Three

FOUR LITRES OF COCA-COLA PER DAY, PHILIP.

THAT’S AMAZING SANDRA, AND AT WHAT POINT DID YOU REALISE THAT THIS HABIT NEEDED TO CHANGE?

I FOUND OUT MY ‘USBAND HAD BEEN HAVIN’ AN AFFAIR, PHILIP. HE SAID… [CRYING NOISES]

YOU’RE BEING VERY BRAVE SANDRA. CAN WE GET HER SOME TISSUES PLEASE? GO ON.

…HE SAID THAT I WAS FAT AND THAT HE DIDN’T LOVE ME ANYMORE. SAID IT WAS MY FAULT THAT HE HAD TO GET IT ELSEWHERE.

[BOOING NOISES]

AND HAVE YOU SPOKEN TO YOUR HUSBAND SINCE YOUR SURGERY? HAS HE SEEN THE TRANSFORMATION?

YES PHILIP. HE SAYS THAT I LOOK UNNATURAL NOW. HE THINKS I SHOULD HAVE FOCUSED ON WEIGHT LOSS RATHER THAN… THESE!

[BOOING NOISES]

I could hear the telly before I even reached the front door, and as I tried the handle I was hit with the disappointing realisation that I had no keys. My house key was attached to my He-Man key ring, which was attached to my car keys, which – to the best of my knowledge – were in the ignition barrel of my knackered Ford Fiesta over in Huddersfield. At least that’s where I last saw it, but it had likely been cleared up and towed  away by now. Fuck knows where it might have ended up.

The doorstep looked damp despite the sunshine, but I wasn’t in a position to care. I turned around and planted myself down, then pulled out the vodka and took a long swig.

Aaron might be up. I’ll see if he can let me in.

AARON MATE ITS GAV IM LOCKED OUT AN YR DADS CAR GONE CAN U COME N LET ME IN? [send]

I dropped the phone onto the step next to the vodka, and pulled the Mars Bar from my bag. This was actually quite nice – a little unplanned morning picnic in the middle of grim Ravensthorpe. A rare opportunity to relax whilst I wait for elements beyond my control to fall into place. I was unable to do anything except enjoy the quiet terraced street with my vodka and my chocolate, and await the arrival of my socially disadvantaged cousin Aaron. That was, of course, assuming he was even awake.

Aaron is a nice lad, if not somewhat misguided. He’s about a year younger than me, and his days and nights are spent in his bedroom at his mum’s house – my auntie’s house, which is just five minutes from here – in a haze of weed smoke and war-games.

It used to be all four of us living together: my uncle Frank, my auntie Linda, my cousin Aaron, and me. My uncle and auntie split up about four years ago, and Aaron chose to go with his mum. In fact, Aaron would have happily never seen his dad again. Given the option, I think Aaron would have happily seen his dad encased in concrete and dropped in the freezing North Sea. Better still – locked in a car boot and crushed to death by the huge machines at his own scrap yard. Aaron’s not a huge fan of his dad.

My uncle Frank is a short, balding guy with a pot belly. He perpetually has a hand-rolled fag dangling from his lips – something that gives the house we share a specific earthy, foisty hum – and his hands, face, and clothes are always filthy owing to the amount of time he spends in the vicinity of leaked oil and dismantled cars.

Frank owns and runs Frank’s Motor Spares, a popular and successful scrap yard over in Brighouse, about a 15 minute drive from our digs in Ravey. He employs ten members of staff, including me, and the majority of his time is spent at the yard keeping a steady eye on his team of young reprobates as they collect and gut cars in all states – from old bangers that are no longer roadworthy, to brand new sports cars that have featured in all manner of impressive, gruesome, and fatal mishaps.

As well as his un-filmstar-esque looks and stale otherworldly pong, Frank manages to fall short of the mark in areas of general health and hygiene too. He usually sleeps on the sofa as he’s too lazy to go upstairs to bed after a long day at the yard, he rarely showers or bathes, and his diet consists mainly of all-day breakfasts. He is, to be frank (pun entirely intended), a fucking slob. Even when he was married to my auntie he was a fucking slob. Even back then he still stank, ate nothing but fried meat, and slept on the sofa – albeit in slightly less filthy surroundings owing to my auntie’s wizardry with a vacuum cleaner and a bottle of bleach.

As, then, you can probably imagine – no-one was more surprised than Frank when, around five years ago, a woman other than his wife started paying him unwarranted levels of attention. A woman with bright red lipstick and massive floppy breasts, each bigger than his head.

Candice Bread had a white Mini Cooper, and it was after a night of drinking Lambrini on her own, in front of the telly, that she decided to chance a quick 2am drive to the local garage for some more fags. She successfully completed her mission, even finding time to stand around and flirt with Rizwan – the BP Garage attendant on the other side of the hatch – but on her return journey she momentarily lost control of her car whilst trying to light up a Superking Menthol, and smashed off her driver’s side wing mirror against that of a parked Mazda. Two days later she was searching eBay for a replacement, which her eldest son said he’d be able to fit for her, when she happened upon an ideal listing by the charmingly superhero-sounding Frank Fury. Messages were exchanged, suitability was confirmed (of the wing mirror – but well done on being so pre-emptive), and a date and time was set for transfer of the wing mirror’s custody from Frank to Candice.

It wasn’t just the wing mirror that was given a new lease of life though, that night in a McDonald’s car park in Huddersfield. Frank came away from their meeting starry-eyed – his heart full to bursting, his balls empty. Candice came away with a replacement wing mirror, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes, and a small semen stain on the lower right sleeve of her favourite pink jacket.

