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You are invited...

by Heckyspice 

Posted: 22 October 2004
Word Count: 2619
Summary: A bored man looks for excitement. This was written as part of an exercise. I am not entirely happy with it but I would like to know what you all think.

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The card was inscribed, “You are invited to the ‘Tuesday Night Bootleggers’.” It was white, the size of a postcard and had been sealed inside a normal envelope. The address must have been typed by an old fashioned typewriter as some of the letters were smudged. At the bottom of the card, a number was printed. 0799999112. Jimmy felt his heart turn to glass. Finally he had been given the chance.

He stared at the card as he walked into the kitchen. A mobile phone was on the worktop next to the coffee he had just made. A hint of steam flushed over the keypad. He picked up the phone and began dialling the number. Then he stopped. His heart had gone from being glass to a steel drum. His stomach rumbled as he pressed the dial key.

Each ring bought the unknown closer.

“Hello,” said a voice.

“Hello,” replied Jimmy, “I have a card. The Tuesday Night Bootleggers. It came today, in the post.” He was breathless.

“OK, wait for a call back with the time and the place,” The voice said. The line went dead.

Jimmy wanted to piss. He was elated and anxious. The next step could not come along soon enough for him. He forgot that his coffee was getting cold. Staring at the card was enough, reading again the invitation. He stroked the inscription with a fingertip. The promise of a new life beckoned. Boredom would soon be a thing of the past.

He had first heard a whisper about the ‘bootleggers’ from a cousin. Jimmy complained that his life was going nowhere and that he needed to do something no matter what the risk. His cousin, Derek, dropped a hint that he was part of or knew of some thrill seeking club. And that maybe Jimmy could be part of this club, if he had an open mind. Jimmy said he would do anything.

Throughout the day at work, he found it hard to concentrate. Like a zombie he walked through his job, unpacking and packing parts in the warehouse. The heavy cloud that boredom creates seemed even heavier now that he was finding a way out. His mind was stuck like dough in a bowl. In his daydreams, he ran through the things that he would have to be buying before Tuesday. Black jeans, black jacket, black gloves, the whole kit and caboodle. He hoped to fit in straight away.


The second call came when he was shopping for his new life. A caller unknown message flashed on his mobile. Jimmy suddenly felt very worried. “Hello?”

“The car park near the tennis courts at Wood street playing fields. 10 o’clock.”

“I know it,” Jimmy said but the line had gone dead before he even finished replying. He was paying cash for the clothes and buying them from charity shops. It seemed the best way to avoid being found out before Tuesday. If he was this clever now.. well then things would be much easier when he finally got to meet the ‘bootleggers’.


At half past nine on Tuesday evening, a man dressed in black parked his car before the tennis courts. Jimmy wished that he had bought a better fitting jacket. It was an old battered jacket that would have been a big deal in the 1970’s. As worn by villains on ‘The Sweeny’. Now it was crumpled and thin, Jimmy’s shoulders buried under too much loose material. He felt like a thirteen year old boy trying to impress his older brother’s friends.

His stomach was tight. He popped another mint into his mouth. The radio was no comfort. It was cold, so he turned the heater on. Minutes dragged on, refusing to hurry and bring about the hour.

It was near ten when Jimmy was startled by a knock on the driver’s window. He turned to see a man beckoning him to open the car door. Jimmy switched the ignition off to kill the radio and heater. He stepped out of the car and stood facing the man. It was a stranger and that worried Jimmy. Up to now he thought he would be meeting people he knew or at least recognised, familiar enough to trust. He did not expect it to be Derek, that would have been too obvious and not worth all the cloak and dagger. He was beginning to feel very alone.

Now Jimmy could see the man, it surprised him that the stranger was a portly middle aged fellow with a kindly chubby face.

“Are you Jimmy?” the man asked. His voice was neither kind nor chubby.


“Good, we thought you might back out.”

“No,” Jimmy was shaking. “I am up for it.”

“OK.” The man paused then asked, “What do you want?”

Jimmy was flustered, “Whatever it takes.”

The man was not impressed. He looked Jimmy up and down as if he was trying to choose a tin of white paint. It was a quick inspection.

