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Daniel Bettis

Daniel Bettis

Appleby-in-Westmorland, United Kingdom

'Stackerdom' has evolved from to a short script, to a feature-length screenplay which was highly successful on various sites.

Now in novel form, I couldn't be happier with it.

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About the author

Last year that a friend suggested adapting my script into a novel, and so I gave it a bash... and surprised myself. It's now a 60,000 word novel and I'm (finally) very happy with the results, and can't wait to get it published!

This is written in UK English, and so there are not only some differences in spellings, but some words too. The sample chapters contain words that non Brits may not be familiar with:

Yanks = Americans (not offensive)
Tatties = Potatoes
Carer = Care-giver
Telly = TV
Rollies = Roll-up cigarettes
Pissed =Drunk (not annoyed)
36 Stone = About 500 pounds
Nappies - Diapers
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If My Shackle-shack of Stackerdom hits 500 pre-orders by Thursday 16 March 2023 8 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 7 traditional publishers when the campaign ends. If My Shackle-shack of Stackerdom hits 250 pre-orders by Thursday 16 March 2023 8 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 11 hybrid publishers when the campaign ends. If My Shackle-shack of Stackerdom hits 500 pre-orders by Thursday 16 March 2023 8 P.M. UTC, then it will be pitched to 24 publishers when the campaign ends.
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Publishizer is a crowdfunding literary agency. If 500 pre-orders is reached, then we pitch this proposal to traditional publishers. If not reached, then it gets pitched to non-traditional publishers.

My Shackle-shack of Stackerdom

Gwen, the mother of a down-and-out teenager, and husband to a good-for-nothing husband, gives the pair an ultimatum which sets about the most harebrained scheme the world has ever seen..

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Commercial Fiction
60,000 words
100% complete
2 publishers interested

Synopsis

Born into an outcast family on the fringes of Welsh society, Bevan (18), resides with his parents in a grotty caravan on a forgotten field on the outskirts of town. The mugging of an elderly lady shocks the small community, and Taffy (40s), Bevan's disreputable father and most infamous swindler, becomes the number one suspect. For Taffy's long-suffering wife, Gwen (40s), this proves to be 'final straw' and she gives him an ultimatum: to change his ways or she's out. They must clean up the mess they're in — the seemingly endless cycle of poverty and crime, the drugs, the alcohol — it's all driving her insane. Having no concept of playing by the rule book, and having zero grasp of how to earn an honest living — as a last-ditch attempt to save his tattered marriage, Taffy contrives a two-part ruse — and it's the most staggeringly harebrained scheme ever. Even for him this is bonkers!

The cutup conman slaps his scheme together, simultaneously attempting to keep the 'wolf from the door' with a variety of hilarious, sneaky scams that just have a habit of backfiring. He confides in Bevan, insisting that his compliance is integral to his elaborate ploy, saying he's been casing a certain local business, and that he's discovered vast wealth that could be theirs if his plan is executed properly. With the all-important riches, he advises that the second part of the scheme is to commence straight after the robbery — so long as the vital storm hits as forecast. Bevan agrees to participate in the crazy caper, but knowing full well it couldn't possibly go to plan, he sees an opportunity of his own. Armed with sensitive information, he confides in his mum, and the two devise an ingenious ruse. The two approach the owner of the business that Taffy intends to target. Bevan, Gwen and the business proprietor weave their own web, conspiring to encourage the robbery and lure Taffy into a trap of their own. A collection is set up in aid of their scheme, and the townsfolk give generously — desperate to see the infamous flimflammer finally receiving some form of comeuppance. The funds are stashed in the business' safe alongside wads of fake cash.

On the night of the storm, the two break into the business and its stuffed safe. Bevan swipes the real money, while Taffy clears it of counterfeit cash. They make their getaway, then get into position: Taffy in the caravan, Bevan in the Jeep. It all seems to be going according to Taffy's plan. As far as he's aware, he and Gwen will wake up in the place of her dreams — saving his marriage. This may have been the case if the Jeep and caravan hadn't been detached, a spiked mug of tea hadn't been switched, and Bevan hadn't driven to Spain instead of France. The next day, Taffy swings open the door, expecting to give Gwen the surprise of her life, but instead finding they haven't moved an inch, and he's been well and truly had. Taffy is arrested for the crimes, but is clearly only guilty of the robbery into which he was entrapped. He and his dodgy lawyer expose the police's part in the conspiracy to frame him — he walks away scot-free and well compensated. The double-crossing scheme proves to be life-changing in the most positive way... even for Taffy.

