I bought a car last week. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision, well not exactly though Jackson wouldn’t agree. But then Jackson and I have less and less in common these days, even if we do live together. In fact, though hardly politically correct, common is just about the right word to describe Jackson, dead common. Now I’m no snob, if anything I lean to the left in politics and bend over backwards to see other people’s points of view, but that said there are limits.
I try to keep an open mind for despite shortcoming he is the most easy going and cheerful companion. It’s his habits that get me down. The way he never wipes his feet when he comes into the house on wet days and is apt to flop on the sofa after a walk in the rain. Then there’s the way he eats. Now my own background is not exactly silver spoon, but at least I pride myself with a modicum of table manners. But one look at Jackson at table would send a hardened cannibal running for the aspirin. It’s not just the offensive way he slurps up everything like a second hand Hoover that sickens, but the awful gulping sounds he makes while he does it. Sounds that conjure horror movies of overweight porkers rootling for baked beans in a swamp. Sounds that sometimes make sharing space with Jackson close to intolerable.
But that’s enough of Jackson and his disagreeable habits. Apart from coming along and adding the odd and inevitable crude gesture, he took no part in buying the car. As I said this business of finding a suitable vehicle was far from a whim. I had been planning on buying one for the last couple of days. Ever since that fateful evening when with a skinful of vodka I had opened my mouth and promised Debbie an idyllic weekend in Devon.
‘We’ll take the car, drive down to a cosy little Inn I know on the Oakhamption road,’ I listened to myself babble with horror. ‘Spend the day close to nature, picnicking on the moors then head back for a couple of civilised vodka tonics before a snug little candlelight supper for two.’ Why oh why do I read those trashy magazines on the train to work?
But the damage was done. Now it was a case of losing face and Debbie, or getting a car and hopefully Debbie as well later on. Not much of an option really. At least The Countryman’s Guide to Pubs and Hostelries had produced a manageable priced overdraft hotel in Oakhampton, which even boasted some moorland within a half hours drive if one could find it. So now it was just the matter of a car. I had checked the ads in the local paper and was actually heading for the pub to make the necessary phone calls, when I spotted this blue car being washed under the railway viaduct.
I am totally lacking in mechanical knowledge, whatever takes place under the bonnet of a car is a topic of total mystery and disinterest to me but at least this one looked clean. So crossing the street I followed the line of tattered bunting to a caravan that had Cars for Rent scribbled in faded pink lipstick on the window and poked my head round the door.
‘Excuse me,’ I asked the man inside, ‘but could you tell me where I can buy a car round here?’
Bald as an egg and grossly overweight, the man massaged a hairy roll of fat that had escaped beneath his oil-smeared sweatshirt. ‘Buy a car eh,’ he echoed, looking surprised.
‘Yes, though I’m afraid it will have to be second hand,’ I added apologetically.
‘Well of course you wants second hand. Who would buy new in these hard times?’ The huge man heaved himself to his feet and scratched an armpit reflectively. ‘But I’m afraid we only rents them here, that is as a rule we only rents them.’ He added thoughtfully, eyeing me slowly up and down. ‘But then what are rules for, if they ain’t for breaking? At least that’s what they say.’ He laughed and belched companionably, ‘and if that’s the way of it then why not break a few more eh? I mean that’s if you’re really set on buying?’ He regarded me fondly. ‘Though naturally, it all hinges on the kind of dosh you have in mind.’
‘Oh, naturally,” I agreed hurriedly, ‘dosh must be a major factor.’ And I told him how much I had.
He rasped at the stubble on his chin for a while then regretfully shook his head. ‘Pity you couldn’t run to a couple of hundred more, I mean just a couple. If you could only dig down real deep and spring another double, I was thinking of letting you have that one out there.’ He led the way outside and pointed proudly at the blue car, whose wash complete was now being polished to a gleaming sheen.
‘Go on for ever they do,’ he sighed admiringly. ‘Not that she’s old of course, hardly got her second wind you might say. But as the years roll by it’s a comfort to know you’ve got a reliable lively motor purring away there powerfully under the bonnet. Mind you,’ he added sympathetically, ‘if you ain’t got the dosh, you ain’t got the dosh and there’s an end to it. But cheer up, don’t let it get you down mate,’ he smiled bravely, ‘You’re bound to come across another motor that takes your fancy one of these days. Maybe not the bargain that one is out there of course, but something you can take a shine to none the less.’
‘I suppose I could run to another hundred,’ I said desperately, ‘but that’s my absolute limit.’ Suddenly I wanted that car more than anything in the world.
‘Cash?’ The man rubbed his chin.
‘Oh yes,’ I cried eagerly, ‘I have the money with me.’
‘Well in that case why not? Why not indeed? It always warms the cockles to see them going to a good home.’ He smiled broadly and held out his hand to seal the bargain. As we were going back into the caravan to sign the papers, something made him turn and glance over his shoulders and for the first time his smiling face creased in a frown.
‘Of course she’s your vehicle now, so it’s no business of mine. But I can’t help saying I wouldn’t let that friend of yours do that to any car of mine I held in high regard. Particularly after a good wax polishing.’
Following his gaze I was mortified to see Jackson deliberately peeing over the back wheel. As if sensing my embarrassment he turned his head, looked me straight in the eye, stuck his tongue out and laughed. He seemed surprised when for once I laughed right back in his face. But then he didn’t know that while I was whooping it up with Debbie in Devon, he would be spending his weekend gulping his dinner with the rest of the food slurpers in the local kennels.