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.
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.