I never wanted to start working for Gerry Broker. It was all sort of out of my control. The fucker used to pull at my hair when we were kids, and shower me in abuse of all shades of shite. Molly couldn’t stand him either. When we were together she used to say:
– He’s a bad bloke, Gerry Broker is, she said. – Stay clear of him. But I’d no choice. Broker basically seized his Dad’s double glazing business in Blackpool soon after he left school. He tried to sound like a flash fuck and describe himself as European Sales Manager when we all knew he was just a door-to-door salesman. So was I. And, him being a natural bully, he was very good at it. Me being a bit limp tongued, I was pretty bad. The thing is, I wasn’t actually working for Broker. Well I was…technically. But I was more just watching: documenting. We didn’t have a camera, no… nor me or Niall, we were too poor for that. But I took note of how Broker behaved. I wrote it all down. I suppose this is the story of where my findings took me. But not the whole thing. Not by a long shot. My notes on Broker came to over a thousand pages in the end. Of what Broker taught me. You might think it’s dumb really, to work for a man you hate, just to observe him for all his wrongs. But it made sense. Molly loved documentaries after all. It seemed like the only way I win her love back, in making one of my own. I thought I’d publish it all and illuminate to Mol my ingenuity and thoughtfulness and bring Brooks down in the process. The plan was sweeter than strawberries.
I was telling her about my dreams before it all began. Quirky little fucked up ones they were, at the time. I told Mol what happened in ‘em. I said:
– I’m falling, hurtling, down to the floor from some tummy turning height. Then I’m in a room fulla tickin clocks and my teeth are all falling out on the floor. Molly’d shake us awake and she’d say I’d be like crying almost. I’d be alright though, once I could roll onto my side and trace the curves in her back with my hands, and rest my thumb in the delicate kidney dimples on the small of her back. I remember how the bow in her spine eased down and swept upwards at the bottom. It could have been formed in the design of a delicate swish of a composer’s baton. Those dreams plagued me in the odd hours for weeks on end. Until I took Mol over Blackpool tower one day. She was going on about how the glass at the top, the walk of faith she says it’s called, can take a weight of summit like fifty tonnes. She said it was on Louis Theroux or some other documentary the other week.
– I fuckin hate Louis Theroux. I said, trying to move the conversation away from documentaries. They’re all she ever spoke about.
– You don’t even know who he is, Jon. He’s an interesting man. I’d never been into documentaries. Looking at everything through a magnifying glass, you miss the bigger picture, I reckon.
– Jonny, she says. – I can’t be doing this no more. At first I thought she meant the height of it, what with us bein’ near 150 metres up in clouds.
– Let’s geddown then, shall we? I said, putting my arm round her flat shoulders, ushering her to the exit. She stepped back from me and says:
– That’s not what I mean, Jonny. I can’t deal with your hate for everything, she says. After two years together she pissed all over us. I didn’t know at the time what brought it on. I’d had thoughts of asking Mol to become Mrs. Jonny Hopping. Just as well I didn’t ask. Proper tit I’d have looked when she’d have said no. I looked down at my feet so she couldn’t see me weeping like an open wound, forgettin we’re on the glass floor, right at the top. My bowels slackened at the sight of all the lego-men below – the ittiness of everything. Nigh on shat my pants at the very top. That wouldn’t have been the ideal way to go about winning her love back. She nestled her precious head in my chest for a few seconds, then left. I can still feel that impression on my heart now. I rang Niall and he came down to the pier and we skittered skimming stones across the flat grey water for a while, supping at Special Brew and acting like neither of us had a care for anything in the whole shitey world. He’d just told us that his Dad’s window tinting company had gone under.
– We’re fucked, he said. – There’s no decent work for boys like us, Jonny. Dad says he’s sorted us somethin’ though. With Broker.
– Fuck that, I said. That’s not for me, Ni. Broker’s a fat bastard. And he’s always had it in for me.
– He’s not the same as when we were boys, Jon. He’s a grown bloke, he’s done us a good turn. And so that’s when I thought it. I had no option but to work for the fucker, I’d be out on the streets if not. And I wanted to stick with Niall. The lanky bastard would be lost without me, and I don’t mean that in a big-headed way. He’s as dumb as a dandelion. If I had to work for this cocky bastard then I’d at least be in it to fuck him up somehow. Even if all that meant was jotting down how much of a twat he was in a little notebook. I felt like a soldier that didn’t shoot his gun on the job. A real thrill. A conscientious objector to door-to-door sales techniques.
Broker’s techniques were quite something, too. When me and Niall went over for our first day with him, he showed us some real dark stuff. I’d forgotten how unpleasant time spent in his company was. He had a maddening way of describing any conversation as though it happened back-to-back. “Then he turned round to me and says” forming the beginning of almost all his anecdotes.
– Then he turned round to me and says ‘you’re the best salesman I ever dealt with Gerry.’ And he’s right, Broker said, choking on his laugh which crawled up his thick neck and barked out of his rotter. When I thought about it, I completely understood if most of his conversations did happen back-to-back. After all, Broker had a nose like a huge glowing red chili and an uneven peppering of stubble across his cheeks. Proper fiery fucker. And you could tell he was a flash cunt right away, even if you didn’t see him rock up in his soft-top Saab, it was from his Clooney-grey hair that must work its charms on his victims. You couldn’t help but think he’d be driving something shitey like a Rover if his locks were Jon Snow-white. He had a fancy-as-fuck watch shackled around his wrist as well. A white metal thing with a face almost as big as his own. He wore it like a second cock. I never asked him the time, even if I really needed to know, just so he couldn’t get the satisfaction of swishing it in front of my muzzle.
