A Bicycle or a Car

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
How a small time crook survives.

Submitted: September 14, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 14, 2014





The district where Ted and Babs had their shabby junk shop, was in one of the anonymous parts of London surrounding the airport. There were hardly any trees to speak of and the houses had pathetically small gardens, where no one sat outside in deckchairs to sun themselves in the good weather, due to the almost constant noise of aircraft passing overhead. It was a miracle that anyone could hear anything at all of what another was saying, however plenty of chat of the dishonest business kind was very well heard. A police car was to be seen regularly cruising around the district in a vague effort to make sure that nothing untoward took place. But of course, anything shady that could be imagined happened with or without police presence. It was as if the police car passing by made the petty criminals even more daring. Every so often a couple of policemen would enter into Ted’s tatty looking premises, and ask him a few questions about the origin of the articles on sale. Ted always had a ready answer, “The people who come to sell me something, whatever it is, want cash, not cheques. What they need the money for is none of my business, which is to sell the goods for the best price possible. No name - no pack drill. The seller likes it and so do we.”

If a policeman wanted to annoy Ted, he would ask. “Do you pay tax on this stuff?”

Ted would draw himself up to his full height of five-foot-six inches, puff his chest out and say, “You’re being very offensive, and anyway, that question is for a lawyer to ask, not you. Don’t overstep yourself. There are some around here who wouldn’t take too kindly to that question.”

“Very well. Hope you’re not too offended.”

Ted knew when to be magnanimous, and said, “Constable, if there’s anything special you want for your mother or girlfriend, let me know and I’ll see what can be done.”

“Thanks a lot, Ted. I’ll try and remember that in future.”


Ted always knew when he had won a policeman over to his side. The majority of the police in that district had bought bargains from the other operators like Ted. No one lost out on a deal. The shop owners sold stuff to the law, and the law paid much less for it. Every business had its own suppliers and it was considered dishonourable to steal another’s purveyor of ‘illegal-gotten’ merchandise.


Every Friday night at the start of the weekend when everyone had only one thing on their minds, and that was to relax and go out maybe, or at least enjoy themselves, a forty-year-old man would arrive at Ted’s, riding a bicycle and holding onto another, or with just one.

“Evening, Ted,” the nameless man would say, and Ted trotted out from whatever he was up to, to see his bicycle purveyor.

“Hello, what’ve you got for me today?”

“Two lovely bikes you’ll have no difficulty in getting rid of,” the man said.

“Is the price still the same or do you want more?”

“The price is still the same. These are good bikes, but are not anything too out of the ordinary. Would you prefer something special? I can get you a nice car too if you’re interested.”

Ted at times wondered what he was supposed to do with so many bikes, but then somehow or other he managed to sell all of them. In fact, he was well known for having really good products for sale at his establishment.

“Thanks, Mate. I’ll accept whatever you sell me. Goodnight.  I’ll see you next week.”

The bicycle man took the cash and walked off in the direction of the nearest underground station. Ted took the bikes to his back yard and showed them to the group of young men who did jobs for him. The bikes would be cleaned of any finger prints and then sanded down to hide the original colour and the number. Then they would eventually be re-sprayed and put inside the shop.

On the other hand, the man who sold Ted the bicycles, would take the underground to his home in another part of London, and go into his house and show his earnings to his wife, who asked him, “How did you do this time?”

“Fine, no quibbles about the price. This time I managed to take two down with me.”

“Now don’t go getting too daring or it’ll get you into trouble. Let’s see, have we got enough for a decent holiday yet?” the wife said, counting the cash out on the kitchen table while her husband opened a bottle of beer and took it into the nicely furnished sitting-room.