Thus was born Frank Fury’s six-month extra-marital affair. Long nights purported to be spent working at the yard, which weren’t unheard of given that forty percent of car accidents happen at night, were in fact spent attending covert meetings with Candice in countryside pub car parks, and frequenting Travelodges  and Premier Inns in locations far enough away to feel safe, but near enough to be able to return home within an hour if so required. Frank and Candice had favourite rendezvous spots in Doncaster, Otley, and just outside of Burnley. Just telling you this story is making me feel romantic.

It was during one of Frank and Candice’s more heated liaisons, specifically on a Tuesday afternoon, in room 112 at a Travelodge on the M18 motorway near Doncaster, that Aaron received a curious phone call from his father.

Aaron was in Mr Kandola’s Off Licence when his phone rang. He was queuing to buy an ice-cold can of Lilt and a packet of Rizlas when the sound of 90s dance hit Zombie Nation began emanating from his ancient Nokia in his hoodie pocket, the vibrations causing his keys and loose change to jangle and trill.

“Dad?”

No answer.

“Dad? Can you hear us?”

Nothing.

Aaron pushed the handset hard against his ear. It wasn’t complete silence – there was the sound of atmospheric static, coming in waves and punctuated by the occasional rustling or possibly a faint human breath.

Aaron ended the call and tried to ring his dad straight back.

[This is Frank at Frank’s Motor Spares. Leave a message.]

There are a lot of things that Aaron could be justifiably accused of: laziness, untidiness, lack of ambition, an unhealthy level of maternal reliance, but at his very core he was a good person. He loved animals, although he’d never owned a pet, and his general view of other human beings was one of positivity. One thing, however, that Aaron couldn’t be accused of is being a worrier – and it’s for that very reason that he shrugged, paid his money to Mr Kandola, and went about his day with no further thought given to the ominous phone call.

Days passed, even weeks, and the memory of the call had all but faded from Aaron’s memory. He and Frank were like ships in the night, only ever really finding time for conversation if their paths happened to cross in the kitchen during short foraging trips from their respective base camps – Frank straying from the front room sofa on the hunt for cold leftover sausages, or Aaron taking time from his late night gaming sessions to pop downstairs for a pint of orange squash and a bowl of Frosties. They weren’t what you would call a close father and son unit, but they were family and as such they cared for each other. Frank would make an effort to ask about Aaron’s latest gaming adventures, a friendly way of opening conversations before asking more direct questions about job hunting or further education. Aaron would stand in his usual spot, his back leaned against the sink unit, deflecting his dad’s usual stock questions with his usual stock answers:

“Yea it’s goin’ alright. Just plannin’ a raid on some Iraqis wi’ some lads from America.”

or

“Aye I’ve been looking at t’KFC website. Apparently there’s a new one openin’ in Dewsbury so they might ‘ave some jobs.”

or

“I don’t mind dad. Yard’s okay for them lads but it’s not really for me. Them lads you hire are all a bit scary, including our Gav. Maybe I’ll call down one day aye.”

And so the conversations went on. Computer games, jobs, computer games, jobs, but never a mention of the phone call. Never, that was, until it happened again.

It was a Tuesday, just like last time, when Aaron received his next strange phone call. It was around lunchtime, and he was laying on his bed flicking through various TV channels, having devoured a ham sandwich, when his phone rang – a welcome distraction from the endless daytime telly adverts about funeral insurance, chair lifts, and walk-in bathtubs.

“Hi dad!”

No answer, just rhythmic static noises, and Aaron’s memory of the last similar call returned to him. Aaron said nothing further, but listened closely. There was definitely the sound of breathing; short sharp breaths as though someone on the other end was in the final few hundred metres of running a marathon. One last push across the finishing line – which in hindsight was probably not too far from the truth.

Aaron’s mind raced with possibilities. He knew his dad was probably safe, as this had happened once before.

“It must be a network problem?” He thought to himself. “Dad’s phone is old – maybe this is just a symptom of it dying?”

As Aaron listened closely, the intensity and frequency of the white noise seemed to increase. It sounded for half-a-second as if something had rubbed directly against the other phone’s microphone, causing the sound to quickly peak into a crescendo of short, sharp, distorted noises – and then there was silence. Aaron took his phone away from his ear and looked down at the screen which indicated that the call had ended, cut short by the other party. He placed the handset down on his bed next to the empty plate, and swung his legs down onto the carpet, rubbing his eyes and resting his face into his palms as he tried to make sense of what was going on.

“What the fuck!?” He whispered to himself, and just as he went to pick the phone up again it vibrated in his hand, the screen displaying DAD MOBILE in flashing black letters. This time Aaron chose not to speak – just to listen. He pressed [accept].

There was giggling. It sounded like either a child or a female – the pitch was too high to be a man. The giggling soon became full blown laughing, and with this change in dynamic it became clear the voice was that of a female.

“Who could this be? Is someone using my dad’s phone to play a prank?”

And then came the kicker, the evidence that the phone was indeed in the vicinity of Aaron’s father.

“Ooh Frank!” Said the female voice, spoken in the way that a lady might react when being presented with a particularly flamboyant knickerbocker glory.

“I want you to stick that up me arse! Right to the nuts!”

“Yes Candice,” came the gruff reply, in the unmistakable voice of Aaron’s father. “I  love fucking you Candice…

…I’m going to stick it right up your wrong ‘un Candice.”

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