The Jolly Boys

Shirley Stephenson is a bored housewife who never stops day in day out, its the same humdrum existence. Bob her husband is a lazy good for nothing. who lost his leg in an industrial accident and is claiming benefit fraudulently. he keeps her short and moans because she goes to the bingo. Shirley finds the courage to file for a divorce and free herself. her life is suddenly transformed after she finds all of the compensation that Bob has been hiding from her. she orders a taxi she takes £30.000 and takes a box with some things that her gran had left her.

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“Who is this decision maker then.’

“I do not have that information.’

“Well how can I pay the money back if I’m struggling to pay my bills now. I see on the form we have sent you Mr Stephenson that you are to be reassessed for your capability to work. Are you working at the moment?’

“I am doing voluntary work in a taxi office for a few hours a week.’

“You are receiving payment for this work?’

“Look I just told you it’s voluntary.’

“Please calm down Mr Stephenson.’

“I would like to see how calm you’d be if you had the same circumstances.’

“I work Mr Stephenson.’

“So did I Miss, until I lost my leg.’

“You have no other disabilities then?’

“Yes, I do actually but like your bloody decision maker you are not medically qualified to make a diagnosis on my circumstances.’

“All I can do is write down your capability for work.’

“I was a skilled man, earning four times your salary I bet. I never asked to be put on the scrap heap, your lot did that. Now all I’m asking for is to take a couple of pounds each week out of my benefit if I have to pay this money back through your incompetence.’

“My incompetence?’

“The socials then.’

“You have to attend the medical on 14th of October at Arden House in Gosforth then you will hear if your claim for incapacity benefit has been successful.’

“How long will that be?’

 “Well that depends on the decision maker but it is usually about two weeks after that.’

“What am I meant to live on until this bloody decision maker makes up his mind?’

“Do you have any savings Mr Stephenson?’

“If I had any savings do you think I would be bothering you.’

“You will be surprised at how many people that do.’  

“Well not me.’

“We will send you a giro cheque out until a decision has been made; less a deduction for overpayment.’ If your claim is unsuccessful your money will stop and you will have to sign for unemployment benefit. Again, they will deduct what you owe for overpayment. Now is there anything else Mr Stephenson?’

“No.’

The phone went dead and Bob launched the forms across the room in frustration.’

He sat thinking and wondering if Shirley had shopped him to the social.’

“No,’ Shirley wouldn’t do that he thought but someone else maybe had.’ Bob racked his brain thinking of people who maybe might report him to the Social Security office. It was bad timing really as he was away on holiday in two days’ time. He’d only be home for two weeks before his medical assessment. He was thinking of what to tell the medical assessment team if they asked how he got his suntan. The rain hadn’t stopped for three weeks and they’d had little in the way of sunshine. Then a brainwave came to him. He would say that his father had paid for him to go away. He went to the bathroom and shaved he would have to tell his father in case the social security rang him and asked but it would have to be away from Betty Bumface.

Later that evening Bob met his father and told him that he had an appointment at Arden house.

“What about our holiday are you still going to be able to go?’

“Yes, but you will have to tell them if they contact you to say you are paying for me to go okay.’

“Okay.’

“Don’t tell Betty dad, I don’t want her to know alright.’

“Alright, if you say so son.’

“It’s just cos’ she’s got a big mouth and before long everyone will know my business.’

Just then Betty Bumface returned with a domino card that she’d been around the club with. “There’s two numbers left do you want them?’

Aye I’ll take them; bob took the domino card and wrote Wonky Donkey on it. Then gave the card back to Betty. The domino bag was shuffled and the barmaid asked to pick one out.’

“Five blonk is you’re domino. Betty peeled back the seal over the winning domino.’

“She pulled a face then looked over at Bob.’ Five blonk is number twenty- eight Wonky Donkey.’

“Get in said Bob more money towards my spending money.’

“He just walks in and wins; I cannot win a bloody thing. She begrudgingly handed him ten pounds and Bob stuffed it in his back pocket; She would get no tip off Bob.  He took the next card and filled in his numbers that he’d normally take. Eleven and number seven were quickly written down on both sides of the card. He then looked for the tickets for the key draw and proceeded to go around the club selling them. He bought himself ten pounds worth. The draw was now up to nine hundred and fifty pounds. Well worth winning if he could pick the right key. Whoever got the winning ticket got £20.00 then was given the bag to pick out one of how many keys there were in the bag. Tonight, there was seven keys left. A one in seven chance of winning thought Bob. He had 20 chances of winning. The vast majority of members only bought a couple of pounds worth. When he’d finished he went to the bar and bought a round of drinks. As much as he hated Betty Bumface he bought her a drink as well. He returned to the table with the cash bag and the tickets.

Betty picked up the cash bag and bob snatched it out of her hand.

“What are you doing?’

“I was just going to count the money.’

“You don’t touch that money Betty that’s my job, I’m responsible for that money.’

The money was always short whenever she did the key draw and he suspected that she was dipping. He couldn’t prove it but it was the same story with the domino cards as well. When questioned about the shortage she would just say that someone must have put more numbers on and only paid her for one.

“Don’t you bloody check to see how many numbers they’ve taken Betty?’

“No,’ I just trust them to give me the right money she admonished.’

“Christ, you trust no-one Betty.’ When someone gets the card I just check how many numbers were left before- hand then just count up again then you know how much they owe.

“If you think I’m counting every bloody time someone takes the card you can kiss my arse.’

“Well why don’t you let me sell the cards then.’