Sales arguments

  • I will do whatever it takes to market this book, and all of my time, money and effort will be spent on my endevour.
  • I have pre-emptively discussed a radio interview with BBC radio Cumbria.
  • This novel was originally written as a screenplay, and I've already had talks with professionals about how it could be developed.

Similar titles

  • Dead Man's Trousers - Irvine Welsh - Melville House Publishing - 26th February 2019 - This reunion of the Trainspotting gang is as dissolute as could be expected. My Shackle-slash of Stackerdom similarly resides in an irreverent underclass with questionable morals and hilarious humour, yet both novels are strangely moving...
  • Nothing to See Here - Kevin Wilson - Ecco - 29th October 2019 - My Shackle-slash of Stackerdom is as full of wit, heart and eccentricity as this modern-day masterpiece.
  • Now Is Not the Time to Panic - Kevin Wilson - Ecco - 15th November 2022 - The colourful, misfits in their under-privileged world, jump off the page with sharp wit and blazing prose, as in 'Shackledom'.

Audience

It's uproarious humour can be crude in parts, and will mostly appeal to young men between the ages of 18 and 30.

2 publishers interested Express interest

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Officer Powell and my dad went back a long way. Dad was only

two months older than Powell, and the two were peers throughout

their school lives. At school they were rivals in every game,

contest and competition that was ever held. Dad had had an

extremely competitive nature in his younger years, but had had no

interest in winning anything fairly, preferring to scheme his way

to success. Back in the day, Dyllbrooke was renowned for its love

of competitions, but there was nobody as eager to win, or as

ruthless as Taffy. With seething resentment, Powell recalled a

vast number of occasions in which Taffy had cheated his way to

victory. In school, Taffy had no understanding of the concept of

'playing fair'.

One particular occasion proved Taffy couldn't even be

trusted to play a simple game of conkers without cheating,

smashing Powell and his conker from the lead with his homemade

cement-filled conker. Powell recalled Taffy continuing a lengthy

stretch of flagrant violations of order. On another occasion, for

example, he applied grease to Powell's end of rope prior to a tug

o' war contest. It was never proven that it was Taffy, but that

was the thing, it never was. A seemingly innocent hamster wheel

race was sabotaged in another of Powell's rancorous recoll-

ections, Taffy having drugged his furry competitors before the

race commenced. The list was endless.

The levels of sabotage rose to levels of what can only be

described as reckless criminality. The robot wars competition,

for example, ended in a series of small explosions from

particularly dangerous devices that Taffy must have somehow

procured on the black market. That particular incident resulted

in the evacuation of the school, an emergency lockdown of the

entire town, and the deployment of the bomb squad, but surprise,

surprise, Taffy escaped reprisal. Most dangerous of all, though,

was the prank he pulled at the carnival day raft race…

It was the annual Dyllbrooke Carnival Olympic Games, a most

auspicious occasion — this year with the most dazzling prize any

twelve year old could ever wish for: tickets for the grand

opening of The Pleasuredome, a brand-new theme-park on the

outskirts of Clywllyndd. The theme-park would be closed for an

entire day to allow the winning team free reign of the park.

Pleasuredome PLC had welcomed councils from across the UK to

apply for the prize, specifying that the tickets must be awarded

at a public event of a competitive nature. Dyllbrooke Council

applied. They were flabbergasted when they received the news that

their little town had been picked. On being granted the prize

tickets, Dyllbrooke Council had agreed to allow the media full

access to the event in which the prize would be awarded. The

contestants and their parents had also given the media full

access to film the winners on their dream day inside The

Pleasuredome. It was a huge promotional effort on The

Pleasuredome's part, and the entire package would be promoted and

televised across the whole of Europe. The winning kids would give

numerous interviews and their pictures would be on the front

pages of every national newspaper. It was huge.

