The Final Straw by Ted Tayler @ted_tayler


After he left school, Colin applied for over forty jobs but somehow his application forms constantly seemed to be overlooked. As he was always under the radar in class and never picked on or pointed to by any of the teachers, his impressive list of results caused a little consternation. Not in Colin, who would have liked to have gone on to do ‘A’ levels and even go to university. No, most of the kerfuffle was in the staff room and caused by teachers frantically trying to identify the student who had seven A* grade and four A grade passes. In the end they gave up and put it down to an administration error.

His mother solved the employment problem, possibly because she was terrified of having him at home day in day out and couldn’t afford new curtains anytime soon. More likely it was because as a single mother she was keen to get Colin out in the big wide world earning some cash as soon as possible.

Mrs Bailey knew someone at the church, who knew a man who was looking for a school leaver to work for peanuts. The Shaw Park mines were three miles out of town. There had been mines dug deep into the limestone to quarry stone for building materials from as long ago as Roman times. The network of tunnels was no longer being used for mining, that source of local employment having been abandoned in the sixties. Various species of bat had taken up residence in the decades since, plus a local entrepreneur who had realised the potential of the conditions underground and the security the tunnels could provide.

Colin’s academic prowess, cruelly cut short by his mother, much to his annoyance, suggested he was far more suited to senior management positions in due course rather than grafting hundreds of feet underground, but what he thought didn’t seem to matter. Colin just added this latest item onto the list of things he would ‘put right’ when the opportunity arose.

Karen was as keen as mustard regarding their relationship continuing and they met up a couple of times a week at least. Tuesdays and Fridays weren’t a problem getting away from his mother, as she just thought he was off to youth club. Even though she disapproved of the females that went there, she didn’t think Colin could get into as much trouble there as hanging around on street corners or worse still creeping into one of the town’s many public houses. She knew her son was seeing Susan’s youngest sister because Susan had let it slip in conversation one evening on the way home from work but at least she remained blissfully unaware of Colin’s real rather than imagined sexual activity.

Sometimes Colin and Karen walked up onto Lowden Hill and found their own little haven where they spent warm summer evenings exploring each others bodies. Colin had a mental wish list of things he wanted to do to Karen and what he wanted her to do to him. Over the summer evenings outdoors and into early autumn when the grass was too cold and damp so that the warmth of the Palace cinema seemed more and more attractive, he ticked lots of items off his list. He was a bit like one of those sad kids who went train spotting he thought one evening as he lay unsleeping re-living the hours he’d spent with Karen earlier! He wondered whether Ian Allan had published a book on the subject.

Karen was truly happy. Possibly for the first time in her life she had found someone who she believed loved her and she certainly loved Colin. She hadn’t let him go all the way yet but she wasn’t going to hold out much longer. She didn’t want to. Imagining what Colin’s monster would feel like inside her filled most of her waking hours!

The Pick and Mix counter at Woolworth’s in the High Street was where Karen had spent her Saturday mornings for the past year or so at school. Working that was, not browsing. Her exam results, much as she had expected, were a bit of an assortment, which meant she was destined to be picking and mixing on instruction from people who wanted a nibble for some time. Maybe after she’d had a couple of kids and got them off to school she would chat her Susan up to see if there was anything going at the care home; although she didn’t fancy it that much. Old people smelled of piss and up there they sat around for hours on end just staring at each other trying to remember who they were. If Colin had a really good job she might not have to work ever again. “Steady on girl” Karen said “He’s not hooked yet! Plenty of time to make plans when that day comes”

All the machinations between his mother and the go-betweens had been completed. Colin was to start work in mid-September at the Shaw Park mines. “Report to Mr Owens at 8.30am sharp in the morning” his mother told him on Sunday morning before she left for church. “And don’t let me down! You will, I know but please… not on the first day.”

So at the tender age of seventeen Colin was down the mines. He was the happiest he had ever been. This might seem a strange state of affairs but as we shall discover, there were many advantages to his new occupation and he saw the potential within a couple of hours as he was escorted on his induction programme by his new employer.