“No,’ she said I’ve always done the domino cards.’

“But the club is losing money every week man Betty.’

“Bugger off Bob the club is making money hand over fist here.’

Bob wished that she’d never been elected on the committee. Since women were allowed into the bar they were allowed to vote females onto the committee. Betty Bumface put her name down straight away and all the women voted for her because they thought that having a woman on the committee would make a difference. The truth was she was an interfering old cow and wanted to know everyone’s business and a rogue to boot. Bob watched her like a hawk as she went around with the card. Bob took a large swallow from his pint of John Smiths then recoiled.

“Shit,’ that’s gross. He picked up the pint and walked back to the bar with it. Julie Hind was serving.

“Julie can I have another pint, that one tastes funny?’

“They’ve just changed the barrels over Bob; I’ll get you another.’

“Thanks Julie.’

Julie poured Bob some beer from the new barrel into a half pint glass and gave it to Bob to try before pouring him a full pint.’

That’s better said Bob as he drank the beer from the half pint glass.’

“She poured the pint then smiled.’

“Thanks Julie pet said Bob then came back to the table.’

“The bingo is going on sale said his father.’

“No hurry is there fatha.’

“You know what Betty is like.’

“Look Da’ just stand up to her for God’s sake.’ “You wouldn’t let my mother speak to you like she does.’

“I’m too old and long in the tooth for arguments now son.’

“She’s just a bully; but this is one man she will never bully.’

“Do you always have to fight I know she will never replace your mother but you could try to get on.’

 

Albert Snowdon the bingo caller got up onto the stage and pressed the automatic number selector 0ne to ninety then turned on the mike.

“Good evening ladies and gentleman and welcome to the Comrades Club your first flyer is green in colour and we are playing for a line for twenty pounds and a full house for fifty. When you are ready to play.’

There was a large group of women talking over loudly down at the front Mavis Smith and her friends liked a glass or two of whiskey and as the drinks flowed so did the laughter as it got louder and louder.

“Best of order said Albert as he read out the first number.

Bob stopped on his own because he objected to sharing three ways with Betty Bumface. He had no qualms about sharing with his father.

Steadily he marked his six tickets until there was a call from the back of the room and Bob got up to check the ticket he had the money to be paid out for each line and house. He checked the ticket then counted the money out in front of the woman who’d won. There could be no discrepancies as there was witnesses. Whenever Bumface did it she just handed them the envelope and would just walk away. Bob told her if someone disputed that the pay-out was wrong the club would have to stump up the money. She just wouldn’t listen though. They won nothing on the bingo but Bumface won the fifth domino card the money went straight into her purse. His father bought all the drinks when it came to her turn to get the round in. she drank double vodka tonics with a slice of orange and a glazed cherry on a cocktail stick which she insisted on. His father drank scotch these days because Bumface didn’t like him drinking the stronger beers. He was limited to four pints then Bumface would remind him that he was on medication and that it wouldn’t be good for him to drink anymore. She on the other hand would pour vodka down her neck until she went home slurring her speech.

At nine thirty Albert Snowdon informed the members that the key draw would be taking place.

He read out the starting and finishing numbers of the tickets and entered them into the machine. He called up Brenda Main from the audience to press the button. Brenda the petite forty- year old blonde was a regular on karaoke nights when Paul Rutherford would bring out the karaoke machine and the members could get up and sing a song. Some were very good singers but there were others who were completely tone deaf. Bob usually went to the bog when anyone bad got up. Brenda loved to sing songs by Brenda Lee, Connie Francis, and Patsy Cline. She was good enough in her younger days to sing professionally and her brothers who had his own group called the Symitars that toured the clubs would often get her up in the sixties to sing a few numbers. She worked in Presto’s on the deli Counter and would sing away all day as customers would gather and give her a round of applause then go on to buy something. Brenda stepped forward to the machine wished everyone good luck then pressed the button.

The bright red numbers whizzed around then stopped. Albert picked up the microphone and read out the winning number 58743. Betty Bumface smiled saying “I think I’ve got it. Bob didn’t go into his pocket to check his tickets because Bumface was seldom wrong.

Going into her purse she took out the six tickets that Bobs father had bought her quickly she checked the numbers off.

“Bugger I’ve got 58741.’

Bob was glad that she hadn’t won. He reached into his back pocket and looked at his numbers and came to the second ticket on the strip; he looked at it then and said nothing.

Betty Bumface was cursing because she had missed it by two.

“Who bought the next tickets after me.’

“Bob looked at her then said well,’ that could have been me.’

“You haven’t.’

“I have smirked Bob as he showed her the ticket.’

“It’s alright you won’t open the bloody box anyway it’s waiting for me tomorrow night.’

Bob climbed the stairs to the stage and showed Albert the ticket.’

“Albert picked up the mic and spoke: “We have a winner ladies and gents. There was a round of applause and shouts of “Go on Bobby open the box son.’ Albert gave Bob a crisp £20 pound note and he put it into his back pocket.

Bob was a popular committee man and liked by most of the members. Albert placed six keys into the bag then took out the key from the box after locking it and put it into the bag than shook it up.

“Go on Bob said Albert you know the drill. Pick a key and try it into the lock.’ Bob put his hand in the bag and felt the keys in his hand then picked one out then held it up so the audience could see it.

He looked down at His father and Bumface. He swore he could hear her cursing under her breath as he placed the key into the lock and turned it anti- clockwise the door sprung open and Bob had the biggest smile on his face.’

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