That day was the hottest that had ever been recorded in

Wales, and so the whole country had descended on Sugarhill park,

or so it had felt. Face-painted, sugar-high monsters battled with

supersoakers, while flip-flappers, swine-diddlers, danzies,

danziettes and every bizarre, multi-coloured subspecies in

between, guzzled pink fizz. As monsters squirted, adults

flirted — descending into a dizzy haze. While the chaos ensued,

Taffy, intent on wreaking his own havoc, sneaked around by the

riverbank like a summertime Grinch, giving minuscule punctures to

the inflatable rafts of his competitors.

An animated announcement for the commencement of the raft

race, blasted through the loudspeaker, creating hysteria and a

mass exodus. The fiesta of townsfolk jiggled, jigged and jived

from the carnival field, a swarm of media around them. The

swishing, waltzing conga of freaks descended on the riverbank

where a purple pirate with a loudspeaker hushed the enlivened

gathering. The pirate proudly proclaimed that it was a 'momentous

day for Dyllbrooke', and that the 'prestigious award was beyond

every child's wildest fantasy.' It was next level, like all your

childhood Christmases at once. There was a tense silence, then

the whistle blew.

Powell's team took an early lead, Taffy's team trailing far

behind. Sun-starved, fun-starved, over-prescribed, sex-denied,

alcoholically stewed, virtually nude parents cheered and screamed

alongside their brats as they bobbed and bounced downstream. The

more sober, more astute were the first to pick up on the

gradually deflating rafts, but it was around about the halfway

mark when things turned notably disastrous to all. Swans sagged,

flamingos flopped, dolphins drooped and seahorses sank.

While panic ensued, Taffy pushed through, splishing and

splashing his way to the lead, and leaving behind him a trail of

plastic pollution and the chaotic scenes of a throng of parents

launching themselves into the perishing river to save their

little delinquents. The icy waters left some particularly nasty

mental scarring on many minds, least not Powell's. Not only did

that trick cheat Powell from being the first over the finishing

line and free reign of The Pleasuredome, it almost caused him to

drown in his waterlogged plastic shark. As he flailed around

choking on plastic and fish shit, he witnessed Taffy's killer

whale diving over the finish line in first position, like Free

Willy on his jump to freedom.

As if that wasn't enough torture for Powell, his spiteful,

overactive mind created an image of a newspaper headline which

read: 'Dyllbrooke Boy Killed in (Rubber) Shark Attack'. Even at

the time, he was unsure which he dreaded more, the humiliation of

it all, or his own premature death. These images were etched in

Powell's mind forevermore. It was completely unforgivable.

To Powell, the most infuriating thing about Taffy's

perpetual cheating, was the lack of punishment he faced for his

reckless acts. The raft race incident, for example, not only went

unpunished, but was instead rewarded with the best prize since

Willy Wonka printed his golden tickets. Taffy's stupid face was

plastered on every front page in the country. On top of that, the

little stunt he pulled was aired all over the world, the chaotic

scenes even becoming somewhat of a cult classic in the world of

comedic fails. It was dubbed 'The Disaster of Dyllbrooke',

mimicking the newspaper headlines. Constable Powell burned up

inside when he thought about the amount of satisfaction and

hubris Taffy would've garnered from the entire ruse. Powell often

imagined Taffy watching the two greatest days of his life on that

promotional documentary — the ridiculous raft race, followed by

what was presumably the most magical experience of a lifetime:

The Pleasuredome. Powell bet that Taffy would watch it on repeat,

day and night. It boiled his piss.

Taffy continued with this trend of flim-flamming his way to

success right throughout his school life, ultimately drifting

through the flawed education system with straight 'A's. Taffy's

competitive predisposition was a trait that was left behind in

the school yards and playing fields of his youth, though his

conniving propensities were not.

Powell could neither forgive, nor forget these most

unconscionable acts, as he was a man who believed in justice.

These crimes against fairness could not go without penalty.

Powell was cheated out of cups, titles and the glory of winning —

he couldn't count how many times. He despised this degree of

iniquity to such an extent, that it had given him the impetus to

join the police force, where he believed he would have the power

to right some of the wrongs in the world, especially those

concerning Taffy.