“See that off licence over the road?” The man pointed to a shop on a street corner. “Go in and bring back some wine or beer. Whatever takes your fancy.”

“I don’t have much…” Jimmy stopped himself before he said money. He realised what was being asked. “What do I do after that?”

“Come to the Regal pub on Vine street. We will be waiting.” He nodded toward the billowing leather jacket, “Reckon you can get some decent stuff in there.” He could see what Jimmy was thinking of saying. “We’ll know if you did it.” Then he walked off.

Jimmy stared after him. He looked about the edge of car park to see if different shadows were lurking in the bushes. No one was there. But he just did not believe that. He was certain that he was being watched. He felt like a bad karaoke singer who never wanted to be on stage. His throat was gripped by an intense desire to gulp. Get hold of yourself.

He made his mind up. Running across the road and bursting through the door of the off licence. He grabbed the nearest bottles, not bothering to check what they were and then he was away. Running hard, trying to ignore the shouts coming from behind him. As he neared the car, he flung an arm out, aiming his car key like a gunslinger.

Beep Beep. The indicators flashed.

He pulled the door open and threw the bottles onto the passenger seat. One bounced into the footwell as he turned the ignition on. The car lurched forward, as had parked in gear. Headlights picked up the shopkeeper rushing over toward the car park. He seemed to be carrying a mobile phone. Jimmy could not waste any more time, he rammed his foot hard onto the accelerator and blasted out of the car park. He was driving away from the direction of Vine Street. Can’t be seen he told himself. It was only then he could hear the terrific hammering of his heart and flush of his face.

Eventually his heartbeat slowed and a cool realism perspired on his face. He had survived something dangerous. It was an exhilarating feeling. As his body began to relax a loud fart broke the silence and he smiled. It was time to meet the ‘bootleggers’.

He drove slowly to the pub, being careful to avoid going past the off licence. The bottles clinked with each turn of the steering wheel. When he got to the pub decided to count down from 10. It was enough to out on a veneer of calmness that hopefully would serve him well. He tried to think like Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction. Gathering up the bottles he was ready to enter the next part of this new world. It was only now that he looked at the bottles he had stolen. Newcastle Brown. That was something his Dad used to drink.

The pub was busy, there was a karaoke night on the go. A trio of hapless girls were struggling to perform a Destiny’s child song. No one bothered with Jimmy as he pushed his way through the crowd to a table at the back. The chubby faced man was there along with three others. What surprised Jimmy was how old they all were. He was expecting young men, jack the lad sorts not a collection of bank managers on a night out. Jimmy plonked the bottles down on the table. One of the men, who looked like a teddy bear with glasses, picked up a bottle.

“Newky Brown?” he sneered, “You could have got export. But at least it’s not an alcopop.” This was the voice that had been on the mobile.

Jimmy decided to take the fight to them. He sat down. “You should have given me a shopping list.”

“Next time we will,” said Teddy Bear.

“What happens now then? I mean I did what you asked. Is that it?”

“Don’t be so hasty,” said Chubby Face. “Relax.”

Jimmy hated it when people told him to relax.

“Hello Jimmy,” it was Derek, he had been standing behind Jimmy all the time. He leaned over a picked up one of the Newcastle Brown bottles. “I remember your Dad drinking this at weddings and funerals.”

“Yeah, he did,” said Jimmy.

Derek sat down. “Welcome to the ‘bootleggers.’” He pulled out some boxes of perfume from his coat and put them on the table. “Got these tonight.”

“Nice,” said Teddy bear. “I purloined some DVDs. Anyone for Jean-Luc Godard?” A selection of DVDs that Jimmy would not even consider watching were placed on the table. Eventually all of the men at the table revealed what they had had been hiding. The table looked like Christmas morning, along with the DVDs and perfumes, there were watches, chains and earrings. Jimmy was amazed at how brazen the men were in showing off what they seemed to have stolen.

“We do this because we can,” said Derek anticipating Jimmy’s question. “No bothers us or suspects us because we are decent middle class citizens.” He gestured toward Teddy Bear, “Raymond here is a teacher. But his school is miles away so he won’t get bothered.” Chubby Face was a banker called Malcolm, the two other men were an optician and a chiropodist. Jimmy felt that his job in the warehouse was too embarrassing to declare, even if they already knew what he did. He decided the better option was to ask questions.

