Greg and Ivor
‘Jesus Greg,’ he wheezed, backing up against the wall. ‘Slow down a bit, will you?’
I stopped pushing for a moment and just took the weight of the thing against my shoulder. After all, it was hardly heavy. ‘Sorry Ivor, do you want to swap places?’
‘No fear of that, my friend, this thing weighs a bloody ton.’ Some strands of hair had come free from his ponytail and were trailing in damp grey lines across his forehead. ‘Just take it nice and slow and let me guide it round.’
‘And you’re sure it works okay?’ We negotiated the turn in the staircase and creaked our way up the last few steps. ‘My engineering repartee doesn’t really extend to household items.’
‘Stop fretting Greg, the bloke said it works just fine.’
We stopped at the door to my flat and put the thing down for a minute.
‘And even if it doesn’t work, it’s still under warranty.’ He pulled some papers from his shirt pocket and waved them at me. ‘Come on, let’s get this over with, my back’s giving me bloody nightmares.’
We got it through to the kitchen and plumbed it in, red for hot and blue for cold. I knelt and plugged in the power lead, and sad to say the thing was as dead as a Dingo.
‘Probably just needs a whack,’ said Ivor, bashing merrily away with the side of his hairy fat fist. Still nothing happened. He soon gave up and took a seat at the table and pulled out the warranty documents. ‘Well, best we take a look at these then.’
‘When are you going to stop calling it that?’ he snorted, taking out his tobacco pouch. ‘And don’t you go giving me that bloody wildebeest speech again either.’
‘I guess I’m not ready to let it go just yet.’ I reached in the cupboard and whipped out some grade-a Columbian. The smell of it was real exasperating. ‘Are you having one or what?’
‘I’ll have a tea if you’ve got any milk.’
‘You know me and milk don’t get along.’
‘It’s all in your head, Greg.’
‘There’s nothing in my head,’ I counted.
He looked away for a moment and lit his roll-up. ‘Get on then, do me a Java, seven sugars.’
I went about preparing a good strong brew. As the pot finished coughing on the gas ring and I started pouring up, I caught a familiar tinge in Ivor’s smoke. ‘What’ve you got in there then?’
‘Bit of home grown.’ He blew out a rich white plume. ‘Fancy a little tickle?’
I had a few puffs as we sat at the table doctoring our drinks. Ivor was reading through the warranty and a sudden smile seemed to flit across his face. ‘Well, you’re covered, more or less,’ he said. ‘They reckon they’ll get someone out within the hour.’
‘Exactly what do you mean by more or less?’
‘Well, the paperwork’s got someone else’s details.’
There usually was some sort of catch where Ivor was concerned. Something I was starting to grasp at last. ‘So it’s no good,’ I said, with a twinge of disappointment.
‘Course it bloody is.’ He put his cup down, crossed his arms, and smiled smugly. ‘All you have to do is pretend to be the previous owner and say you’ve moved address.’
‘Sounds a little bit dodgy to me.’
‘Look Greg, the whole bloody world is a little bit dodgy. If we lived in a straight society, we’d all get along just fine by playing it straight. But we don’t, and unless you want to keep washing your clothes in the bath, you’re going to have to swing the lead a bit.’
So, masquerading as a Mr Ndogo [and under severe protest], I called the number on the warranty and arranged for the engineer to pay a visit. Ivor finished his Java with a wince of sheer joy and said he had to get going. Candice was due at a wedding and needed to be freed from the shop by half eleven. I glanced at my wristwatch and only made it ten o’clock. But maybe he was just being ultra-cautious. He let himself out and I put our cups in the sink and lit a cigarette.
The engineer came quickly, a beanpole sort, about fifty, not much hair on top. He had on a pair of lopsided, steamy spectacles. ‘I were expecting a darkie,’ he said, looking me down and up. ‘I take it you are Mr Ndogo?’
‘Oh yes,’ I fibbed courageously. ‘My grandmother was five parts German and I suppose it filtered down that way. Can I offer you a cup of something?’
‘No thanks,’ he said, hefting his impatient plastic toolbox. ‘I’ll be pissing like a derby winner if I have a drink on every Saturday call out.’
Leading him down the hall to the kitchen, I tried to be pervasive. ‘I don’t understand it really. I washed a load the other day and it was working a-okay. Now, well, not a chipolata.’
‘Probably the control unit.’ He stopped at the machine and knelt to inspect it. ‘Can you give me a hand here? I need to get at the back.’
Once I’d whipped it out for him, he started taking the panel off with his crosshead screwdriver. I felt a bit awkward standing over him like that, so I started making another pot of Java and pretended as best I could to be who I wasn’t. Imagining Mr Ndogo as a cheerful sort, I broke out into an elaborate whistle and lent a special musicality to my movements. A minute or so later, the engineer cleared his throat from behind the machine there.
‘And you’re sure you had it working the other day?’
‘Indeed,’ I said, calling a halt to my little session. Ivor’s home grown really was kicking in now, my face felt very big and my eyes were double-glazed. ‘A real shame, it’s always been so reliable.’
‘Well, you’d better call the police then.’
‘Looks like you’ve been burgled.’
‘I’m not sure I follow ...’
He got to his feet and brushed briefly at his dusty knees, before edging closer so his face was only inches away from mine. His breath was awful, he must have had a dose of the Ginger Vitus. ‘Let me put it this way, Mr Ndogo,’ he said. ‘Either you’re trying to pull a fast one, or someone’s broken in and made off with the bloody motor.’
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