Dennis didn’t look too happy today.
We’d just had a delivery that was sat on a pallet in front of the job. It was a cold December and snowing. He was looking hard at the pile of boxes that was taller than him, accumulating a peppering of snow. I went out to give him a lift to load it inside.
“Come on Dennis lad! let’s get this sorted!”
My attempt at enthusiasm was falling on deaf ears. He was obviously really annoyed.
“Cheer up Den! S’just a bit of snow! Look! I’m helping! We’ll get this in in no time! With my brains and your small bit of brawn we’ll get it done!”
Stony silence. In his annoyance he picked up more than he needed to in an effort to get the job done. There was more involved here than I thought.
This could be good.
I collected a box of ceiling tiles off the pile and followed his angry march inside.
“Come on lad! Suck a breath in and let the poison out! How’s the parole going on?”
Dennis isn’t big and the stiff-back walk only heightened his short stature.
He wasn’t wearing my cheery-mate attempt to find out what was wrong. As we dropped a box each on the growing pile inside, I changed tack and went direct.
“Alright Dennis. What’s going on?”
I asked this with slight trepidation and a glance at my watch. This could take up serious time.
He mumbled something vague and waved a paw in the air. Something had obviously gone on to leave him not just angry but dejected as well.
“Den? What’s up mate?”
I have to say something here. I like Dennis. He’s a genuine character. Considering all the thing’s he’s told me, you’d expect him to have a lot more problems than he does. It’s a credit to him that he leads a normal existence and works six-days-a week constantly. He tends to wear his heart on his sleeve and you know when he’s truly disgruntled. It spills out in a total rush. The information starts in dribs and drabs, then you get The Lot. But on the whole, he is a completely sincere, genuine person. I think that’s why I like him so much.
Dennis’ grievances tend to be relayed in : The World’s Against Me theme.
There’ll be a slight hesitation in passing on what’s actually happened, but he’ll be that pissed off about how The World has conspired against him that he can’t help it, he has to get it out of his system.
“Got a fine.”
“A fine you say? Oh dear oh dear.”
Inwardly I was thinking ‘Here we go. Jackpot.’ I’m sad like that. I’m easily entertained.
“What was the fine for Den?”
“Train? What? You been at the gym? You been training? What? Oh. Railway train? Ah. Didn’t pay again. ”
This was a common theme at one time. It had become a kind of competition to get home without paying for a ticket. I assumed he had reverted to type.
I gave his shoulder a shove. I tried sympathy.
“I supposed that was a £50 quid fine then. Bummer mate. You been dodging paying for a ticket on the journey home again?”
“No! I get a lift now!”
“What? Then, this fine…?”
“Its from way back! Two fuckin’ years ago!!”
“How long?? Hang on Dennis. How much is this fine?”
“How much! Christ! What did you do?? Rob the fuckin’ train??”
There was a slight shift in stance. An embarrassed shuffle before he continued.
I find that there’s always a hesitation in relaying information when someone feels they’re about to be judged. I realised there was more to this than he was letting on. He was still pissed but also slow to continue. Obviously he had done something wrong, that he knew was wrong and now he was telling me he realised that I’d know he’d done something wrong. What was pissing him off was he had committed the cardinal sin of getting caught doing something wrong and now he was having to admit it.
It was like watching a small neanderthal trying to decide whether attacking this mammoth in front of him was a good idea or not.
“No! No. It was just a fine for a ticket! For not paying my fair! The ticket was only worth a couple of quid! We just ran out of train!!”
Like that explained it.
We walked back to the pallet and collected another box each of tiles. I asked as we walked back out of the drifting snow.
“What, are you talking about Dennis??”
By now he was caught up in the conversation and was trying to tell me as we walked, stopping every other step.
“You know. When you run out of train?”
“Dennis. Mate. Iv’e never dodged a fair in my life. I have enough trouble working out how to pay at the automated machine, never mind not paying and working out how to get away from it.”
We’d come to a stand-still.
“You can walk and talk lad. Walk. And please, explain.”
He moved towards to the growing pile inside the building and dropped his box on top of what we had already brought in, moving to allow me to do the same then stopped to continue. He took a measured look as he outlined his ticket -avoidance-method.
“Well, you have to work out where you sit. See?The inspector gets on at one point, and we used to just, you know, move away from him as he came down the train checking tickets. The bastard used to get on a couple of stops before we got to Liverpool. By the time he gets near us, we’d be in the last carriage arriving at Lime Street station and, you know – offski!”
“Ah. You misjudged your starting position then?”
“What? No. The bastards started getting on the train at a station earlier .”
“What a bunch of arseholes. The devious buggers. Who’d have thought that they’d get wise to it. The rotten shits.”
This had already dawned on Dennis though, and then some.
Something seemed to register then escalate across his face until the final emotion papered there was shock.
