done anything like this for… Just how long has it been?’
‘Twenty-five years… Twenty six, I suppose, if you’re counting.’
‘So why now – after all this time?’
‘It’s my granddaughter’s wedding… I just want to make it a special day for her.’
In the back room of the Royal Oak in Canning Town Dino Andretti stood before the desk of Jimmy Smith like a naughty schoolboy waiting for the cane. He was sixty-two-years-of-age: balding, fat, nineteen or twenty stone. In contrast, Jimmy couldn’t have been older than thirty-five: slicked back hair, wiry thin, scholarly glasses. From an elegant leather seat he looked Dino up and down through those glasses. It was difficult to know what was going through his mind.
‘Look Dino,’ he said, almost tenderly. ‘Our families go back a long way, there’s no denying that. But if it’s money you’re after we can work something out. You don’t have to do something like this.’
‘I can do it, Jimmy,’ said Dino, a hint of iron in his voice. ‘Don’t you worry about me. I wouldn’t be here if I couldn’t… Some things you never forget.’
Jimmy shook his head slowly. Dino and his father had been at school together. They had been best friends until the day he died. It pained Jimmy to have to say this: ‘I’m sorry Dino, but you have to be realistic. It’s a young man’s game. It always has been. At your age you should be putting your feet up. Doing the garden. Something peaceful.’
Standing beside Jimmy in a smart grey suit was Alan Civil. Alan was a muscular twenty-year-old and this was the first time that he had met Dino. He had none of his boss’s sentiment and simply saw Dino for what he was. ‘No offence, mate,’ he interjected. ‘But you ain’t up to it. Anyone can see that.’
Jimmy shot an angry glare at his boy, who took a step backwards and immediately fell silent. ‘Take no notice of the kid, Dino,’ he said. ‘He means well but he hasn’t learned to control that mouth of his.’
Dino stiffened. The buttons bulged on his too-tight jacket. He loosened his tie to let some air in. ‘He’ll learn,’ he said, slowly turning to look Alan in the eye. ‘If they’ve got a brain they all learn.’
Alan stepped forward, about to say something. But a short, sharp glance from Jimmy once again cut him short. Jimmy slid open a drawer in his desk and pulled out a metal cashbox. He opened it and took out a pristine brick of banknotes. He counted it nonchalantly, accustomed to holding large sums of money, licking the tips of his fingers as he did so. ‘Listen Dino,’ he said at last. ‘Here’s ten. You know I wouldn’t do this for anybody else but it’s yours. Just take it and walk out of the door now. No need to worry about paying me back. You can get me some tickets or something… Get the kids some autographs…’
Dino looked at the money and fell silent for a moment. ‘Thank-you Jimmy,’ he sighed. ‘It’s not that I’m not grateful but it’s… it’s not enough.’
Jimmy Smith looked surprised. ‘Not enough? Come again?’ he said.
‘He says it’s not enough, Mr. Smith,’ said Alan, anxious to be involved.
‘I need sixty,’ Dino continued.
Jimmy’s eyes widened. ‘Sixty?’ he said. ‘What is this? The fucking royal wedding?’
‘Ha, ha…royal wedding,’ said Alan.
‘I know,’ said Dino, ignoring the boy. ‘These things cost a lot of money these days. There’s the cars, the catering and whatnot. It all adds up. The invites alone are almost a grand. It’s daylight robbery, I’m telling you.’
But Jimmy was already suspicious. ‘You sure you need the money for a wedding?’ he asked. ‘You ain’t in trouble are you? You know you can tell me if you are.’
‘No. Nothing like that,’ replied Dino. ‘I just want to give my little girl a special day.’
Jimmy thought for a moment. ‘Listen, I shouldn’t do this but I can let you have twenty,’ he said reluctantly. ‘But I can’t give it to you for nothing. I’ll need you to buy me a drink some day soon. You know that.’
Dino looked at the younger man awkwardly and dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief. ‘I don’t want to offend you, Jimmy,’ he said. ‘But I need sixty and I hear tell that the purse for this job is eighty.’
Jimmy Smith found himself laughing at the older man. ‘Fucking purse,’ he said. ‘Never heard it called that before.’
Jimmy stopped for a moment and once again looked the older man up and down. He was known for his cold dead eyes. More than once they had seen him though difficult times. Alan Civil took the silence as an opportunity to fill the room with his voice. ‘Listen old man,’ he said. ‘Mr. Smith’s a busy man. Why don’t you just take the money and fuck off like a good old boy?’
Under normal circumstances a speech such as this would have been acceptable. Alan’s main job description was to intimidate people who were getting on his boss’s tits. Today, however, Alan was lacking a proper sense of history. He simply had no idea who he was talking to.
Dino moved fast. And even though the younger man was a good foot taller than him, he instantly had Alan pinned against the wall by his throat. ‘Watch your fucking mouth, kid,’ he said, hitting Alan hard in the stomach, making him gasp. ‘Learn some fucking respect.’
Dino hit him a second time, this time in the balls. Alan let out a yelp and crumpled to the floor groaning. Less than four seconds had elapsed since Alan’s insult.
‘Leave the little wanker alone, Dino,’ said Jimmy, smiling but somehow looking serious at the same time. ‘He don’t mean no harm. He’s just young.’
‘Sorry Jim,’ said Dino. ‘I know that. Yes, I know that.’ He was aware that he had overreacted. But it was a calculated overreaction. Normally he would have let the boy’s insult go but he was keen to prove a point.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Jimmy. ‘All the same, that was pretty to watch, Dino. You don’t waste any time do you? You’re still a sight to behold.’
‘Thanks. You know I appreciate you saying that.’
‘Listen Dino, let me think about it for a day or two. I’m not saying that I’m giving you the work but I’ll give it some consideration. You’re no spring chicken any more, Dino, and this job needs a safe pair of hands.’
‘You won’t find yourself a safer pair of hands.’
‘Well that’s arguable,’ said Jimmy, staring at a pile of papers at his desk like an accountant. ‘There’s three or four boys I know who would have this for their breakfast.’
‘I’m sure that’s true,’ said Dino. ‘But they’re not as hungry as I am right now.’