Fleetwood Mac was playing quietly on the CD player when Danny Golightly walked into Seddon’s Estate Agents. The song was Dreams. Danny remembered his parents smooching to it in the living room. He’d been embarrassed at the time. His step faltered as he acknowledged the irony of the song title.
“Can I help you, sir?”
It was an older man, not one of the ‘dolly birds’ who normally grace the teak-veneered desks of such establishments. He had long grey sideburns, sliver-rimmed glasses, short grey hair, cut neatly with a side-parting, and a look of resignation. A desk sign said ‘Mr. Jack Seddon,’ followed by a string of post-nominal initials.
Danny looked around. ‘I’d like a house, a big one with a garden, trees, that sort of thing.”
Seddon looked the youth up and down. Skinny blue jeans, black loafers, a black T-shirt with the logo FCUK and a black leather jacket that looked like it had previously belonged to a hell-raising ‘Rock ‘n’ Roller’ – or two. “I see, sir, and are you a first-time buyer?”
Seddon sighed. “And you have the wherewithal?”
Danny looked nonplussed. “What’s that?”
Seddon sat upright with the fingers of both hands pressed together, the fingernails turning white. “The funds to buy a property!”
“Oh, er, yeah.”
“Well, may I ask what you are thinking of, er, ah, spending?”
Danny scanned around the photographs of properties for sale. His eye caught a white house with a tall, arched window on the first floor. Extensions grew out on both sides, terminating in a conservatory on the left-hand side and a summer house and garage on the right-hand side. A stone monument stood on a patio, a small-scale replica of Cleopatra’s Needle. The view was taken from some distance away across a huge lawn, bordered by violet hydrangeas. The description said The Julian Granger House. “Hey, I like this one!” he exclaimed.
Seddon looked at his watch. Where on earth was Miss Hale? She should be taking care of this nonsense. “That house is £695,000, sir. Are you sure that’s in your, er, price range?”
“Are there any trees?”
Seddon pulled out a brochure. A view taken across the lawn from the wooden decking in front of the house showed a group of mature elms and beeches on the far side He tapped the photograph brusquely. “Perhaps you’d like to take this brochure and think about it. We could arrange a viewing … possibly.”
Danny’s face remained impassive but inside he was ecstatic. This house looked perfect. He’d have a pool table in the conservatory and one of the many rooms the Julian Granger House sported could house his drum kits. And there’d be no neighbours to annoy by the looks of things. “Er, yeah, I’ll take it!”
Seddon sighed. “Look, sir, it’s not like buying a can of beans, you know. The place has to be surveyed, there are forms to be filled, solicitors to deal with, they’re not philanthropists, they all want their pound of … er, their cut.”
Danny reached into his jacket and pulled out a pink slip of paper. He put it on the desk in front of Seddon. The latter’s eyes narrowed. “Look, Mr. Seddon, this ticket’s worth two million quid. Look, you can check the numbers and the date.”
“How do I know it’s real,” asked Seddon cautiously.
“Feel it. You know it is.”
“Well, that’s good news then! Claim your prize and come to me with a bank statement showing you have the funds and we can proceed.”
Danny sighed. “Look, Mr. Seddon, I don’t want none of that. I can’t be bothered with bank accounts and such. I’ll give you this ticket. You cash it in. You give me a million quid in cash, sort the house out in my name and you can keep the rest.”
Seddon gasped. “Now, listen young man, I don’t mean to be discourteous, but … but you can’t be serious, surely?”
“I am, Mr. Seddon, I am.”
Seddon took the pink slip. It was slightly creased but the print was clear as day. Reaching over to his desktop keyboard, he pulled up the National Lottery website. He clicked on Check Results and typed in the numbers. He almost fell off his chair. The prize was two million, ninety thousand. An extra ninety grand for nothing! Trying to keep his breath even and steady, he looked up at the young man. “Yes, er, I think that would be in order. Mr. er?”
“Golightly, Danny Golightly. And I want the cash in twenties and tens, a hundred boxes, ten grand a box, OK?”
“Well, er, certainly, sir … as you desire.”
A bell rang above the door and a young woman entered. “Sorry I’m late, sir, just there was a bunch of wild geese on the road. Can you believe it? They wouldn’t budge for no one!”
“Actually, Miss Hale, I do find that hard to believe. Why didn’t you just drive over them?”
“What, and get prosecuted for cruelty to animals!”
“They’re not animals, they’re birds!”
“Same difference … sir.” She suddenly noticed Danny standing there, looking amused. She looked him up and down, approvingly.
Seddon stood up. “Miss Hale, I’d like you to meet Mr. Golightly. He’s interested in the Julian Granger House. Could you arrange to show him around, please? Now would be a good time!”
Danny looked at Miss Hale. About thirty, ten years on him, but tall, slim, long ash-blonde hair, heavyish up top, not especially pretty but attractive, wearing black-framed glasses. No rings on her fingers either. Whoa, a dolly bird in glasses! That did it for him; he felt like all his Christmases had come at once.
As Seddon watched them leave, he made a quick calculation. At Miss Hale – Freda’s – current rate of three hundred pounds a night, he’d be able to afford thirteen hundred more nights with her! That was, hmm, just over ten years at three times a week, the maximum Dolores would believe his tale of ‘working down in Devon.’ At his age, that was probably the most he could manage anyway, even with Viagra. He wasn’t worried about Danny; he’d move on to younger and better-looking birds. Picking up the lottery ticket, he pressed his lips to it, imagining it was a certain part of Freda’s anatomy. He was awoken from his reverie by the shop bell ringing again. He looked up, startled. “Delores, er, hello, my dear, what a nice, er … surprise.”
A mottled hand with pincer-like red nails snatched the ticket out of his grip.
Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth
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