The residential estate in a West Country town had been exclusively built for the over-fifties, or in other words for retirees. All those who had properties there, were in that age group. The bungalows and houses had immaculate front lawns, which ran down to the pavements and were also immaculate. The back gardens were where the owners let their imaginations run riot. No two were the same, but by far the best was the one at the very end of the road, which was on the corner. That bungalow boasted a front garden that ran round the bungalow and the garage, creating an air that the others didn’t have, and that was, that it had been more expensive to buy. The back garden being so much larger had been professionally laid out, and the elderly lady who owned it was very proud of her residence.

Silas inhabited the penultimate bungalow, which meant that the lovely one was next door. His garden was very pretty, but nowhere near as grand as his neighbour’s. The other residents of the street also had gardens like Silas’s, that were not difficult for old hands, with perhaps a slight touch of rheumatism or arthritis, able to maintain. Silas loved looking into his neighbour’s garden to check out the plants, and when he fancied one he’d go to a garden centre and buy one similar for his own garden.


One day, which Silas considered one of the worst days of his life, a For Sale notice went up in the lovely bungalow’s front garden. When he next espied his neighbour leave from her front door, he approached her, “Good morning, I see you’re thinking of leaving us.”

His lovely neighbour looked at him, and smiled, “Yes, it’s my son’s idea. He and his wife are moving to the coast and want me to be living nearer them down there. I think it’s all right, as the sea air is said to be good for you. I hope the sale won’t take long, as now I’ve made up my mind I’d like to be on the move.”

Silas felt strange by her revelation of the son he had rarely seen. He was offended by that strange person in his neighbour’s life who held that kind of authority. As a single man, Silas found it difficult to understand any kind of power that existed in a family relationship. Silas knew that he had no alternative but to face up to having new neighbours.


After a two month wait, the new family moved into what had once been a very beautiful bungalow. Silas saw with acute dismay, that there seemed to be no end of children entering and leaving the property. For some mysterious reason the mother spent the time they were all at home, screaming at them. Then there were the bicycles left scattered all over the pavements. Silas even found the children’s bicycles in his drive-way. The father owned a huge van of sorts, sometimes he left it parked in the street blocking any other vehicle from getting into the street. One day, when an ambulance had to pick up an ailing elderly lady, it had needed to go along the pavement in order to arrive at her home, then get a stretcher out to carry her to the vehicle. All kinds of complaints were made, but the authorities never took any notice as there was no blood shed.


By chance, Silas had a friend, Humphrey, from his past when he had lived in the London area, who knew Ted, and one weekend when his old friend was visiting, Humphrey saw the trouble-making family in action. Fortunately for Silas, it was one of the worst weekends. The mother’s shouting penetrated the walls of Silas’s bungalow through the garage.

The two elderly gentlemen went out for a pub-lunch in the country. Returning home, they saw on reaching the entrance to the street where the bungalows were, it was impossible for a car to enter, there was a mountain of bicycles blocking the way. Silas drove up onto the pavement and with some manoeuvring got his car into his garage.

There were some neighbours making an effort to get the bicycles out of the way. The mother came out of the bungalow and shouted, “Don’t you touch my children’s bikes or I’ll have you up for theft.” After that she went back inside, slamming the front door behind her.

Humphrey was silent for a few minutes and then said, “You have a serious problem here with that family. They’ll never leave, but the rest of you will.”

“You’re right, but we’re stumped for a solution.” Silas said, sad at the thought he might have to sell up due to having noisy neighbours.


Humphrey went back to London a couple of days later and went to visit Ted, who was busy stripping down some motorbikes ready for selling as spare parts. Humphrey told him Silas’s problem.

 “No trouble, I’ll send the boys down next weekend. Give me your friend’s address, and it might be a good idea if you went down there to keep an eye on things, and make sure the plan I have in mind comes off. OK?” Ted informed his old friend.


On the Wednesday, Humphrey rang Silas saying, “Is it all right with you, if I come down on Friday evening till Sunday evening or Monday morning?”

“Yes, of course. That’d be lovely. You know how much I enjoy your company. It gets a bit lonely down here. I don’t know that many people yet. See you Friday, then. Bye,”

In the meantime, Ted was cluing up his boys as to what they had to do, down in the country on the following Friday night.


