Parking ticket

He tried to laugh off the second parking ticket as he grabbed it from his windscreen. High Street was long, and no longer quite so high, with most of the shops closed down and boarded off.  The clearway seemed unnecessary since the freeway was completed and the afternoon traffic was barely heavier than the rest of the day.  Craig and his colleagues had been parking outside the real estate agency for almost a year now with no concern, but suddenly, they were all being hit.  He looked along the street and saw the little white tickets flapping beneath the windscreen wipers of the Merc, the Beamer and the Porche. He smirked and stuck his head back into the office.

“Better move your cars, folks.  Soon they’ll be towed!”

“Bullshit.” Christopher Hogan, the boss, wheezed his way through the office. “I had a word to council yesterday.  I told them to bloody well remove these signs or I’ll stick them up their collective arse.”

A young woman sitting in the reception area looked away, clearly amused at the old bloke’s remarks.

“Oh, excuse my language, love. I just can’t stand the bureaucracy.  You being taken care of?”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Hogan gave Cherie, the receptionist a pointed look, and she nervously jumped up and took the clipboard from the new customer.

“No problems?  I’ll take this to Maryanne, she’ll be with you in no time.” Cherie smiled nervously, looked up at Hogan, then raced away to the offices at the back. Hogan smiled at the woman who nodded and went back to her phone. Craig coughed and waved his ticket toward Hogan. Hogan took it from Craig. He leaned in, conspiratorially.

“I’ll take this and the others down to the town hall tomorrow.  And if they don’t do something about it, they’ll be hearing from Greg.  Don’t you worry about this, mate.”

Hogan took the ticket from Craig.  Craig nodded, wondering if Hogan’s old mate Greg Ritten MP actually ever acted on any of the hundreds of complaints Hogan took to him.

“Got to get to Fagen St – meeting a potential.  Going to head straight from there to the game, so I’ll catch you tomorrow.”

Hogan clapped him on his back.

“Good man.  Go get them, tiger.”

Hogan half pushed Craig out the door.  Craig chuckled to himself – bugger that if he was going to pay the ticket, it could be a company expense.  He skipped around the car and jumped in when he noticed another white slip flapping under the windscreen. He heaved himself out of the car again and grabbed it.  Another ticket. He looked up and down the street, but saw no sign of an inspector. He looked into the office, and saw Hogan leaning down, sleazing on to the new female client – typical. He checked his watch – no time to explain.  He’d give him the ticket in the morning – giving the boss the shits first thing in the morning.  Nothing quite like it. He shoved the ticket in the console and sped off to his appointment.

The client was already waiting at the house when he pulled up. There were no parks available on the street apart from the disabled spot.  He looked up and down, couldn’t see any wheelchairs and scooted in. 

“Sorry to keep you waiting, folks.  Minor fender bender on the way – oh, not mine, don’t you worry about that!”

Craig leaned in and shook their hands – his and then hers.  Always the man first – it may have been a minor power play, but it never seemed to hurt.

“Mr and Mrs… Thompson?”

“Call me Terry.” Terry put his hand on the small of his wife’s back. “And this is Theresa.  Call her Terry too, if you dare!”

Theresa gave the tight smile of a woman who’d heard the joke every single time she’d been introduced and probably hadn’t liked it in the first place. Craig ushered them in to the property – a single story terrace house which was in the right suburb, increasing the asking price far beyond what the house was worth. He gave them a brief tour, showing off the skylights and the functional fireplace, and left them to talk amongst themselves. He walked out the to fence and took a casual look to his car.  He couldn’t be sure from the distance, but it seemed to be a parking ticket.  Craig clenched his jaw, looked up and down the street, and again, no sign of an inspector. This is bullshit.

“It’s a very nice place,” said Theresa from behind him.  Craig wheeled around.

“What?”

Theresa looked shocked. Craig realised that he had misplaced his aggression, took a second and a breath.

“I’m sorry, I… yes, yes it is a lovely place isn’t it?” It took him a moment to recover. “The previous owners hate to have to give it up, but ith three kids and school fees looming, they felt they had no choice. It’s also a delightful area to live in, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“Live here? Ha!” Terry swung open the screen door. It banged against the weatherboard, and both Theresa and Craig flinched. Terry continued, no noticing. “To live around here you have to be artsy-fartsy or a student or a fairy – or all three! Ha!”

Terry laughed at his own joke, Theresa looked at the ground, embarrassed.  Craig forced out a laugh.

“So, it’s a deal?”

Terry laughed again.”Not so quick.  Got to talk to the accountant.  How about I pop into your office tomorrow, say, ten?”

Craig took Terry’s outstretched hand. “Ten it is.  Great.  Nice to meet you Terry, and er…” he look sycophantically at Terry as he took Theresa’s hand. “Terry.”

Terry laughed at the reference back to his joke. Theresa gave Craig a look as if to suggest that, whilst he hadn’t rated much respect in the first place, any she’d had was completely gone now.  Craig looked slightly apologetic.

