A Tissue For Your Issue

Posted: June 25, 2010 in #fridayflash, Short stories

‘Oi mate!’ the smartly dressed middle-aged man came sprinting towards Charlie with his tie flapping over one shoulder and the street busy with people, traffic and noise.  ‘Hey’ he shouted again as his sprint slowed down to a tip-toed, fast paced, walk.  ‘I’m just moving it, put your machine away!’

‘Sorry Sir’, Charlie said looking at him sincerely as he peeled off the ticket with great care from the machine in his hand and placed it into the yellow synthetic cover.  He stuck it gently onto the windscreen of the car parked in front of him, which had its hazard lights flashing continuously, as if it was blinking.

‘I’ve been ten flaming minutes, you can’t do that!’

‘I’m afraid 10 minutes, is 10 minutes too long sir and I have had to do that as you can see’ Charlie pointed to the row of traffic which was queuing behind the gentleman’s car, waiting to pass. ‘your car is parked on double yellow lines, I have to issue you a ticket. Sorry’.  Charlie put his machine and camera back into the holdall attached to his belt. He began to walk away as the man turned, ‘Yeah thanks mate, thanks a lot!’  Charlie was sure he’d heard the man call him some blasphemous comment, but it was all part of the shift nowadays so he took a deep breath, folded his arms behind his back and walked off.

The blazing sun hit Charlie’s back making his neck tingle. He wandered up the high street dressed top to toe in his black uniform and glanced at his watch. His eldest children would be at school. He hoped they’d remembered their PE kits. Ellie usually forgot. He grinned suspiciously, guessing that she forgot on purpose. At eleven years old, girls, in particular, began to have minds of their own.

He crossed at the lights and walked alongside the cars parked in the ‘1 hour no return’ bays. He’d been here earlier and jotted down the cars’ registration plates in his tatty notepad. They hadn’t evidently, but he spotted an out of date tax disc in the window of a Ford Focus. Charlie looked around and waited a minute, then pulled out the ticket machine. A passing white van beeped and he heard the driver shout, ‘Get a real job!’ as he drove off. Charlie sometimes wished he hadn’t been brought up with manners or had a job that required decorum at all times. He could feel his middle finger rise but his hand remaining firmly at his side.

Later, when he returned home, the only light came from the orange glow of the street lamps, like bent orange lamps standing solitary on opposite sides of the road, like bent orange lollipops which had been sucked until they’d almost diminished, then stuck in the ground. As he opened his gate a warm sense of achievement came over him. He had accomplished another day for his family. He opened and shut the front door quietly and stood on the back of his heels to remove each shoe. The television was on and in the blue light he could see Ellie and his eldest son Kyle curled up on the sofa asleep, with little Jack at their feet. He scooped Jack up in his arms and made his way upstairs to his room. His wife Cathy was in bed too, snuggled under the covers with Lucy, their eight year old. Amy and the baby were already in their beds. Jack had been at some point too, but had snuck downstairs to be with the older children. Charlie pulled the covers over Jack and crept out again feeling like a burglar in his own house. He held his breath as he picked each child up from their resting place to carry them to bed.

Once he had managed to put everyone into their correct beds he slumped on the sofa with a mug of tea, freshly brewed, and the colour of treacle. His shirt was untucked and top buttons undone. He slurped the steaming liquid from the chipped brim and blew cautiously before he took a second mouthful. Having six children under 11 was a joy and a blessing in Charlie’s eyes, but it was exhausting too.

Another day began with Charlie on an early shift. He left the house like a ghost at 6am before the children woke. He sometimes felt like a ghost, sweeping in at night and sneaking out first thing in the morning, as if his presence was only sensed, rather than seen.  Cathy was having a good week so far, so he felt confident she could get the children up and ready this morning with the help of Ellie and Kyle without stressing her out too much.

Not many people were up yet, but he could hear the world coming to life. It wasn’t long before he came across a car parked in a residents’ permit area without a permit. He photographed the car as evidence.

Excuse me! a quiet and composed female voice came from behind him, that’s my boyfriends car, he’s just about to move it!

Charlie saw a girl calling from a window, dressed in her pink fluffy dressing gown. Sorry, but I’ve already begun to process the ticket.  I can’t delete it because it will record on the system. Charlie explained.

A man in his early twenties opened the front door, Yo bruv! he said still trying to put on one trainer, by pressing down heavy with his foot as he scuffed along the pavement I’m just movin it yeah!

Charlie repeated himself and placed the ticket under the windscreen wiper. The man pulled his shoulders back and lurching his head and neck forward like a peacock. Charlie walked on with the man hurling abuse behind. Charlie had been working as a Traffic Officer for nearly six years. He knew the signs and had his share of run-ins.

When he left university with a first degree in Law, he had not expected this to be his career of choice. He was going to be a lawyer and people called him Charles, not Charlie. He would be the one with suits and flashy cars. He had sacrificed this to be in a job that allowed him to work flexible shifts (sometimes) with the chance of overtime, so he could concentrate on being a father and husband.