Powell had managed to put some justice back in the world

since joining the force, but had still not been able to scratch

the itch that was Taffy. Was it justice that he was obsessed

with, or revenge? Getting the better of Taffy, one way or

another, had become an all-consuming private quest. Powell had

arrested Taffy on a hand-full of occasions, but he'd had little

gratification in doing so, as each time it had been for minor

misdemeanours, and nothing much really came out of the charges.

To Powell, this felt as though Taffy had again got the

upper-hand. He was always walking away scot-free or with overly

lenient penalties. The powers that his badge had granted him, had

so far failed him in this arena, and the longer it went on, the

more hungry for revenge Powell became. The mugging and stabbing

was the most heinous crime he had committed, it was low even for

Taffy, Powell admitted, but it must have been him, he surmised.

Who else could be stupid enough to believe that a Dyllbrooke's

winning bingo numbers would have been such a windfall, that the

theft of it through means of an armed robbery, was an applicable

move? And who else, but Taffy, could be dumb enough to think that

the four hundred quid jackpot would be handed out there and then,

in cash, to a vulnerable, old lady?

Powell tripped on a loop of cable that laid in wait like a

snare as he navigated the thirteen steps flanked with Dad's

unsightly, hazardous scrap that snaked right up to the front

door, that day. He cussed, the stinging memories from that long-

ago raft race, flooding back. Oh, how he wished he was knocking

on that door to arrest him for that stunt… or for any of his

childhood stunts, for that matter. Imagine his face after all

these years! What would the charge be? he wondered. Criminal

damage with intent to cause harm? Attempted murder?

#

Big Kit was a hoarder of thirty-six stone — the fattest

of men with the filthiest home. His dump was so vast, he

needed a ladder — Mum swore at the screen, "the world's

fucked, getting madder." With each step he took, the ladder

did creek — you could only imagine the extent of the reek.

"The Yanks make strong ladders," my old mum observed — as

his crack flashed the camera she was truly unnerved. Dad

laughed at Mum's line, but he knew what she meant — if made

in the UK, that thing would've bent, and fallen to pieces,

just poles, screws and nuts — a scrap heap of metal,

intestines and guts. Big Kit would've fallen, sure death in

a flash, like a huge sack of tatties — now basically mash.

Big Kit had huge problems, he was almost housebound —

but for sake of the programme, he'd got to the ground. The

old ladder wobbled, my God they were stiff — think

Attenborough's walrus scaling a cliff. My parents were

glued, on the edge of their seat — he was sweating profusely

with the scale of the feat. He finally made it, he was up on

the top — overexerted and ready to drop. Wheezing, he

crawled, head close to the ceiling — it was hard to imagine

just how he was feeling.

His state, his hoarding, his absolute size — but

nothing shocked more than the following surprise. The lady,

his carer was his wife, not his mum — she was pretty and

sane and did not seem dumb. He called for his dinner, she

was awfully slow — then came a reply from deep down below.

Through a hole near the ceiling where bricks were knocked

through — was a window to real life, a regular view.

Normality, space and a kitchen, no clutter — poor Pat at the

worktop, spreading his butter. Big Kit was walled in, the

flat redesigned — the two had been separated, Big Kit left

behind. Gammon and eggs and bread for the juice — all

slopped in a bucket with no time to lose 'cause Kit's tummy

was rumbling, 'twas a big gut to feed — not a morsel was

wasted, not a crumb nor a seed. His food in a bucket zipped

through the clearing — Mum couldn't believe what she saw or

was hearing. Pat hoisted the meal with a pulley and a

string — it swayed as it climbed to the glutenous thing.

