It wasn’t difficult to find Bumper; after all there weren’t that many six-foot bananas in the health club’s car park.
“Pete? Jesus it must be at least ten years….”
“Fifteen, Bumper. It’s been fifteen years since you’ve seen me.”
“Yeah, fifteen eh? Bloody long time. You seem to be doing all right for yourself, very smart I must say.”
“Thanks, you haven’t changed a bit I see.”
“The outfit you mean? It’s my trademark now. Bit of a pain in the arse to tell you the truth but it keeps the punters happy.” He held out his hand and shook mine firmly.
“How did you get the idea to dress as a banana?”
“I’ve worked on the market stalls since I left school. There hasn’t been much money in it up until now. Then I had the idea to open a stall here. You know what they’re like, all these fitness freaks, more interested in looking like they are being healthy rather than becoming fit. That’s where I come in.” Bumper offered me an orange, I shook my head. “They’ve got to be seen to eat a lot of fruit so I hit the jackpot. The outfit was just meant to be for the first day, get myself noticed. It had such an impact I decided to keep it for a while. I couldn’t get rid of it now even if I wanted to. All the young lasses come out of the club and they can’t wait to come and see Bumper the Banana boy. Sad really. I know they’re taking the piss but as long as they are spending, who cares?”
“So you are making a bit of money then? It’s good to see someone from school doing well for themselves.”
“Not as much as I would like unfortunately. One of our school’s other success stories is making a mint out of me.” The bitterness in Bumper’s voice was all too evident.
“How did you guess? He owns this place you see. Charges me rent for using his car park and also gives me the benefit of one of his insurance schemes. Basically I give him money and he doesn’t beat me up. Pretty much the same as school, nothing ever changes that much.”
“I bumped into him the other day. It’s surprising how far brute force and ignorance will get you these days.”
“I take it you know about Claire then? It’s a shame, she used to be such a nice lass.”
At least Bumper didn’t try and hide it from me.
“Yeah, it was a bit of a surprise. Anyway, the real reason I’m here. How do you fancy coming to a school reunion? See how everybody else is getting on.”
“I thought you hated school, why do you want to go back? It’s all a bit depressing if you ask me.”
“So you’ll come along then?”
“Yeah, wouldn’t miss it for the world.” A big grin now spread across Bumper’s yellow face.
“Best have an invite then.” I passed him one of the invitations.
“Jesus, is that who I think it is?” he asked.
“The very same.”
“Classic. Does he know you’ve got a copy of this?”
“Not yet but he will when he gets his own invite. It would be rude not to invite the teachers along wouldn’t it? I think it’s only fair that his wife receives an invite as well,” I said.
“Definitely. You’ve turned into a bit of a bastard since you’ve been away.” I think this was meant as a compliment.
“I try my best. It’s quite fulfilling this revenge business. I’m starting to get a taste for it.”
“Wouldn’t mind a bit of it myself. I’ve got a few on my list who I’d quite like to pay a visit to in the middle of the night.”
“It’s funny you say that. I might just have something you maybe interested in.”
“What could be simpler? There’s no padlock on the door of the skip. I checked on the way in.” I put the plan to everyone.
“We know that the skip doesn’t contain any Alsatians or dead children,” chipped in Bumper, “all it contains is programmes and hundreds of them as far as we know.”
“What if they were lying? What if there are Alsatians?” Gilbert wasn’t convinced.
“If they planned on killing us we wouldn’t have got this far. Come on we’re going back.” I led us back along the pavement and across the strip of grass towards the skip. “Now’s the best time to do it, they’ve just started dinner. We’ll have about half an hour.”
We lined up at the back of the skip and checked that nobody had decided to have their lunch in the sun.
“The shutter’s down. We should be safe.” I could tell that Gilbert still wasn’t happy. “Look, you can stand outside and keep watch if you don’t want to come inside. Just shout if anybody comes and we’ll leg it.”
I edged round to the front of the skip pulled back the large red bolt. The door was huge and it needed both Bumper and me to edge it open. It creaked but not loudly enough to alert those inside the factory.
“Who’s going to be first?” Suddenly I wasn’t so brave.
The heat inside contrasted sharply with the shadows outside. It was stifling. The sun had been belting down on it all morning and with no air, it had built up like a pressure cooker.
“I’ll go,” said Elvis. “If there are dogs in there I’ll kick them with my cast.”
We all laughed nervously. I pulled the door open a little further and Elvis cautiously stepped inside.
“What is it?” Images of gnawed bones and big dogs raced through my head.
“P p p p programmes, m m m millions of them.”
I didn’t need a second invitation. I opened the door fully and pushed Elvis inside. He fell into the mounds of paper that lined the floor of the skip. The light from the door wasn’t great but there was enough to show that the skip was about three foot deep in programmes.
“Whey Hay!” Shouted Elvis whilst he lay on his back throwing programmes in the air. “They’re perfect.”
What Stan had described as off cuts turned out to be near perfect programmes with only slightly tatty edges or smudged colours to differentiate them from the real thing.
“Jesus. We could make a fortune,” said Elvis.
“What do you mean?”
“If we take these and them sell them at the match we’ll make a mint. Who’s going to notice that they’ve gone?” He was right. I called for Bumper and he climbed into the skip.
“The plan has changed. Grab as many programmes as you can carry. There’s millions of them and they’re near perfect.”
“What did I tell you?” He said triumphantly slapping me on the back.
Using the half-light from the door we started selecting the best programmes and discarding the ones that didn’t meet our meticulous standards. Gilbert stayed outside and stood guard. We stuffed them everywhere we could, down our pants, up our jumpers.
“Look at you,” laughed Bumper. “You look like the Michelin man.”
Then it went dark.
“Why’s the door closed?” I heard someone start to whimper at the back of the skip. I didn’t know whether it was Bumper or Elvis.
“Where’s Gilbert? Why didn’t he shout?”
“I’m here,” Gilbert spoke up timidly from the front of the skip.
“What are you doing in here? You’re supposed to be keeping guard.”
“There’s something outside.” His voice was wavering, I could tell he was fighting back tears.
“What’s outside?” I was frantic.
“A dog? What do you mean a dog? What type of dog?”
Gilbert sniffed loudly before answering.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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