“How did this all start?”

“About a year ago at golf day,” said Malcolm. “We got talking about how easy it would be get away with something illegal. We were bored and the rest you can guess.”

“We started that day, why wait for a taxi when you can steal a car.” Derek was proud of this beginning. “It was the club captain’s car. A BMW 5 series, very nice.”

Jimmy was dumbstruck. They were blatant about stealing cars and no one else in the pub noticed. They were invisible to all others, the perfect gang. He felt even more out of his depth now; the misshapen bulk of his jacket was no hiding place. He did not know how to compete. One thing was certain; he would have to learn fast. There was no way these people would laugh at him for his any sort of failure.


The weeks went by and each Tuesday night Jimmy presented what he had stolen to the ‘bootleggers.’ Bottles of beer became bottles of wine, dvds became box sets, even wallets began appearing (Derek and Raymond had dared him over that one). While he could not match the quality of the things they stole, he made up for that with daring. The wallet he had stolen from work, but he did put it back the next day. No one was much wiser to what had happened. Any blame was laid squarely at the feet of Jacek, the Albanian cleaner. Jimmy realised that he was getting good at this. However there was only one thing wrong, the ‘bootleggers’ did not make him feel welcome. Not even Derek.

They were all establishment, well to do. They did this for kicks, flaunting their bullet-proof skins, making fun of the people they robbed. They were just big silly kids, this was all a stupid game. They had enticed Jimmy with a threat of danger and mystery. Only to show that it was just a game. Jimmy was reminded of some long dead telly show of chinless ‘hooray henry’ types whenever he was with them. What also upset Jimmy was that the people they hurt were people like him. In letting him into their world, they did not see how good he was becoming. A true natural. He believed that it was time to show them how good he had become. The games had to be stopped if they wanted to be real men. Jimmy did not see himself as anything but and that lesson had to be taught.

Jimmy had been planning his surprise for weeks. Ever since he had dumped the lumpy jacket in favour of a snug number stolen from the market. Confidence fitted him like a glove. For the last few weeks he had been watching his target very carefully. It had taken him some time to track down where the person lived, especially since he was not sure exactly where this person worked. But after time, the jigsaw began to be completed. It was the right moment to add the final piece.

He got off work early so that he could trail his target home. Making sure that he was driving two cars behind the victim so that he was not spotted. It amazed Jimmy how much guile had been waiting to be released inside him. Now it was at it’s ripest. The victim drove into a supermarket carpark. It was their weekly shop, routine, dull, no reason to believe anything was wrong.

Jimmy followed the victim inside and when he saw their trolley suitably overflowing with groceries, he made his approach. A casual bump and a few apologies that ended with both parties going on their own ways. Instead of going to the checkout, Jimmy left the shop spinnging the victim’s carkeys around his fingers. He fished into his pocket to make sure he still had the correct address written down on a scrap of paper. It was still there.

Inside the victim’s car he admired the leather seats and the walnut finish of the dash. It was elegant and tasteful, unlike the crappy CDs in the glove box. Jimmy could not understand why people liked all that Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix shit. He much preferred stuff like Cream or Ministry of Sound Anthems. Not that it mattered as he was only driving the car for a short time. He wished had had drunk a few pints before stealing the car, he might have been able to leave them a personalised calling card on the seats.

As he drove he went through his mental checklist. Make sure that you block the driveway and throwaway the keys. Down the nearest drain would be good and maybe slash a tyre or two. Walk, don’t run. Find a telephone. Everything should go according to plan. The only shame was that he would not be there to see Raymond’s face when he found his headmaster’s car abandoned in his drive and how he was going to explain to the Police who were responding to a tip off. Such a scam would now make Jimmy the undisputed king of the ‘bootleggers’. Yes it would. Now they would pay him the attention he deserved.