Mum sighed, "what a woman! What selfless true love" —

she must really have cared for the giant above. It was plain

that Patricia sure loved her mad hoarder — despite his

neurosis, his size, his disorder. He was mentally ill, all

kinds of psychosis — diabetes, weak heart and deep-vein

thrombosis. Grunting and snuffling like a pig at a trough —

Big Kit snatched the bucket and started to scoff. This pig

was free-range, he'd always been free — he'd done this to

himself, that much he did see. His mouth full of food, said

he'd lie there all night — with one eye open, and ready to

fight. For his hoard was his treasure, guarded it with his

life — nobody could enter, just film crew and wife. Mum

presupposed that Kit's brain-cells were sparse — so he tried

not to waste them, just sat on his arse. Three litres of

cola each day he did drink — it kept him alert, he got not a

wink. He candidly spoke like life was okay — like he had it

together, it was only his way. In his hand it did seem there

was always a snack — and often his gun, his cock and his

sack. It was all so explicit, so spelled out, so crude — not

a person alive wished to think of him nude. He spoke

straight to the camera, explaining the latter — that his

poor wife could no longer get up the ladder. It was spoken

so plainly, to him it made sense — there were no airs or

graces, no alarm, no offence. In most southern drawl he was

ever so frank — he was up there alone so he needed to wank.

"My gosh!" this was aired, a BBC show — but at least they

were honest, that much Mum did know. That said, it was

early, Mum looked at the clock — it was way before

watershed, really a shock.

Up there on his throne, Big Kit was a sight — his

mountain, his kingdom, compacted so tight. Used nappies, up

there, and bottles of piss — Kit's crap was his castle, on

top it was bliss. The tip was a hazard, the problem

gargantuan — mouldy plates, smutty mags, leaky pens, mostly

chew-en. "She'd hoard it up to here," the voice over said —

Patricia was worried soon Kit would be dead. Some things had

to change, their lives were a mess — Pat wanted a clean-up,

a trip to de-stress. Her rational brain on the blink, out of

order — she called up the Beeb, and spoke of the hoarder.

All logical thought no longer existed — it made sense to

her, she really insisted. She'd tell him to clean up or that

she was out — it was gonna be calm, there was no need to

shout. His choice would be aired all over the planet — a cry

out for help from Pat and the gannet. She'd stuck by his

side, but enough was enough — she'd obeyed her vows, but now

she'd get tough. Was she calling his bluff? There was no way

to know — was it all just performance for sake of the show?

It was more than reasonable, it really was fair — he soiled

his nappies eight foot in the air. She had thought of

leaving, to give him a fright — she'd lied there thinking

night after night. It wasn't that easy, she hadn't a cent —

since he'd eaten their savings there was nothing for rent.

She worried one day he'd find himself stuck — squashed

to the ceiling, glued there with muck. He'd suffocate there

like a slowly-squashed fly — a sad situation, no way to die.

The after-show poll said viewers agreed — that Pat should

get out, away from Kit's greed. The consensus was almost a

hundred percent — the outcome was clear, there's one thing

that meant: that before Kit yelled down for his course of

pavlova — she'd be gone out of there and it would be over.

The voice over guy made it light with his rhyme — but it was

gripping, hard-hitting for UK prime time. Yet there's one

thing he said that did resonate — 'bout the hoarder's wife

and unenviable state. They said if she'd sense she'd have

left him behind — but her love for her husband was the

deepest you'd find.'

At the end of the ode, I added a note — this wasn't

about Kit or Pat or the vote. The afterword read:

'For this poem competition, the theme of "home life",

for me, was a mission. The games were extensive, the ones

that Dad played — the poem illustrates just how he behaved.

Always pointing the finger at those down on their luck —

then hoped Mum compared him, getting him off the hook. Dad

was lazy and selfish and outside the law — his hoarding was

one fault, he had plenty more. But compared to Big Kit, yes,

Dad had it together — he was tidy and clean and as light as

a feather. "Guilt-tripping" to Dad was the best in the

book — he'd said not a word, just forced Mum to look.

Mum swallowed the lot, thought that Dad was okay — he

was greedy, pig-headed and led me astray, but his faults

were quite mild compared to Big Kit — festering there on his

mountain of shit.'

Mum put down the poem, at long last she saw — did they call

that "gaslighting"? Was it against the law? Whatever they called

it, it was clear now to Mum — it was not only Pat with an

ultimatum.