His boss was a wide boy called Eric Owens; in his mid forties Mr Owens had more front than most people which really only showed when his leather jacket was undone. He had cornered the market as far as storage was concerned. For his own part it was food washed down with copious amounts of lager; for his business it was providing space for people to keep their valuables secure.

The maze of tunnels were sectioned off by customer; many lined with filing cabinets full to overflowing with documents from banks, building societies, solicitors, insurance brokers, anyone and everyone that Mr Owens could convince that this was the place to keep things safe for decades, so that their company premises could be light airy temples, honed to perfection in the art of making money.

A lot of this money came to Mr Owens because ‘safety costs, lack of safety costs you a whole lot more’ He repeated this mantra time and again as he sold the idea to professional people from all around the region.

“Well Colin my boy, that’s about all there is to see” said Mr Owens after a two hour walk around his place of business. Colin could see the exercise had raised a significant amount of sweat on his new employer’s forehead. “Just as well” thought Colin “I don’t reckon you could have lasted much longer without keeling over!”

Eric Owens flopped into his office chair and indicated to Colin to sit down. “The first twelve months or so you’ll be working with Wally Kerr on days; he’s been here ever since we opened and knows the ropes. You listen to Wally and you won’t go far wrong. Once you hit eighteen, provided you haven’t pissed off to some fancy job in London, then you can work the night shift.”

Colin reckoned his mother had put this notion into Fat Eric’s head. If he was on nights he’d be out of the house evenings when her bible basher’s came round, plus he’d be stuffed as far as spending evenings with Karen or any other loose women that his mother disapproved of. While he was making a mental note of the next black mark to be put against his mother’s name when he got home later, he realised Eric was still droning on.

“On nights mind, you’ll be your own boss. You’ll be down here alone and what with turning eighteen your wages will be a sight better.”

Colin couldn’t wait. It had dawned on him as they were walking round the various tunnels that the filing cabinets contained vast amounts of raw data on thousands of people via the banks, building societies and so on that stored old paperwork there. It might prove to be considerably quicker to track down a person you were looking for, like a father for example, if you had access to all that documentation. Unwittingly, Eric was providing a service which, if Colin had been a criminal, could yield chapter and verse on a prospective target. Fortunately for Fat Eric, Colin wasn’t a criminal. Well at least not yet.

Colin caught a bus to the outskirts of town and then walked the next mile or so to the Shaw Park mines offices, throughout the winter months and into the New Year. His mother grabbed him at the end of his second week and demanded a sizeable chunk of his first ever wage packet for the housekeeping. “Same amount every week on Friday night or you can find a place of your own, okay?” she had muttered.

Colin hadn’t argued. He left the money on the hall table each week and counted his blessings. At least if he paid her, she left him alone. In fact, he hardly saw her over the next six months. She was at church or Graceland’s; out shopping or visiting other friends who were ill or had become housebound. She’d go anywhere, Colin had imagined, rather than remain home and perhaps have to acknowledge I exist.

Although her friends frequently asked Karen who she was seeing these days, she wanted to keep Colin for herself, no sense mixing with lots of other couples and one of her prettier friends getting off with him once they realised he was so well endowed. She knew how her friends thought. Boys were deluded in thinking a healthy sex drive was only in the male domain; if they only knew how virtually every girl in Karen’s class in that last year at school, had talked about pretty much nothing else but sex and how to get more of it without getting pregnant. Half a dozen of them had fluttered their eyelids at Leroy thinking they would get a good seeing to by a black man on their CV, but Karen knew he was only good for a five furlongs sprint, not up to lasting three miles on heavy ground. Once she had left school, although she sometimes met up with a few of her classmates in The Crown for a few underage drinks and a listen to whatever group was playing in there on a Friday night, she saw Colin as often as possible. The cold dark nights curtailed the extent of their amorous intentions. Although The Palace gave Karen ample opportunity to administer to Colin’s manhood with her hand and mouth she was still waiting that first opportunity to go ‘all the way’. Colin was good to her in return and he had given her an early Christmas present in the first week of December when he had taken advantage of a near empty cinema for a screening of ‘Red Sonja’ to slip down onto his knees and use his tongue on her. She came with such a moan that the manageress thought someone had been taken ill and all the lights in the auditorium came up with Colin still on all fours.

