© Timothy Saint
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‘Solomon Says’ is a collection of Modern Morality Tales comprising twenty short stories, each inspired by an Old Testament quotation from the Book of Proverbs – traditionally supposed to have been penned by King Solomon. All the stories are posted on YWO.
SOLOMON SAYS: The Post Office Job
(previously entitled ‘The Suicide Note’)
A Short Story – 2,200 Words
“The first thing I want to say is I am making this tape of me own free will. I, Leonard Reginald Gubbins, being of sound mind and body would like to get down some certain particulars, and get a few other matters off of me chest before I pops me clogs. I reckon I’ve got about an hour before she’s ready to go up. Writing’s not exactly me forty (if that’s the right word) so, as I says, I’m putting it on tape while I’ve got a bit of breathing space. No joke meant nor intended.
The windows are shut tight and the stuffed snake thing is across the bottom of the door, but I reckon the gas will take a while to fill the flat enough. Never thought I’d end me days in one of these jerry-built council low-rises - always figured I’d get off the estate one day - one way or another. Still, I suppose I’ll be getting off it now and no mistake, or me name’s not Lenny Gubbins.
The funny thing is I wasn’t far off being right. All me life I’ve thought I’ll get the lucky break that’ll get me out of this Smethwick slum, then what happens? Me lucky break, that’s what. And can I enjoy the bit of good fortune I’ve paid me dues for over the years and thoroughly deserves? No I can’t. I’m forty years old, for goodness sake. I’ve got ninety grand and I’m not giving it up, no way, no how, not to nobody. I’d rather blow meself to kingdom come. And will.
That Oldbury Road Post Office job will be the epilogue on me gravestone (if that’s the right word). None of us expected the Post Office to be holding that sort of money. Meself, I thought we’d be lucky to get away with a few pension books, and to not have to worry about buying stamps for the Christmas cards this year.
Ninety grand. Who’d have thought it? At last a decent return on all me years of toiling and petty thievery - me ticket off the estate - no, not just off the estate but right out of the area. Somewhere nice, the coast maybe. Of course, that would have meant not divvying up the kitty - but whoever actually heard of any honour among thieves? And now? Coppers. Bloody coppers. Gotta be for me. Biggest job of me life. Riskiest job of me life, come to that. And I get to be rich for less than a day.
I ain’t always been a bit of a wrong’un, you know - I didn’t leave school with any GCSEs in nicking out of houses and pinching motors. Well, to be honest I didn’t really leave school at all - I sort of gradually stopped going. History and maths are all fine and dandy, but there’s things like amusement arcades, betting shops and pubs what can turn a young boy’s head and, before you know it, they’re a full time job of work which has to be financed from somewhere. Lucky for me, spending me life in bars, clubs and snooker halls, I was never short of helpful contacts who were able to steer me in the right direction.
That gas is a bit strong, makes you feel sick. It hasn’t got a proper smell, has gas - they add the smell at the factory or somewheres. I know stuff like that, that’s why I always reckoned I’d get meself somewhere in life - a cut above, you know? I’m not some pig-ignorant Brummie who doesn’t know his backside from a hole in the ground. Trouble is, of course, not having what you might call a conventional career, you miss out on things like paid holidays, company pensions and the like. And of course anything what requires a reference - like a mortgage for instance.
Which is how I’ve ended up in this crummy dump. Mind you, I don’t think I’d have exercised me ‘Right to Buy’ from the local authority even if I could have raised a mortgage. Come to think of it, I’ll be doing them a favour when I light me next (and final) fag. It’ll take more than a lick of paint to tart up the pigsty this time.
Anyhow, the more it sunk home to me just how rich I now was, the more the possibilities for a bit of fun opened themselves up. OK, I admit it don’t seem so funny now, now the flat is starting to smell gassy, but what with getting off the estate at last and everything, it seemed like a good opportunity to get me own back on a few people. And the very first - the numero uno - the top of the list, would be that long streak of water Micky Robinson downstairs.
I never could stand that bloke – though I always fancied his missus Denise. In fact I know for certain sure their little Dwayne is my boy. Not any doubt about it. Micky was banged up at the time for going equipped and a few matters taken into consideration, and Denise was more than accommodating after an evening session of takeaway Chinese and Blue Nun. Sweet.
So, I was pleased to make it me business, as soon as the pubs had chucked out this afternoon, to ring sodding Micky Robinson and inform him of his new status as husband of a tramp and parent to a fine addition to the Gubbins dynasty. Had to leave a message on his answering machine, but I should think he’ll go ballistic when he hears it. It’s a pity I won’t be around to see it now. It’s almost worth turning meself in for. I can hear more sirens in the distance. Sounds like they’re coming this way - but I can’t and bloody well won’t do any more bird. Not having got me hands on so much money. Life is so sodding unfair sometimes.