Dad had used this kind of trick on a number of occasions,

and this method had garnered some leniency on not only his

hoarding, but also a coke habit and a porn addiction he'd

developed — both of which he'd managed to kick years ago. But

now, as things were deteriorating by the day, and culminating

into one giant shit-storm, Dad realised that he was getting so

tightly tied into a tangle of troubles, that this old trick could

no longer save him. There were no fly-on-the-wall documentaries

that he was aware of, that dealt with gambling addictions,

alcoholism, criminality, severe debts, squalor and rebellious

teenage sons that were being led astray by their fathers. There

were no situations as pitiful as theirs, and possibly no one out

there that could make him look good anymore. And even if there

was, he could tell Mum was wising up to him, anyway.

Mum thought about calling the authorities to get his scrap

heap removed, more out of spite than anything else. Surely they'd

take it away — it was a health risk, after all. Imagine his face.

There was no doubt that if we lived anywhere other than no man's

land — anywhere other than a forgotten field on the outskirts of

Dyllbrooke, the authorities would've actually demanded that Dad's

scrap pile be dismantled and destroyed — illness or no illness.

First-time visitors to the caravan would tread cautiously

along the walkway, both horror and intrigue on their clammy

faces, as if they were being guided through the dank dungeons of

a medieval torture museum. Mum had been so ashamed of it, and for

years she would not open up to visitors for love nor money, but

now she realised that things could be much worse, and she sort of

just got used to it. She just put up with it in the same way she

did with the slovenly lump in the chair.

Dad glared gormlessly at the TV. A documentary aired. On the

screen, a tropical spider crawled onto the leaves of a pitfall

pitcher plant. It was classic daytime TV for people who had all

the time in the world. Wildlife documentaries had been Dad's only

real source of education since his school years. The narrator

dreamily explained that 'the beguiling pitcher plant lives on

Borneo's Mount Kinabalu. It allures its prey with a nectar,

honey-like treat laced onto the surface of the plant's leaves.'

Dad slurped his pilfered pilsner. 'Not only are the leaves

irresistibly sweet,' he lilted, 'they're incredibly slippery, and

the unsuspecting prey invariably slip, fall, and find themselves

drowning in the digestive fluids within the plant's core.' On

cue, the spider slipped and tumbled into the centre cup of the

plant to join the soup of dead and decaying arachnids and flies.

Dad swigged the beer. 'A sorry, sticky end,' he crooned. Dad

belched, his timing perfect as always.

Mum had observed the whole thing through the back of her

head. She donned her irritated smirk as if were a snug bobble hat

on a cold day. Anyone who knew my mum — even those who knew her

well, didn't quite understand the emotions behind the visage,

they just called it her 'Taffy face'. It was the expression of

the anguish of a thousand years, mixed with the mild

entertainment of his folly, and the futility of complaining about

it. But to the vacuous buffoon that was Taffy, it was just her

face. He enraged her beyond comprehension. Everyone knew it.

Everyone besides Dad himself, perhaps.

The clattering of dishes was getting louder, and that was

one sign Dad did understand, which in itself, infuriated Mum, as

it was the one signal that she gave that interfered with his

watching the TV. How convenient, she thought, wondering if he

wasn't actually as stupid as he made out to be, and that it was

all one big, lifelong ruse so that he could lounge on the sofa

drinking himself into an early grave — blissfully ignorant until

disturbed. What he lacked in sense, he made up for in ignorance.

Dad twisted his neck to eye her, his bushy eyebrows

furrowing. 'You alright, love?' 'Yeah, just forget it,' Mum

squawked back in the thickest version from the range of

Dyllbrooke twangs. The Dyllbrooke accent was unlike many of the

sonorous intonations of nearby areas. To my ear, some regional

Welsh tones were as sweet and dulcet as morning birdsong, but the

distinct Dyllbrooke way of speaking was inflected in a horribly

harsh shriek. And when my mum was vexed, a sharp sound rose from

within her — a castrated parrot in mating season kind of squawk.

She knew he wouldn't just forget it and leave her alone, his

verbal inertia was, to her, as predictable as mud after heavy

rain. He'd ask persistently until she was so infuriated she'd

want to throttle him. If not, he'd say something else, something

so ridiculously stupid or thoughtless, something that would

absolutely boil her piss. Her fists propping her up against the

kitchen sink, Mum, her patience all but expired, counted back

from three.

