Twists and Turns Part One
By: Peter Astle

1990.

"And that's my plan," Trevor said.

Big Lenny shook salt and vinegar over his huge plate of fish and chips, reconsidered, then added more salt. "You've heard about the Luddites, right?"

Trevor took a sip from his pint. "We did it in history at school. They went about destroying machinery in the Middle Ages. Saving jobs for proper skilled workers. Which is exactly my point."

Lenny stabbed a forkful of chips. "It was the Industrial Revolution, textile machines, but that's not the point. Point is, the Luddites were stupid. They thought smashing up machines would halt progress." He shook his head.

"This is different. This Karaoke fad is not progress. It's an affront to live musicians everywhere. Andy Stuart's taking over Derby."

"And destroying his machine will solve everything?"

"It'll give us a chance to get back on the scene. Look at how many gigs we've lost over the last month. The Royal Oak, the Anglers, the Malin, and now, the Sun Inn. It's okay for you. You've got your job at Sedgewood's. The band is all I've got left."

A dribble of vinegar escaped from the corner of Lenny's lips. He patted it with a serviette. "I care about the band too. More than you'd imagine. And, please, don't remind of my job. It depresses me. Only this morning I had to tell a recently bereaved widow that her husband's life insurance would not pay her a penny. I work for a crook, Trevor. You know that."

"It pays you a wage."

"Only a basic wage. Unless we sell the Gold policies. Anyway, it was your choice to give up your job at the post office."

"The band was doing well back then. I took a risk. Then Andy Stuart comes along with his machine." Trevor clasped his hands. "We have to destroy it, don't you see? Stealing it and selling it on won't be enough. It'll just perpetuate the craze. And selling it on won't be easy anyway. There's only three other people doing Karaoke in Britain right now. We've got to send out a message."

Lenny blew out his cheeks. "I still think it's a stupid idea."

"Andy's abroad next week. His cottage is in the middle of nowhere."

"You sure Danny knows what he's doing with the alarm system?"

"Absolutely. He fitted it."

"And he's happy for us to break in and just smash up Andy's equipment?"

"You know Danny," Trevor said. "He's always on side when it comes to the band. He understands what I mean about keeping music live."

"So, we become Luddites?"

"Someone's got to do something."

"And what does your Claire make of it?"

A hesitation. "I'm working on it."

*

Trevor pushed the supermarket trolley around Sainsburys far faster than necessary, giving the steering bar a little jig every now and again. Billy giggled in the toddler seat when Trevor made vroom vroom noises.

Claire kept her voice low. "You do realise all three of you will get sent down if you get caught."

"That's not going to happen," Trevor said. "I already told you, Danny knows how to disable the alarm system."

"So, when the police get involved—which they will—they might have a few questions for Danny Simpkins, which could lead back to you."

"Trust me. They're not going to chase the alarm fitter from two years' previous. Ancient history. The police don't even bother with burglaries these days. And there'll be no trace of the Karaoke kit."

Billy gave an excited squeal when they reached Trevor's old Cortina parked outside Sainsbury's in the new out–of–town retail park a few miles from Derby city centre. Trevor had not wanted to come here. Since the mid–eighties, American–style outdoor shopping centres were popping up all over the country, killing off the high street, taking people's jobs.

Claire argued it was progress.

Trevor saw it differently: cheap land on the outskirts of cities used to build characterless, steel–framed monstrosities, individualised only by their colourful shopfronts. Next to Sainsbury's was a huge B&Q, then a Next clothing store, then one of half–a–dozen furniture shops along the parade. According to the Derby Evening Telegraph, there were plans for a McDonalds by early December that you could drive through—they were actually going to call it a Drive Thru—where you could order fast–food without getting out of your car. Crazy world. Whatever next? Self–service checkouts in supermarkets to save money on staff? It wasn't hard to imagine. They'd already done away with bus conductors a decade ago. His dad had been one of the first to lose his job on the buses.

Just as Trevor popped open the boot of the Cortina, Billy waved his arms from the front seat of the supermarket trolley and gave another squeal.

"Fancy seeing you guys here."

Trevor turned to see Andy Stuart standing there, a Next bag in one hand, a sturdy Samsonite suitcase in the other. Both, clearly new purchases. Trevor couldn't help but notice the tiny wheels on rear of the Samsonite. He'd read about this new luggage trend, but this was the first time he'd actually seen one for real.

"Hi, Andy," Claire said.

Andy put down the Next bag and mussed Billy's hair. "Hi, Claire. Trevor. And you, big fella."

Billy cooed.

"Nice suitcase," Trevor said. "Looks expensive."

"Yeah, well. You get what you pay for. These things are so much easier. You don't have to bother with the clunky luggage trolleys at airports now. Just wheel it straight from the taxi to the check–in. Oh, sorry. I forgot. You don't do planes."

"I'll leave flying to the birds," Trevor said.

"Going anywhere nice?" Claire asked.

"Costa Blanca. Bit of a break. More for the missus than me. She's barely seen me these last few months. So busy."

Trevor couldn't resist. "So, you'll be giving the real musicians a chance then? While you're away."

Andy smiled. "You should come along to one of my Karaoke nights. It's a lot of fun. Isn't it, Claire?"

*

Claire cooked corned beef hash for supper with peas and gravy. It was a far cry from what they'd been eating a year ago. Trevor finished the lot, pushed his empty plate forward on the table. Claire clattered plates and cutlery as she rinsed them in the sink. Billy was fast asleep upstairs. It was just the two of them in the kitchen now.

"You all used to be friends, back at college," Claire said. "What happened?"

Trevor shrugged. "Things change. Andy Stuart was never part of our crowd anyway. I knew Lenny and Danny from school. We only met Andy when we started sixth form college. And he was there that day. At Langar airfield. You heard him in the car park just now."

"You needled him and he needled you back." She put the dishcloth down and gently touched Trevor's arm. "Come on. What happened at Langar was five years ago. We were all eighteen. Kids. So what if you couldn't jump?"

"Andy's never let me forget it."

"You panicked."

"I couldn't move."

"It was a charity parachute jump. You backed out. Stop blaming yourself."

"It changed me forever."

"Come on. You probably had that fear of flying long before you got on that plane."

"And he's never let it go," Trevor said.

Claire sat down at the kitchen table. "So, destroying his Karaoke equipment is more than just about keeping music live. It's some sort of personal vendetta."

Trevor said nothing.

"Andy Stuart isn't all that bad. He's actually a great singer."

Trevor just looked at her.

"Last summer at Chloe's hen night. We ended up at the Moon in Spondon. We all got up to sing."

"You never told me."

"It was Chloe's hen night. I had no idea where we'd wind up. It just so happened we ended up at a pub where Andy was on. Lenny and Danny were there too."

Trevor shook his head, turned away.

"I never told you then because I know you have this thing with Andy Stuart. But I'll tell you now, it was a great night. It certainly brought in the crowds."

"Yeah. People who just want to hear the sound of their own voices."

"Like you? When you're performing on stage."

"That's different. We're professional musicians. Andy Stuart doesn't play an instrument."

Claire paused. "So, you smash up his Karaoke machine. He buys another."

"I'd smash that one up too."

"Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?"

"It makes perfect sense to me. We need to keep music live."

"I don't like it, Trevor."

"Look. Andy's going to Spain on Saturday. His cottage will be empty for ten days."

"And what exactly is your plan?"

"Don't worry, Claire. We've got it all worked out."

*

To Be Continued…

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