After I’d left the good news with Micky, I went back out, visited a couple of all day pubs just to keep the mood going then came back to this hole to start packing. I’d pretty much decided on Weston-Super-Mare for me new life. It’s on the classy side, a bit like meself, but I suppose I should have realised a loser like me just ain’t going to get an even break. Ever. It’s like these things are dangled in front of you from time to time just so’s they can be snatched away. Well no more, I ain’t having it.
I hadn’t got the sodding suitcase open before the first cop car drove on to the estate. It came straight to this block, lights all flashing. I was gutted. All that dosh, and me on top for the first time ever. Stupid of me to even think we might have got clean away with it. You’ll never take me alive copper I said to meself - and they won’t. The gas is getting strong in here now. I’m busting for a fag but it’ll have to wait.
I know how they’ve found out about the Post Office job, now I’ve had time to think about it. It was that useless half-wit Ox. They calls him Ox cos he’s built like one, which comes in very handy in our line of business. I’ve always thought he’s got a brain like an ox as well, and not a very bright ox at that.
I’d left him earlier in the Bricklayer’s, and he was falling-down drunk then. Pound to a pinch of you-know-what he’s opened his great gob and started boasting about what a brilliant job we’d pulled. Which, considering our success was pretty much down to luck, makes it a bit of a bastard his big mouth has led to our downfall. Not to mention the end of me sodding life. Shame I couldn’t have found a way to get him up here with me, that would have learned him a lesson.
It stinks in here now. Not long to go then. I hopes this tape survives - I know I won’t. More police cars have turned up, there’s coppers everywhere. Won’t be long before they’re knocking on the door. I’m surprised they haven’t already. Maybe they thinks I’ve got some sort of shooter? They’ll be in for a shock if they do come in mob-handed. It’s going to be quite something. Not bad for someone who’s failed at everything he’s ever tried - going out in a blaze of glory. Something they’ll talk about round here for years. This gas is starting to make me feel quite strange. Light headed, like.
And while we’re at it I’d like to take this chance to tell me brother-in-law Graham that I hate him and always have done with his smarmy I wear a tie to work and drive a company Mondeo airs and graces. I think I’d have been happier if our kid had
married a farmyard …
And while we’re talking about animals …
it’s getting bad in here now I can’t hardly breathe …
it was me what shot that screw’s dog with the crossbow after me last stretch inside …Winson Green …
I found out where he lived and went round and got a little bit of revenge so …
stick that in your pipe …
I think I’m going to throw up this is it then …
what the hell’s all that banging …
time for me last fag …
the condemned man …
me old mam always said it would kill me …
where’s me sodding lighter …
ta-ta a bit …
sod the lot of …
“Thank you, constable,” said the Detective Inspector as the uniformed officer finished reading out the transcript.
Lenny Gubbins sat opposite the DI in the small interview room, head bowed, the clean white bandages round his hands in stark contrast to his blackened face and singed clothing. A trickle of dried blood led from the turban-like bandage that shrouded his head to a brow now devoid of eyebrows.
“I reckon that’s as good as a signed confession,” said the DI. “Now. Tell me, Len. Just why did you decide to end it all whilst hiding under the dining room table?”
Lenny mumbled an answer.
“Sorry, Len. Didn’t get that,” said the DI. “Speak up, will you?”
“I SAID, I DROPPED ME BLEEDIN’ LIGHTER.”
“No need to shout, Len.” The detective directed a smirk at his colleague. “I expect that’ll be the explosion, constable. Saved his life though, that table. Someone up there must like him.”
He turned his attention back to the robber.
“To be honest, Len, we’d never even connected you with the Oldbury Road job – doubt we ever would have done, either. Now, if the charity box outside had gone missing, that might have been a different matter, but a Post Office blag? No.”
He paused to let this news sink in. Lenny Gubbins continued to study the graffiti-scarred table top.
“What you don’t seem to have realised, Len, is those flats were jerry-built. I’m surprised you didn’t know that, living there. All you managed to do by blowing the place up was to blow out the walls of the adjoining flats. It’s a pity one of those walls flattened three people waiting at the bus stop.”
“There is also a distinct possibility, Len,” said the detective, a hint of malice creeping into his voice, “that you may at some stage wish you’d stuck your head in the oven instead of trying to blow up half of Birmingham. Right about the time you meet up with a certain ex-dog owning warder at Winson Green prison, I shouldn’t wonder.”
There was a pause, and for a moment the only sound in the room was the whirring of the tape recording machine. The police officer continued, this time in a more formal tone.
“Leonard Reginald Gubbins, an officer will escort you upstairs where you will be charged with three counts of manslaughter and one of robbery.”
The Detective Inspector stood up and turned to go. As he opened the door of the interview room he looked back at the failed robber and caught his eye.
“I doubt you want to know this, Len, but I’ll tell you anyway. Not only were we not looking at you for the Post Office job, but our lads were only on the estate because someone had reported a ‘domestic’. Apparently some bloke called Micky Robinson was knocking seven bells out of his missus in the flat downstairs. Funny old life isn’t it?”
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise:
but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
- Proverbs, 13:20