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Comments by other Members

James Anthony at 14:56 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
I liked this. Not an inspiring way to start off a comment, but I did. I had me intrigued. I was reminded of a BBC version of Fight Club at one point and wondered if maybe it could be a little nastier, but then that may say more about me. I was wondering if there was a sense of irony in that these middle class type got involved in middle class crimes, as if afraid to upset people too much. Stealing DVDs, cans of lager is after all commonplace. Students do it all the time. But nice that the crimes escalated in volume later, if not in type. I did want to see a little more psychosis in it; maybe not violence. A more unique, maybe even shocking crime. Not sure what, but that's where imagination comes in. Something entirely different; but I did like the crime at the end. I just wonder if the tension between Raymond and Jimmy could be written about in a scene so that it is like it's revenge, or something like that. As it is it's almost as if he has picked on Raymond for no reason. After all, I think we know more about Derek than Raymond. Just a thought and one that can be ignored.

I agree with you: there is something here, but maybe a little bit more in there? Interested in what you think.

Other than that, there are a few typos and missing words.


Like a zombie he walked through his job

I think will make more sense with the phrases swapped i.e. He walked though his work like a zombie. Could be that I am wrong technically though.

They had enticed Jimmy with a threat of danger and mystery. Only to show that it was just a game./

Better as one sentence? Again, personal preference.

spinnging the victim’s carkeys

Think 'springing'? Also I like car keys as two separate words, but that's pedantry probably.

The car lurched forward, as had parked in gear

Just a mistype.

Anyway, that's just cosmetics to a degree, but got to get all the buggers and some always slip through.

Hope that helped.



does that work?


Salty at 19:00 on 22 October 2004  Report this post

Great idea, and really well done. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and want to find out what happens next.

The only criticism I would have is that I felt the work moved slowly due to being, at times, overly descriptive. I feel you could boil this down and to punt the story along.

Jimmy switched the ignition off to kill the radio and heater. He stepped out of the car and stood facing the man.

Maybe it is me being picky, but I thought just 'Jimmy got out of the car and faced the man'.

But then again, if this is how you want to write, this is how you want to write. Fair enough. George Orwell and John Updike are writers, who come to mind, who glory in the minute of many of their character's lives.

Along with James I was also reminded of fight club. But this feels more like a satire of Fight Club (a satire of a satire?). A sort of fight club with the testosterone bled from it.

Hope to read more.

Becca at 19:15 on 22 October 2004  Report this post
Hi David,
I can't quite follow the psychology of your MC. It's a story of a bored youngish man looking for excitment who gets in with a gang of thieves who don't think he's good enough, .. and he's not impressed by them, but he tries to beat them at their game by doing something more outrageous than they do. There's something about it that didn't quite resonate for me, I can't quite put my finger on it yet. You said you weren't entirely happy with it. These are a couple of ideas about what it could be:

The build up is too short, and therefore there isn't enough tension before he meets the other men?

What the men are doing, and what he has to aspire too, isn't extreme enough, more like what a gang of 12 year olds would do?

There's not enough emotion in the piece? Or he doesn't have enough to lose in the scenario?

I think it could be rougher, more extreme with a lot more drama or tension. It might be that if you start the story from a different point it would pick up. But there is something not quite believable about his psychology, I don't quite see why he would do these things, except if he was either blinded by adoration of the 'Bootleggers', or caught in a relationship with one of them which meant he HAD to do his bit.

Apart from a few missing words here and there which you'll find, the writing itself flowed fine. So I hope my reaction to it isn't disappointing. Maybe it's just a matter of getting inside your MC more?

Nell at 16:00 on 23 October 2004  Report this post
Hi David. This seems carefully written, although there are a few typos etc. that I didn't note, as you'll find them easily enough. From the beginning I read on with curiosity, wondering how it would/could end. My concerns on finishing the piece were similar to Becca's - somehow I couldn't really believe in any of them enough to relax and enjoy the story, in spite of the detail you've provided. Jimmy himself seems normal enough - there's very little awareness or indication of a state of mind that would make him eager to involve himself in 'the club', particularly when he finds out their professions and motivations for what they're doing. It's as if there are two stories here and they don't quite fit together - one about the men who began the club (which I somehow see as a sort of modern Pickwick Society with different objectives!!) the other about Jimmy himself. I'd have liked to really see inside his head - I think I'm repeating Becca here - perhaps a psychological study with a build-up of tension that didn't seem to tail off. Sorry if this sounds negative, but I think there is a story here, it's just a question of letting your brain explore the different paths it could take and seeing what happens.