Terry and Theresa headed to their car.  Craig did a quick lap of the house, making sure everything was locked and in its place.  He headed back to his car, snatched the ticket from the dashboard and got in.  He was fuming.  He was furious at the three tickets he’d accumulated in two days.  He was furious at Terry for his bad joke, for Theresa for dismissing him, at himself for lowering himself to that level – he was even furious at the new female customer who let Hogan talk to her as if he had a chance.  He looked at his watch – half an hour until the game.  That’d give him a chance to get in, changed and have a beer before playing.  Not the ideal warm up, but what was needed tonight.

 

 

Craig heaved a huge sigh of relief as the buzzer went, signaling the end of the game. He’d been part of the company mixed netball team since he started at Hogan and Co and was always amazed at how energetic and competitive the game had been.  The league consisted of real estate firms from throughout the inner North, and a win was sometimes seen as more important to the business than a good sale.  Depending on the opponent.  Tonight had been hard, but Goode Real Estate was a small company – only two offices and barely enough employees for a team, so losing to them held little weight to the Hogan team.

Craig nodded at a couple of colleagues as he headed out – he usually stayed for a drink, but tonight he wanted to get to the gym so he headed out quickly.  He walked back to his car, breathing in the cool air thinking about the parking ticket.  He turned to corner to where it was parked and stopped.  The panels along the side were scraped, the mirror was hanging off and the tyre was flat. He strode up to the car, seeing a note attached to the window.  He grabbed the note – thank goodness the bimbo had left her details.  He smiled.  Cathy. Could be a goer.  He got in, flung the note on the passenger seat and started the engine.  As he looked as the mirror he eye caught another flicker under the windscreen wiper.  Another bloody ticket.

 

 

 

I love you

The second time he told her he loved her, she punched him in the mouth and left. Tim watched her leave, watched the door slam, watched her shadow disappear from behind the glass panels in the front door and waited. His jaw was clenched. His lip stung.  He licked and tasted blood, and smirked. He snatched a cigarette from the packet on the table and looked around for a light. He checked his pockets, then went to the kitchen and lit the cigarette from the burner.  He stomped through the house and out to the front gate.  Taking a deep breath of smoke, he looked up and down the road, seeing if he could spot Sam walking away. Nothing.  He sat on the front fence.

“Cup of tea?” Jenny, Tim’s housemate, called out from the house.

“Yeah. Ta.” Tim finished the cigarette and flicked the butt into the gutter.  He took one last look for her and walked inside. He slumped onto the couch and flicked on the television.  Rage was still on, the sound was still down from when they’d come in last night. He flicked up the volume and watched as some young angry boys walked in black and white down the road, singing something. He flicked through the channels, through the usual Sunday morning crap.

“Here.” Tim took the mug from Jenny. She sat on the armchair and curled her legs up under herself. “Brrr…”

Tim cleared a tiny spot on the coffee table for his mug, got up and turned the heater on.  It took four goes before it fired up, having a challenging mechanism like those in most inner suburban shared houses.  The elements started to turn red.  Tim looked at it for a moment then, satisfied that it was really on and wasn’t going to flick off again, he grabbed his tea and sat back down.

“So… I take it Sam’s gone?”

Tim sighed. He took a sip from his tea, and the heat from his mug stung his mouth. “Yeah. She’s gone.”

“You ok?”

Tim couldn’t look at her. Despite the fight, despite her insults and his sarcasm, he had thought Sam was special.  He thought that he really did love her, no matter how false that had sounded when he’d yelled it across the room. He picked up his cigarettes and headed to the back yard for another smoke.  Jenny sighed, grabbed the remote and flicked through the channels.

 

Tim took a deep drag on his cigarette.  He thought about how it had started.  Sam was a friend of a friend who had been camping near them at one of the so-called summer festivals. Summer – it had been nice the first night, then the rains picked up, and by sunset on the second day, there were eight of them crammed into his friend Jon’s white van. The mattress that Jon was going to sleep on was covered in mud, but he didn’t care.  They were sitting all over each other, anytime anyone tried to move a leg or arm, a ripple of groans and giggles went through the rest. They passed around a coke bottle filled with whiskey and a couple of joints.  Sam was almost laying on top of Tim.  They talked about themselves and each other and Blur and Oasis and the Beatles and Elvis and Brett Easton Ellis and travel. They smiled, and kissed.  Tim was glad that the interior light wasn’t working so he could avoid the eyes of his friends. He knew they’d be giving each other that sickly smile, perhaps even shooting him a thumbs up.  He wanted to keep it private and good. The next day, they’d gone on the ferris wheel, and as they reached the top, they kissed long and hard.  There was still a sprinkling of rain. She’d smiled at him, then looked away, looking down at the people below. “I love you.” He’d said it, said it loudly, certainly loud enough for her to hear.  But she didn’t respond. At least, not much. He was sure he’d seen her neck tighten and her breath catch.  Then she’d turned and started talking about one of the bands that they’d missed in the van last night. He wasn’t sure. Had he heard her?

Tim felt the heat of the cigarette reach his fingers.  He flicked it onto the ground, stood on it and picked up the butt and put it in the ashtray. He flicked the rest of the tea into the garden. He had no plans for the rest of the day. He went to his room, dumping the mug on the sink on the way, noting that Jenny had gone back to bed and that the TV was off. In his room, he checked his phone for messages, pulled off his jeans and hopped into bed. He shut his eyes and tried to sleep his thoughts of Sam away.