Dad shrugged his shoulders, and turned his attention back to

the TV. He shivered, pulling a blanket over his lap. Mum slowly

mouthed the words 'three, two…'. 'Bloody freezing in here,' he

moaned. Mum sighed as she inspected a cobweb on the ceiling.

'Brass bloody monkeys, it is,' he clarified as he reached over

and flicked the radiator on. There was a thump at Mum's chest.

She spun around, a dishcloth grasped in her hand like a whip. 'If

you got off your fat arse and did something, you wouldn't be

cold, would you?!' Snoop shuffled off into the bedroom — unlike

Taffy, he was able to read the signs. My old man, still somehow

in the learning stages of his marriage, used the voice he saved

to 'placate' his long-suffering wife. 'It's okay, love, heater's

on now.' Passive voice and resolution — beat that, he thought.

There was silence except for Taffy's noisy snack-munching.

Mum glanced at the microwave. It blinked 16:59. 'Where the hell

is Bevan, anyway?' she whined, fearing that I'd be in a ditch

somewhere and that I was quite quickly turning into my dad. 'How

should I know? Looking for a job with a bit of luck.' 'Where is

he these days? He's never around anymore.' 'It's you picking on

him all the time, it is.' 'Does him good. Anyway, he's eighteen,

love'. Dad shuffled in his chair as if putting that record

straight deserved extra comfort. 'Does him good? Does it hell!

You're pushing him away, you are. We're gonna lose him if

you--' 'Lose him?' Dad interrupted. 'Where's he gonna go? What?

Independent, like? I wish. He hasn't got the brains, love,' he

scoffed erroneously as he flicked through the TV channels.

'Sometimes I wish he would get out of here. Far away from this

shit-hole. Far away from your influence,' Mum squawked

tremulously. 'Far away? On his own?' Taffy splurted. 'He'll never

hold down a job, and it's not likely he's gonna go all Bear

Grylls on us, like.' 'Stop, Taffy,' Mum implored. But Dad was on

a roll. There was nothing to be done when Dad was on a roll.

'Tell ya what, drop Bevan in a forest with nothing but a sharp

stick, he'd scoff that stick before he'd even think of trying to

catch something with it.' He could be surprisingly witty when he

wanted to be. Stupid and witty in fairly equal measures.

Mum's bubbling tension was about to boil. She had unusual,

but easily identifiable signals when it came to her fuse burning.

She reddened from the neck, which quickly spread around her jaw,

rose up into her cheeks, before bursting through her entire head,

ears, and all. She blew her top as was only otherwise seen in

animations, but it was only once the searing fury beamed red in

her cheeks, that it was at the point of no return. Right

now, it was popping up like a blotchy rash around her jawline.

There was still time, and all Taffy had to do was shut up. Surely

he recognised the signs.

Dad never ceased to amaze us, though. The fact was, all he

had to do was look at his wife, remember what happened last time

she looked like that, and stop. It was baffling. It was basic

survival.

The scalding rage was blistering her veins and spreading

like wildfire through her jaw, but there was still time for her

to suppress the surge. When my mum struck, it was like the lash

of a viper's tongue, as sharp as a whip and loaded with venom.

Just one more word, she swore. Dad patted his swollen belly,

blurting, 'what we having tonight, love? I wouldn't mind some of

that shepherd's pie you make, to be honest.' Mum slapped the

worktop with near wrist-breaking force, sending a couple of

drying bowls to their shattering ends. Blushing a flaming red to

the tips of her ears, she spun around like a voodoo doll

possessed. 'I wouldn't mind a country retreat and a bastard

Caribbean cruise, but life's a bitch,' she struck, stinging him

with the most fiery, venomous lash.

#

Ominous clouds loomed over Dyllbrooke. There was no giant

rainbow serpents bearing gifts behind those clouds, that was for

sure. As we sat in the dusk on the park bench that day, smoking

our rollies and guzzling our cheap cans, I braced myself for

Dad's revelation. So far, all I knew was that his brainchild (it

was Frank's, but he was giving him no credit for it), involved

The Crown Inn, that I was to be an integral accomplice, and that

this was going to be a 'big one'. No, it was going to be the big

one. The suspense was killing me, but I had to stay cool.