The day was long and he’d issued seven tickets so far that day, only one of which had gone without a disagreement or explanation. A lady he had issued a ticket to had tried to fiercely argue, that the bus lane she was parked in was not being used for another 10 minutes, as she knew the bus timetable off by heart.  She disputed the issued ticket for twenty minutes.

As he turned the corner he noticed a white van parked on double yellow lines. It was the same van whose driver had shouted at him yesterday. The bonnet was cool. He pulled out his machine and began to punch in the numbers, hoping that this would be his last victim of the day.

That thought disappeared rapidly, with the arrival of the van owner shouting and shaking his head. I’ve heard about you lot, getting commission for every ticket you issue.  I hope you can sleep at night. Charging people to park on their own streets!

Sorry sir, I am just doing my job. Charlie explained. The man charged towards Charlie.

Your job! the man snarled, grabbing the ticket machine. Do you want your toy, back? he said in a girly voice. I hope if you have kids, they don’t grow up to be like you, cheating loyal people, he bellowed. He was taller than Charlie by 5 inches and 20 inches wider.

Sir please give me back the machine, or I will have to call the police.

Owwwwwwww, all the uniforms sticking together, isn’t that nice, the man said starting to gather a crowd of passers by.  You lot make me sick!

Charlie was beginning to spin, he’d had a long and stressful day and just wanted to be where he was loved, in the family home, surrounded by his children and supporting his wife.

The money I have to waste on crap like this, spat the man, ripping the ticket from the windscreen, means I can’t buy my daughter a new bike until next month, hope that makes it worthwhile mate.

Charlie could feel his hairs on his hands prickle, but he said nothing. The van man continued.

You lot walk round the bloody streets, terrorising ‘us’ who can afford cars, pay our road tax and keep our documents up-to-date, slamming tickets on our windscreens.

The man thrust the ticket machine into Charlie’s chest, taking away his breath. Charlie took it and starred at the enraged beast in front of him, belittling him in front of the gatherers and passers by, none of whom had come to help him. The man spat on Charlie’s shoe. Charlie could contain it no longer.

Sir with all due respect, I have six children at home and a wife who is clinically depressed.  I am a 35-year-old man, who has a legal degree with high distinctions. The family car got sold 2 months ago, because we had to pay for nappies and food. All our documents were fully up-to-date. I am doing my job, which I am paid to do, not to annoy you, or to benefit myself or have a vendetta against the community, but to pay the bills and support my family.  We all have problems and at the moment you are mine!  Charlie took a deep breath and looked at the man straight in the eyes I suggest, you get a tissue for your issue and here’s the fine for your crime. Good day! and with that Charlie walked home. He didn’t look back to see the man with his mouth wide open as though someone had reached in and switched off his voice box. The gathered people started to drift away too. Charlie was sure he had heard one little old lady clap as he walked past, but that could have been in his imagination.

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Comments
  1. Laura Eno says:

    You never know what the other person’s life is like… 🙂 Welcome to #Fridayflash!

  2. There are always people who think the rules don’t apply to them. They’d be the first to call the cops if someone was parked, blocking their drive.

    Welcome to #FridayFlash.
    ~jon

  3. T.S. Bazelli says:

    Welcome to #FridayFlash ! I really felt for Charlie, he was just doing his job, and more, always thinking of his family. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. Simon says:

    Great debut! Good old Charlie-what self control he has. Makes me want to smile at traffic wardens. Well done on a lovely story and welcome to #fridayflash!
    Simon

  5. peggy says:

    Welcome to #fridayflash. I was most impressed that Charlie, after working such a demanding job, walked in the door each night with a sense of accomplishment for supporting his family. If only everyone could take that perspective when they have to work a job they don’t necessarily like.

    I liked the gentle tone and delivery of this story too.

  6. Poor guy gets no respect. The tone fits the character. A bit long for flash (well over 1000 words) and there’s some room for cutting that wouldn’t change anything. When I started writing for #FridayFlash, that was my biggest challenge; making the words count and trying to get under 1000. Nice debut. Keep it up.

  7. Nice debut at #fridayflash. I was once a dog catcher so can relate to the plight of the struggling civil servant…

  8. ganymeder says:

    Some jobs really are thankless! It’s often surprising how self righteous people are who feel entitled to be above the law.

    Welcome to #fridayflash!

  9. Warden says:

    Welcome to Friday Flash! It was a bit long, but a good story. From an editors point of view, it would be easier to read if you put the dialog in it’s own paragraph, and it does have room for cutting. Overall a nice debut. Looking forward to more.

  10. Pamila Payne says:

    I’m so used to reading crime and horror stories that I assumed you were building to a violent end. I was glad to see this gentle person stay true to his belief in civility however, and found his response very satisfying. Nice debut.

  11. Welcome to #fridayflash! An auspicious debut, you have here.
    Enjoyed the gentle, rolling, matter-of-factness of your story. No great terrible violence, which would have ruined it, just a guy trying to get through life, family intact.

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