“Do You know what? I think they have something against Scousers!”
Whoa. The paranoia. This wa another level.
“What makes you say that Den?”
He looked at me like I was stupid.
“Aww ‘ey mate. It’s obvious. You only ever see them on the train going into Liverpool. You never see the bastards going the other way – to Manchester. It’s ‘cos we’re Scousers!!”
I’ve always been one to poke a simmering fire.
“Well. That’s understandable Dennis. Why would they police a train coming into Manchester?? Ever fucker wants to get out of Liverpool and you can guarantee they’ll pay to do it No point raiding that train – ”
“Wha’! You cheeky bastard -”
I waved away his outrage and guided him towards the door.
“The story Dennis. Get on with it. We’ll never find the pallet in the snow if this take’s much longer.”
We collected another box each.
“Well. That was it wasn’t it? We ran out of train. He’d got to everyone before we hit Lime Street. We were there for fuckin’ ages. We had to wait while he got round to writing the ticket. ”
“Why would it take so long to get away? How long can it take to write a ticket?”
Then something registered.
“What do you mean ‘Everyone‘?”
“You know. Everyone. All the other people that ran out of train. ”
I had to stop behind him to avoid bumping into him as he halted, with his box cradled against his chest, gazing off into the original memory. Almost nostalgic.
“I mean, It could get a bit crowded in the last compartment before we arrived at Lime Street. You know? When those Nazi bastards got on at the old stop? But when they started getting on earlier, well, it was rammed in the last carriage and we hadn’t even come near Lime street!
I had come to a complete stop myself as realisation dawned. I placed a hand on his shoulder to turn him towards me as I addressed him.
“Dennis. Mate. Are you trying to say that no-one payed for their ticket? And everyone was galloping up the train trying to stay in front of the inspector? It must have been like a fucking stampede of Scousers!! It’s a wonder the fucking train could stop by the time it hit Lime street with the sheer weight of everyone in the front carriage!! No wonder they raided the train every night!”
” Yeah, but the bastards – I mean! £2400!!”
“- Dennis. If no fucker pays for a ticket going home, and every time the inspector looks up as he comes down the train, every man, woman, child and granny is heading in the opposite direction, then what the fuck, do you think they’re going to do. They must have thought ‘There’s no way we can process this lot. I know. Let’s get on at Manchester , it take’s 45 minutes. We can start issuing tickets as soon as the doors shut…’-”
” – They just hate Scousers -”
I had a mental image of the train arriving in Lime street and the effort put in to avoid the inspectors.
“- Fuck me Dennis. they should have started at Birmingham!! Obviously they underestimated the size of the task they were taking on if you had to sit and wait to be issued a ticket at the end of the journey!! When they finally bottle-necked you all, they couldn’t even shout ‘All you’s Scouser spread ’em against the walls!‘ There wasn’t enough walls to go round!!!!”
“Aww ‘ey mate -”
“Alright. Alright. So tell me. How did a £50 fine turn into £2400?”
He softened somewhat as we approached the pallet for the final time, picked one of the remaining boxes and continued.
“Well, I lived with me bird. So I gave me Ma’s address.”
He looked at me like this was an Ultimate Master Plan.
I sucked a breath through my teeth in an effort to gain time before I asked. I could actually feel a headache coming on. I brushed the snow off and I picked up the final box before continuing.
“Ah. I see. Obviously this was fool proof decision. How could it go wrong?”
“Aww, you know.”
He spoke matter-of-factIy , like he was relaying a common occurrence.
“I fell out with me bird. You Know? Went home? To me Ma’s? They caught me. There.”
“Oh bugger. The tricky fuckers. Who have thought they’d be so persistent over so long. There’s only one answer. They must have felt you were a master criminal!”
This was wasted.
“I know. Right? I couldn’t believe it! Anyway, with all the letters that had been sent and interest and what-not, well…. it all added up.”
“Added up? Jesus Den! For £3 or what ever it was, you could have bought a ticket and got home scott-free. I mean, For fucks sake! For £50 quid even, you could have put it to bed and forgot about it!!”
“Yeah I know! I knowwww! but mate, £2400 quid!”
I sighed, looking for a positive.
“Well at least you’re nearly done with the sentencing., the parole thing? That’s a plus!”
It was said quietly and quickly, so I almost missed it.
“What now? Go Where now?”
“Counselling! A’right! COUNSELLING!!”
I felt like I was having a different conversation. I gave my head a shake.
“Counselling?? What the fuck for? Avoiding paying for a train ticket?? Jesus! They must they must be really pissed that you dodge-”
“No! No! No! Not for a train ticket!!”
“Alright! Alright! Calm down Tiny! What for then??”
“Fuckin’ Anger management!!”
I just looked at him. I didn’t know where to start asking..
There’s always a part 3 with Dennis..