A MADE UP TRUE SHORT STORY
Dave Quilty is a builder who loves playing his guitar. The trouble is that no one wants to listen, and he can’t get a gig anywhere. But when, unexpectedly, he finds a captive audience, he has a final chance to prove the doubters wrong. And maybe reveal a hidden side too.
Or read sample chapter below…
The Quilt (sample chapter)
In the summer of 1991, I graduated into a recession and found myself lugging a huge sports bag stuffed with shirts up and down north London’s Kentish Town Road. The job was not what I thought it would be. And certainly not what the advert in the back pages of the Evening Standard led me to believe it would be:
$$$$$$ WORK IN FASHION $$$$$$
It was the dollar signs that had caught my eye. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the small print:
My employer was a new company called Sleeves, and top Sleeves salesman Jonathon had assured me the sky was the limit financially, and the concept was brilliant. We were bringing shops to the people. “Mail order was the future,” he told me as we sat in McDonald’s after my training morning. “Shopkeepers don’t have time to go to shops”, he said, licking ketchup from his fingers as he scoffed a Big Mac, “so we are bringing the shop to them”.
I laughed to myself at this silly notion, but he seemed to be earning top dollar and even proved it as I watched him walk in and out of different shops on the high street and sell shirts from his Sleeves bag to people behind the counter. Shopkeepers had welcomed him with open arms! But it was now my second day, and thus far, I had only managed to get sworn at and told where I could shove my shirts. I feared it was about to happen again as I pushed open the door to Mabel’s Dry Cleaners.
Mabel was behind the counter, an old lady with nicotine-stained hair and horn-rimmed spectacles. She looked up expectantly as the shop bell rang, but her face darkened as I appeared, and I instinctively knew I was about as welcome as a fart in a sauna.
I gave her a half-hearted smile before giving her the spiel.
“Hello, I’m from Sleeves…”
Mabel was not impressed, but I decided to continue.
“…the shop that er…comes to you!”
There was a clattering sound from behind the counter. Mabel had a zimmer-frame but was moving quickly as she negotiated obstacles to chauffeur me out.
“I told you yesterday..”
“Go on, hop it. Not interested.”
This was the moment to follow my instructions. Jonathon was quite clear.
‘Be firm and don’t take no for an answer. Get them to feel the fabric – ask if they have seen the summer range.’
But I could see Mabel was looking for her stick. I decided to retreat.
“Sorry, I won’t bother you again.”
I left Mabel and her not-so-beautiful laundrette and surveyed Kentish Town Road, considering my options. I had run out of shops to annoy – I was not cut out for this. The afternoon sun was oppressively hot, so I removed my Jim Morrison leather jacket and shoved it to the bottom of my already-heaving sports bag full of shirts. It was becoming heavier by the second, and my hangover from hell was not helping.
So far, I had earned the grand sum of zero pounds and zero pence. How much longer could I keep going into shops that had already said no? Was doing the same thing but expecting a different answer, not insanity? And how had Jonathon made it look so easy? Maybe it was time to return to Fitzrovia and confront my demons. Or, more precisely, Tina and Gillian.
Some pigeons were pecking away at a puddle of vomit on the pavement outside a kebab shop. What disgusting creatures – rats with wings, I would think twice about entertaining them on my head at Trafalgar Square in future. At least they were doing a clean-up job. I suppose cleaning vomit would be a worse job than my current one.
I decided to grab a table at the Brindisi cafe and order a cappuccino. I needed to make a list of everything I needed to do to improve my life. But instead, I just stared gloomily out of the window at the passersby feeling very sorry for myself. My coffee arrived, dehydrating me further and taking my hangover to a new low. Yes, currently, life could be filed in the shit column, and I needed to make some fundamental changes.
Across the road, I saw the C2 bus pull up. It would take me down to Great Portland Street in one go. Decision made. I left the cafe without paying and jumped on the bus. It felt good to dump my bag on the seat next to me and be temporarily free of my heavy load, and with forward movement, I felt confident I was making the right decision – although I was back to square one regarding paying the rent. I leant my head on the grease-smeared window and felt the rattle and roll of the bus as unconquerable London whizzed by.