On Friday night, Silas and Humphrey went out to a pub for dinner and a drink, and Silas introduced him to some of the few new people in his life. The evening passed off well, and the two made their way back to the bungalow light-heartedly. The street was, as usual, blocked off by the children’s bicycles.

“I don’t know how you stand it,” Humphrey said.

“None of us know how we stand it. The noise from them, is worse than living near Heathrow airport. Why do those parents think we want to have anything to do with their brats? That is what I don’t understand. Anyway, I’m off to bed. Glad you’re here and enjoyed the dinner and the drinks. Good night.”

Humphrey, bade him goodnight, and then sat in the dark in the spare bedroom. He pulled up the blind very slowly and not very much, in order to see what was going to happen in the street. He rang the mobile that Ted’s boys’ used, and told them the location of the street bungalows, and left the rest up to them. He stayed at his post at the bedroom window, till about three-thirty in the morning. The bicycles were still blocking the entrance to the street. The only activity to be seen was a dark vehicle that drew up on the corner, of which the only thing to be seen was the bonnet. Dark figures moved silently, swiftly grabbing the bicycles and putting them into the van. Then it drove off. The observer got into bed, smiling to himself at the thought of what was probably going to take place in a few hours’ time.


Ted rang Humphrey to inform him of the safe arrival of the bicycles in London, that all had gone off well, just as planned. The bicycles would fetch enough money to pay for the night’s little adventure. The residents of the street where Silas lived would sleep soundly.


On Saturday morning at seven o’clock, it started raining. At first it was fine rain and then turned into a torrent. The horror mother shouted at her husband to go down and get the children’s bicycles in. The equally awful father, went downstairs and opened the front-door only to see the gutters in the street running with water. He looked in the direction his wife had told him to, but there was no sign of any bicycles. The silly man then looked up and down the street, and still no bicycles. He then looked inside the garage, but there was only his van, which he had put away for once, for fear of having it stolen. Feeling wet, cold, and fed up with having his Saturday lie in disturbed, he went upstairs to the marital bedroom. His wife said, “Taken your time, haven’t you? Where’ve you put them?”

“I haven’t put them anywhere. They weren’t where you said they were.”

The bedside lamp was switched on, and his maddened wife began to scream and shout, “What have you done with those bikes? You know I haven’t finished paying for them yet?”

“You go down there and see if you can find any children’s bikes. It’s chucking it down, and I have to go to work on Monday, and I can’t afford to catch a cold.”


Silas and Humphrey went into town after breakfast to do some shopping, “Did you notice how quiet it was this morning, and the parents had taken the bicycles in. Things must be looking up.”

“It might be because it’s raining,” said Humphrey.


They got back to the bungalow, and saw a police car on the corner of the road. One of the policemen got out of the car and stopped them, “Have either of you seen any children’s bicycles?”

“No, we haven’t. There are no children around here, this is a retired persons’ district.” Silas said lying.

“An irate mother rang us up saying her children’s bikes had been stolen.”

“Where were they stolen from?” Silas asked.

“According to her, from outside her house. They’d been left there.”

“Why were they left in the street?” Silas asked.

“That’s what we asked,” the policeman said. He turned to Humphrey and asked him if he knew anything about the children’s bikes.

Silas explained, “He doesn’t live here, he’s just down for the weekend.”

“Good morning, Gentlemen. Sorry we stopped you, but we’ve already spoken to everyone else in the area, and it appears nobody knows anything,” the policeman said, getting back into his car.

“What’s a family like that doing in a street like this? They must stand out like a sore thumb,” said the policeman driving off.

“Not just a sore thumb, but a noisy one too. It wouldn’t surprise me if the old folk had got rid of the bicycles themselves.”

The rest of the weekend passed off quietly, and with the rain being so heavy, no children were seen on the street.


