Over the next two weeks, in a temporary workshop at the back of the shop, Beckett and Bill managed to put together ten fireplace surrounds. The ones that weren’t too bad to start with polished up quite nicely, they almost looked like the real thing.
Beckett kept a leery eye on Bill, directing the work with a claw hammer. He tried not to let Bill irritate him too much, but it wasn’t easy. For starters, every time Bill arrived at the shop first and if Gerry wasn’t around, Bill would describe, in gory detail, how he had just finished screwing the arse off of Sally. This sometimes went on day after day. Not a scenario to be believed by anyone with a postal address in the real world. Even though Beckett wouldn’t put anything past tarts, he found it hard to imagine the stick-thin Sally and buffalo Bill making the beast with two backs.
“Fort I’d split ‘er in two I did. Screamin’ ‘er bleedin’ ‘ead orf, she was.” Bill would brag.
Gerry meanwhile, put the word out that he had for sale a small quantity of high-end, antique marble fireplace surrounds, ranging in antiquity from circa 1750 all the way up to the turn of the century, and that the price of purchase included a free installation by a team of qualified professionals. He even went so far as to put a sign in the window advertising the whole thing, printed mind, nothing hand-lettered with an old biro on a shoe box lid. Beckett was almost impressed.
One morning, Gerry came downstairs to find a customer already in the shop. Worse, Bill was trying his hand at sales. He held up a particularly ugly 1940’s Bakerlite light fixture, assuring the bemused customer that, whereas the fixture was now electric, it was nevertheless genuine “sixteenf sentry” and had been converted from an original gas lamp. Grabbing a handy broom, Gerry brought Bill’s sales career to an abrupt halt by driving him from the shop and out into the back yard.
A couple of days later, the first yuppies stumbled into the trap. These people always had to let you know what it was they did to be able to afford the old tot they were about to be conned into buying. The female yup was an attorney, while the male claimed to be something in the City. Beckett, if asked, could have ventured a fairly colorful opinion as to what as well.
Gerry was quite adept at giving the impression he was losing control of the bartering process, and so gradually allowed himself to be talked down to prices that were always at least twenty percent above the going rate. As these yuppies made an appointment to view the fireplace surrounds Gerry, for once, had time to wash, shave and dress halfway decently. Even so, he emerged somewhat incongruously clad in a white, rumpled Sidney Greenstreet suit and matching Panama hat. He had, the previous day, warned Beckett and Bill to stay in the back of the shop, preferably out in the yard, while he “fleeced the rubes”.
“Watches too many b-movies that one.” Beckett muttered, guilty of the same thing himself.
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