The characters in this piece are pure fiction.
Charles Blunt checked in the hall mirror as he paused to pick up his keys. All seemed to be in order, as usual. Smoothing his thinning hair for the third time that morning, flicking one or two invisible specks from his lapel and straightening his MCC tie, he looked up with satisfaction at the signed photograph of Maggie smiling down on him. He addressed the portrait, ‘Morning, Maggie,’ silently adding, ‘You were never one to give up.’
Ever since school, Charles had been painfully conscious of looking up to people. Literally. Well, he thought as he prepared for his meeting, he had done all right: worked his way up the company ranks, and now he had beautiful Janey, tall and willowy, a comfortable house and a good pension, when others had got through two or three marriages and were still paying out to their ex-wives. With this comforting thought, Charles turned to receive his wife’s kiss, opened the front door, shouted at the dogs – terriers, short-legged and tenacious, like himself – to get back inside, and swung himself into the driving seat. The car too was low-slung, though the similarity had not occurred to him, and sporty, an aspiration which certainly did.
Charles carefully reversed out of the drive into the avenue which led to nowhere except the golf club, and which, after the commuters had left for the manic world of the Waterloo Line, was deserted. Through the village and past the cricket green, he ran through a mental check-list of what he needed for his meeting: briefcase, agenda, notes, pens and mobile. He knew it was all there, carefully packed in the briefcase the night before.
Happily anticipating the meeting, Charles headed into town. It should not take too long to convince the others of the rightness of his case: for weeks he had been making careful calculations in notebooks and on the computer, columns of argument and counter-argument. And always there were the beautiful figures, for figures could not be argued with. All he had to do was explain the beauty of his scheme.
‘I wonder if McInnes will make it,” he mused in the thickening traffic. If anyone was going to be difficult it would be Jim McInnes, but Charles was confident that by the time he had given the committee the benefit of his logic there was little likelihood of trouble. The fellow had not his gift with words, Charles thought, while he tried to forget over-hearing McInnes in the Gents once refer to him as ‘a pompous little prat’.
Pondering these things, Charles did not notice the lights had changed. As his Size Six shoe slammed on the brake pedal, he heard a screech and a bang as lovingly-polished metallic bronze crunched into the muddy rear of the truck in front. His view was filled by the tailgate which taunted him with the message ‘Tories Out’ scrawled on its dusty surface.The driver of the truck was already on his feet in the road. ‘Oi! Why don’t you ****ing look where you’re going? You colourblind or what?’
Reluctantly, Charles emerged, to look up at a well-built individual clad in muddy overalls and a scowl. Aware of the inadvisability of admitting responsibility, for once he was stumped for something to say. The man in overalls began pushing at the tailgate of the truck as if hoping it might fall off. Against all advice, Charles found himself saying ‘I’m sorry,’ but realising that the car’s crumpled front suggested possible damage to the engine, while the truck seemed relatively unharmed, he quickly gathered himself to his full height to try and redeem the situation.
‘But I have to say you did stop very suddenly, very suddenly indeed.’
Charles knew this was feeble even as he spoke. The truck driver folded his arms and frowned down at him: ‘I’m not stupid. My truck was on the lights, right? Not moving, right? You better do two things: gimme the name of your insurers and get that car out of the road.’
Charles knew when he was beaten. The traffic queue that had built up was growing restive, the lights having changed twice during the altercation, and he doubted whether the car was legally drivable. But he made a final effort, drawing out his wallet and producing a note: ‘Would this help to fix matters?’