Ted, on the other hand was issuing his boys with orders of the colours he wanted for the bicycles. As they were relatively new, the finish would look incredible. Babs went out into the yard and said to Ted, “Are there any bikes that would suit the grandchildren, and thereby save myself some money?”

Ted checked them out for sizes, and said, “There are two, that would be OK for the two youngest. What colours shall we do them in?”

“Blue for Skye, and pink for Amber.” Babs left the yard and went back inside the untidy shop, where she reigned supreme, receiving all kinds of jewellery and ornaments. Like Ted, she was never worried about the provenance of the goods. After all, money is money.


Silas never felt well in the bungalow after the new family moved in, and one day a For Sale notice went up in his front garden. He didn’t tell the estate agent about the family from Hell, as he just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Silas told the estate agent he fancied living in a real village and not on an estate, however nice it was. The agent accompanied Silas to many villages to look over houses and bungalows. At last Silas found a pretty house in a pretty village. The first question he asked was, “Are there children in the neighbouring houses?”

The answer was, “Certainly not.”

Silas put a deposit on the property even before selling his own bungalow. He wasn’t worried about not having sold the bungalow yet, as he knew it would sell eventually.

Silas moved out, and a few weeks later an elderly couple moved in. Silas meanwhile was busily and happily setting himself up in his new home.


Ted’s bicycle supplier began to broaden out his business, and drove a car to Ted, who thought to himself that his purveyor had gone mad. “Where am I supposed to put a car? It’s too big to leave in the yard, and I need a much larger spray to touch up the paint work. I don’t know. Let me think for a moment.” Ted sat down on a wooden chair and thought and thought. At last he said, “My son-in-law’s got a yard out back of his house, I’ll get him to take it on. Now, I’ll have to pay you more. A car isn’t as cheap as a bike.”

“Thanks, Mate. See you next week. A car or a bike?”

“Whatever you bring, I’ll sell, and what I don’t sell, I’ll use for spare parts, and those of a car would be very welcome to all the car mechanics around here. See you next week, then.”


The car-and-bicycle man returned home on the underground, happy with the extra money in his pocket. His wife was waiting for him, sitting in the kitchen as always, to see what he had been paid. The man put the money down on the table and his wife counted it out on the table. “That’s more than enough for the round-the-world cruise we’ve been looking forward to for so long.” The wife got onto the internet after supper, and booked them for a three-month cruise all round the world. She sat and smiled at her husband, and said, “How many bikes did it take for us to get enough to pay for the holiday?”


One evening some months later when the car-and-bicycle man and his wife were away on their cruise of a lifetime, Ted was visited by one of the local policemen. “Hello, Ted, have you ever been sold any bikes that were stolen?”

“How should I know?” Ted asked in his usual acid tone.

“Only there seems to have been a rise in stealing bikes in certain areas of London, and so we’ve all been asked if anyone’s seen or heard anything suspicious.”

Ted was a supreme actor, and thought of all the petty crooks like himself, trying to make a living and maintain a family. He knew none of them would say anything to anybody about any dodgy bikes, it just wasn’t in their best interests. “Haven’t you got anything better to do than worry about bicycle thefts? There are a lot of unsolved murders and rapes out there.”

The policeman said, “You’re right, Ted. Next time I pass by, it’ll be to buy a bike for my daughter. Bye. See you soon.”

“Cheers,” Ted said, knowing full well that the car-and-bicycle man would never be caught. People like him never were, it was as Ted had said to the policeman, there were other more important things to do that had priority.


After Silas had moved out to live in an idyllic village, several other house owners did the same, and went to live as far away as they could to forget the screaming woman.


The father of the noisy family one day walked out, never to return, and left the angry mother with her even angrier children. As the mother didn’t have a job, she went on benefits, and was given a council house in a district where she and her noisy children didn’t stand out, because they fitted in as part of the local scenery.


The residential area soon reverted to being an oasis of peace and tranquillity.

© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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