Having written the above I've had another thought. Given that the storyline hangs on the teacher (Raymond), and the car, (a good twist BTW), it almost seems that it's Jimmy's age that's wrong. If he was as old as 'the gang', with the same background that he has now, yet maybe very strictly brought up - overbearing/repressive father? - it might hang together more convincingly. One of the 'gang' could be more bullying than the others in making him steal better things. He could then almost be seen to be getting back at his old man for what happens at the end, and he'd probably achieve some sort of closure by the act too. Ignore me, it's your story.

I did like the end, also the idea of the middle-class, middle-aged men behaving badly - I think this could work with some re-shaping and perhaps more conviction.



Heckyspice at 15:36 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
Hi everyone thanks for the comments. The evocation of Fight Club was unexpected. Brad Pitt stealing bottles of Newcastle Brown!, who would like to pitch that to Hollywood?

James, I think you have a good point about the tension between Jimmy and Raymond. It would allow more emotional depth to Jimmy’s motives.

Ian, you make a good observation about the passages that are overly descriptive. The example about the car radio and heater is a fair one. I know that more discipline in editing is required. If the description is important to the scene it should be kept, otherwise I must remember to follow the best rule in Strunk’s Elements of Style;
Omit Needless Words

Becca, I have to agree that the emotional aspect is poor (or rather not played out). Jimmy wants more, the group want very little. If they were making perform more childish tasks I think that Jimmy’s revenge would be more effective. The actions of the group show a lack of maturity and that could have been explored in more detail.

Nell, I am not sure if the age of Jimmy is a problem but I can see why making him older could open a new direction for the story. A more detailed background would have explained his psychology and added more weight to the emotional core of the story.

If Jimmy had been expecting more because his personal circumstances were making him think that life was pointless, then the move toward more personal and vindictive crimes would have had an extra kick.

Best wishes,

Ps. Lunchtime with Lenny version 2 coming very soon.

Nell at 19:14 on 25 October 2004  Report this post
David, I think it was Jimmy's age that made the story so doubtful for me - I just couldn't see a younger man in search of excitement getting mixed up with a bunch of middle-aged saddos like these.


Account Closed at 15:02 on 28 October 2004  Report this post
Hi David,
For me, this is a class story. he is a warehouse man and they are middle class. He stole from someone like him and I found the Albanian cleaner getting the blame important though you don't make much of it. I agree if you made them the same age and upped the tension between Jimmy and Raymond, played on the class war thing more and made Jimmy a touch darker, this story could be very strong. What about Jimmy and Raymond? They're cousins but presumably one made it good and the other was a disappointment. I think you could make Jimmy a much darker character, on the edge.
I suppose you could even take the age down and make them students from different backgrounds. Just a few ideas - to ignore if you wish!


Heckyspice at 15:59 on 28 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Elspeth,

I never envisioned this originally as a class story but it sort of meandered that way.

It ought to be a darker piece, there are undertones which are quite plain to see. Maybe a re-write will correct this.

With Jacek the cleaner, I was hoping to instill the notion that blame is usually attributed the those considered more lowly (In that sense the class arguement is valid), hence why the group felt secure.

Thanks for the comments.


scottwil at 01:30 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
Hi David, I agree with Elspeth that this is about class. I think you've got the makings of really good story here but the characters have not been fleshed out yet and don't engage the reader's emotions as strongly as they could.
I think the bootleggers as middle class men out for kicks could be a lot snobbier about the wine, DVDs etc.
You tell us that : 'the ‘bootleggers’ did not make him feel welcome. Not even Derek.'
but you don't show us.

With some sharply drawn characters, and a bit more light and shade I think you could have something really excellent here.


Heckyspice at 14:58 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Sion,

I had considerd making the snobbery more riduclous. The hint was there with the Jean Luc Godard DVD, although I refrained as I felt it might be too much.

You are right that there is no emotional clout to how Jimmy feels about being unwelcome. Perhaps if Derek was having a conflict of loyalty this might have been conveyed in a better way.

Best Wishes,


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