– How’s the Mrs, Jonny? he said soon after we arrived and had suffered his crippling handshake. When he spoke his tongue slithered along his cheek before saying what he wanted to. He spoke too fast and huffed at the slightest of inconveniences. Asking this question seemed an inconvenience, and was followed by a long, wheezy huff.
– Fine, I said. Then he showed us his twisted mind. He knocked on a door and said – This is the shoes-off method. Me and Niall stood there behind him, a bit confused by that. You could already smell his bullshit blowing in the winter breeze. A bingo-winged lady answered, wearing a pinkish smock, with bulging electric blue varicose veins worming their way through her dimpled calves. Broker said:
– Good afternoon, lovey, how are you? before she could respond he started to unlace his shimmering black shoes and had them off pretty quick and offered himself in. In an instant I was drinking her cold tea and sat on her damp sofa with Niall beside me. Broker was performing his set from a clicky-combination type briefcase by the fireplace, and the lady sunk into her own swathes of yellow fat in the armchair by the front windows. I didn’t realise quite how large the lady was until we got in her living room. She needed a zimmerframe to get around. But despite asking us in for a drink and sounding very interested in Broker’s double glazing special offers, she soon backed away from any purchase.
– I’m sorry Mr. Broker, I’ve listened to what you’re offering but it just isn’t for me. I suppose I invited you in because I’m just lonely. My husband passed away a few months back, she said. I looked at Niall and he looked proper spaced out by the whole situation. It made the whole thing proper thorny. But Broker will never give up on a sale.
– What if I can offer you a third off our fitting fees? surely that’ll swing you, lovey? he said. I didn’t know there even was a fitting fee.
– No, no, Mr. Broker, she said, her swollen face dropping into a look of discomfort. – My husband wouldn’t be so happy at me spending money I don’t be needing to, she said. I was fascinated. Broker turned around and, almost hyperventilating, let out a sort of roar. You could tell he wanted to remind her that her husband is dead. Proper fucking psycho. Then he turned back all professional and said:
– May I ask how your husband died? I am very sorry for your loss, lovey.
– He fell and broke his neck… the C7, the bone at the bottom of your neck. The doc’s said it would have been almost instant, mind. So I can take something from that, she said, twisting her wedding ring around her oversized fingers.
– Goodness, Broker said. He was quiet for a sec, and then followed up with – What a jazzy way to go, the C7. Well, I’ll be blown. It’s been a pleasure, lovey. Now take a card. Broker threw one of his shitey business cards down on the brown carpet, snapped up his briefcase and left. Brash cunt. If I was the fly on the wall, she was the elephant in the room. Proper obese and having none of it and crying now. Made the rest of the day proper tetchy.
This sort of situation would be replicated around ten to fifteen times in an average day working with Broker. We must have covered half of Blackpool in a week or so, having shoes and abuse hurled at us often along the way. He bullied people with the power of his wrist-cock and silvering Ocean’s Thirteen hair. What I’m really here to tell you though, is about the one house we knocked on that really changed everything. I’d been a spending my days thinking too much, living inside my own head, I spose. It was just how it all ended so sudden. Like having my legs smashed out from beneath me, without a word of warning or chair to fall back on. Just fell right on my arse. My heart and stomach felt as though they’d plummeted through the walk of faith and thudded onto Blackpool beach. The house was in Staple Street, a shitey little road, straight from the set of Coronation Street. I pinged the broken doorbell and knocked a handful of times. Broker had been giving me shit all day about how shit I was at selling double glazing.
– Mediocrity is what it is Jonny boy, he said. – It’s as far as the eye can see. He also said it was ‘my day’, and that he wasn’t going to try and sell a thing to anyone until I’d made twenty seven sales. One for every mediocre year of my existence he said. He was more full of himself than a fucking Russian doll. Fucker, he is. Inflating his ego on the taste of my shortcomings. He was prodding me in the back I remember, at the doorstep of this house. And I remember how I noticed just before any answer came, that the skeletons of trees which lined the pot-holed road had ribbons of toilet roll coiled over and around them. It had taken over the trees themselves and infected them with its shitey contempt. I snapped my head back around to reprepare my pre-prepared bullshit Blue Peter speech. Broker called it the Blue Peter speech because it was ‘one he made earlier’. The prick. From behind the blue door a default faced lady answered, but I took nothing of her face in. My attentions fell to the blonde over her sharp shoulder, in the room behind her, almost supine, reclined way back in a special chair, plugged into a respirator, with tubes coming out of her like a web of poison ivy. It was Molly. I said nothing and just walked straight in. I could hear Broker yelp with awe at what he probably thought was some new, ballsy technique I’d invented to try to impress him. But I just had to speak to her. I knelt down by her side and pressed her fingers in my hands. She didn’t move and for a while I just knelt there and held her. The lady then said from the doorway:
– Jonnny, I suppose you are? I didn’t turn to her but nodded and she left us to it. Gerry didn’t come in either. The door clicked shut and I told Molly that I loved her, and I always would. I told her that if death ran off with me tomorrow, that I’d be more complete and not quite as cold and bitter as other men. It’s thanks to Molly’s compassion that I can say that. I said she’d always be welcome, in ten years or even fifty, to come and see me and spend an evening in each other’s company. Even though she couldn’t respond and nothing of it was said, we both knew that this could never happen. Mol wouldn’t make it. She looked grey. I found out at her funeral that it was her kidneys. I never found out why she did it.