'Yesterday, me and your mum did some reminiscing. We were talking

about the good old days before you were born.' I sarcastically

thanked him. He swore he hadn't meant it like that. He told me

all about the new caravan and my mum's dreams to travel, part-

icularly to Peiviennes. He told me of the loose plan they'd had

to move abroad, somewhere warm, and start their own vineyard. He

said that this dream could still be made into a reality and that

it may be the only way to stop Mum from leaving and to save his

marriage. So far, I'd believed every word. He looked like a man

on the brink of losing it all. For a brief moment, I felt for

him. He seemed sincere.

My sympathy was short lived, as just then, an athletic woman

in tight Lycra jogged into view, lightening his mood. Taffy's

gaze followed the jogger's firm buttocks along the path, his

mouth agape as she bounced past. He wolf-whistled loudly. The

jogger looked back and scowled. I wished he wouldn't — I honestly

think he sometimes forgot I was his son, not his mate. "Be plenty

of that there, too, you know.' 'What?' I asked, slightly

distracted by the jogger myself. 'What do you think? Muff!' he

asserted. Did he have to? 'When was the last time you entered

the furry tunnel? Ages, I bet,' he slurred. How would he know? He

continued in his uncouth ramblings. 'Do you know what they call

it in France, boy?' I shrugged. 'Le--' I guessed, humouring him

before being interrupted.' 'They don't. They're sophisticated.

They're real ladies there, they are. Not like the scabby, old

trollops round here. Tell ya what, though, what they lack in

foul-mouthedness, they make up for in bed. Dirty as hell they

are. Lovely. You'll be up to your nuts in it in no time, boy,' he

eloquently postulated. He was blatantly pissed.

He knew nothing about me, nothing about my ‘thing’ with

Beth. Anyway, fuck Beth. He knew nothing about anything. My sex

life was not the baron wasteland he thought it was, but I had to

admit he was right about one thing, there was nothing here for

us, and it would be good to broaden our horizons. I couldn't wait

to leave Dyllbrooke behind.

I just wished he'd hurry up and quit with the charades

before it started pissing down. I really was going to punch him

in his dumb face. I'd give him two more minutes, then I was out.

'Look, all we need is the money to get us to the south of France,

and buy a small plot of land,' he began. 'We'll get a boat. Me

and you can spend our days out on the water, catching fish,

soaking up the sun, you'll love it.' I would, but I didn't need

his sales pitch, just his plan.

Fine raindrops pattered on the sodden ground. The dark,

heavy clouds were moving in fast. One more minute, Taffy, I

swore. He got to his feet, and rested his can on the bench. He

clapped his hands together like a children's entertainer about to

break into a corny song. The angry heavens burst open, firing

soaking missiles at us. We dived for cover under a twisted oak

tree, the thunder clapping in the distance. 'Plan is,' he began,

flicking his palms open repeatedly like the entertainer was on

the cusp of his favourite trick. The lightning created a strobe

effect around him, giving him the air of some kind of crazed

wizard. 'We're gonna hook the Jeep to the caravan, then break

into The Crown. There's a safe in the cellar. It's stuffed full

of Eddie's dodgy money. I mean, we're talking thousands… tens of

thousands. We'll do it on Sunday night, the night before your

mum's birthday, which as luck would have it, is the night the

storm is going to get nasty.' His eyes dampened with excitement.

'With the stolen loot (he amused me when he called it loot),

you'll get in the Jeep, and I'll get into the caravan. The

banging and swaying of the caravan moving — your mum will just

think it's the storm. I'll pop a sleeping tablet into her tea,

just to be sure, and you'll drive us to France. I'll wake her up

the next day after her marathon sleep, open the caravan door, and

surprise… the place of her dreams. Marriage saved!' he roared

ecstatically over the thunderous storm. He shrieked with

laughter. 'Brilliant isn't it!?' he exclaimed as if he'd just

invented the light-bulb.

Lightning struck a nearby tree with a hollow bang, but I was

too intrigued by my father's bizarre expressions of elation to

pay much attention to it. I was gobsmacked, dumbfounded,

flabbergasted, almost thunderstruck.


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