Colin didn’t think the manageress believed for one minute that he had dropped his mint imperials and Karen had just playfully slung her leg over him, trapping him. She gave both of them a knowing look and suggested they ‘get a room’ and also that they behave themselves in future or they would be barred.

Karen brought up the idea of getting a room when Colin walked her to the bus stop that night; she was keen to do the deed as soon as possible. Her place was out of the question however as her Dad was a bit strict about his children shagging their partners under his roof. Colin wished that his mother was dead. Then they could go back to his room and he wouldn’t have to fantasise about doing it any longer. It would have had to wait until the next night though as he needed time to check out the state of his sheets and stash his magazines well out of sight.

“It’s no good most weekday nights” he said to Karen “she’s either got somebody coming over or she’s just sat in watching TV. She’s at Graceland’s on Tuesday next week doing an evening shift but after she’s dropped your Susan off she’ll be home by ten.”

Karen’s face lit up and she gave Colin’s sack a little squeeze. “Don’t worry” she squealed “I’ll ask Susan to make an excuse and say she wants to have a look at a second hand car in the garage up the Shaw Road or something so they have to do a detour. That will give us another twenty minutes! Your Mum won’t say no, because if our Susan gets her own transport they can take it in turns to drive to work and it’ll save her some pennies! I’ll be round your place at eight. I can’t leave straight after I get in from work or my Mum will smell a rat.”

The die was cast. They talked about nothing else when they met up on Saturday. The two shifts at work with Wally Kerr moaning about his feet, his back, his piles and everything else that was troubling him, seemed to drag even more than usual, but eventually Colin was walking briskly back towards the bus stop and the short ride home to await the arrival of his girlfriend.

He shot upstairs to his bedroom and then tiptoed across the landing to the bathroom and tried to run a bath as quietly as possible. Fat chance! “Why are you using all the hot water” his mother shouted up the stairs “You’re not going out in this rain surely? I’ve got to get soaked hanging around looking at cars in the lot by that garage on the way out of town because your hussy’s sister can’t choose a car for herself. When I get in later there had better be some left for me to make myself look human again.”

Colin tried to work out whether there was enough hot water in the world to achieve that. As he washed, shaved and splashed on some deodorant, which his father had overlooked in his haste to get the hell out of the family home, Colin reflected that despite the fact that he saw Karen three sometimes four nights a week these days, she was still not considered girlfriend material by his mother. Not for her little boy even though she hated him and treated him like shit. He was sick and tired of her constantly running people down with no justification. She was going the right way about getting promoted on that list!

He tiptoed back to the sanctuary of his bedroom and flicked through one of his magazines. He heard his mother muttering something about a ‘tart’s boudoir’ while she was getting ready for work. Then she was gone and Colin had the house to himself. He looked at his watch. Just over two hours until Karen would arrive. He returned to the crumpled pages of ‘Backdoor Babes’ for a while but the promise of a real woman in his bed made these pictures less attractive than they had ever appeared before. Even though he had bags of time, he didn’t have the inclination for one off the wrist while he was waiting. He congratulated himself on his self control and wondered if he would ever need to fly solo again after tonight.

As he had nothing to occupy his hand or his mind he nodded off and the next thing he heard was a frantic knocking on the front door and a female voice shouting “For fuck’s sake Colin, let me in! It’s pissing down out here!” It was his beloved.

Well, actually that was how Karen felt about Colin; she was in love with him and she fully intended to stay that way. She thought he felt the same way about her but Colin was not really the sort of character to have emotions like other people. His relationship with his parents, or rather the lack of a relationship, meant he didn’t really feel any close bond with another human being. He liked Karen. He liked how she made him feel and liked the things she let him do to her. But was it love? No Colin didn’t love her but for the time being, he wouldn’t be without her. He could imagine being with Karen for quite some time after tonight actually. After all, they wouldn’t get through all the positions in the magazines tonight would they?

No, our two young people had two entirely different agendas. Little did they know that tonight was going to be a tipping point in their lives and for Colin another stepping stone towards his inevitable personal Armageddon!

Buy Now @ Amazon & Amazon UK & Smashwords

Genre – Crime / Thriller

Rating – 18+

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