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Union Candy (part 1)

 
Joe Spivey's picture
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The good thing about the ablutions was that, if there was any blood, it was easily washed away. The bad thing about the ablutions, was that everyone knew this. So being in the ablutions with Big Levi Gorse towering over you, staring at you from eyes sunk deep behind that low brow of his…

Hang on. Noooooo, this is the end of the story. We need to go back to where it all started. Which is easier said than done. Let’s see… The Union medical centre? Mmmm, no, before that. The trip with Joe to Diesel Town? The funeral? Oh, what about the burglary? Noooo it was before all of those. Being with Mr. Moise just after… That’s it Finny’s ninth birthday party! That’s where it all really began.

Okay then, let’s pick it where Joe, the only one who hadn’t given Finny her present yet, was driving her back to the orphanage after the wonderfully extravagant party at Chez Spivey.

Instead of going straight down Santa Fé Avenue and turning left onto Milton, Joe swung into the square and headed towards the auctioneer. Finny didn’t seem to notice or care because she was far too concerned with thinking about how she was going to lock away all the stuff she had just been given. Maybe, if she asked really really nicely, Miss M. would give her another lock box or something.

The car stopped and Finny pushed herself up on the seat to see that they weren’t at the orphanage. Joe business, she thought, and settled back into the seat to wait. Joe business could take seconds or ages. She hoped it wouldn’t be long, she was getting sleepy from all the eating and excitement, not to mention all the running around playing party games. Finny was a little annoyed, then, when Joe told her to get out and follow him.

Joe had been introducing her to people he knew all day. ‘Useful people’ he called them, she called them weirdos, but only in her head. Resigned then, Finny pushed the heavy car door open and climbed out. She followed Joe towards the same man he had introduced her to earlier that day, Bank Officer Montysomething, and Finny wondered if Joe was now that old that he was forgetting stuff.

Bank officer Montenegro came over to meet them and Joe passed Finny a small piece of paper.

“Here, you’ll need this. Don’t ever forget those numbers.”

Finny looked at the slip of paper. Four numbers, 8045. She muttered them under her breath several times, committing them to memory using the same sing-song mantra the reading group used to remember their times tables. Then the Monty man was up to them and Finny was pushed towards him.

She found her arm being taken by Joe’s friend and looked up as the two men talked above her.

“Here she is. Have you done the wossname?”

“Yes Mr. Spivey.” Then the man looked down at Finny with a big grin on his face. “Come with me little miss.”

Finny found herself being pulled away. Starting to panic she twisted around, trying to prise the man’s fingers off her arm. Awful visions of the Devil’s Own camp flashed into her mind. Was Joe…? But Joe was standing where he had been, cigar gripped tightly between discoloured teeth in a huge leering grin and… giving her a double thumbs up?

They stopped and the Montyman let go of her arm. Should she run? They were very close to the vaults, Finny had never been allowed to get anything like this close. The bank officers chased them away whenever they tried, often with a boot up the bum to help you on your way. So, Finny didn’t run, she stared. And then she heard it, the vaults were humming. It was very soft, and there was that smell too. Being this close, Finny could smell the warm smell of electricity doing whatever it did to make stuff work.

Then the Montyman was leaning over her and pointing to a man standing at the next vault.

“Watch what he does.”

The man was one of those people Finny had come to know as ‘the party people’. Usually clones, these were the ones who built bonfires around the pond of an evening and ate and drank and sang and danced and fought with each other, generally having a good time. Everyday, these party people would come to vaults and Finny, from her perch on the ledge above, would watch in awe at the marvellous things that went in and out of these same vaults.

So Finny watched the man. She watched him place a pair of full sacks on the ground. She watched as he held out his hand and placed his flat palm against the vault door. There was a crackle and a little number pad appeared. She watched the man tap four digits into the pad and then the door opened. The man lifted a sack and, one by one, the contents were transferred into the vault, each with a soft click and a short hiss and then a picture of the item would appear on a small screen. Underneath the screen was the man’s name followed by a long number. Finny’s eyes widened when she realised that it wasn’t just a number, it was chips! When he had finished, the man folded the empty sacks over his arm and turned. He saw Finny watching him.

Finny got ready to bolt. The bank officers might kick you, but the party people were much more dangerous. Party people were known to kill anyone at the drop of a hat. But the man just smiled at her, tipped his hat and went on his way. Finny breathed again.

Bank officer Montyman put his hands on Finny’s shoulders and turned her to face the vault.

“Okay missy. Your turn.”

Finny had to tilt her head right back to look up at him. What did he mean, ‘your turn’? Then she remembered the piece of paper in her hands. Four digits. She suddenly got it. Joe’s present to her was in his vault. He wanted her to open it. Looking down at the paper again, Finny’s lips murmured the number over again. She stepped forward, determined not to mess it up in front of Joe’s friend.

Just like the man had, Finny held up her hand and pressed it against the door, which was warm, and it tingled. And, just as it had with the man, a number pad appeared. Finny took a breath and carefully tapped the numbers in; 8, 0, 4, 5.

The door opened and Finny held her breath.

The vault was empty. Her disappointment was visible on her face and she was glad Joe couldn’t see it. So, his present was just the treat of being allowed to open his vault. But why was it empty? She looked at the little screen. Empty squares, empty chips…

Joe rushed over. Bank officer Montenegro was already down on his knees, wafting Finny’s face with his hand. Joe squatted down next to them.

“What happened?”

Monty was holding back the laughter.

“I think she fainted.”

Behind them, the still open vault showed the single word illuminated below the contents screen.

‘Finny’



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