Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Beggars Can't Be Choosers

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With rain in the air, there wasn’t much going on down at the beach. There were a few random dog walkers and a couple of determined swimmers, but they didn’t usually make good customers.  Toby started walking towards the town to see if the tourists were spending money in the shops and cafes up there.  The grey seagulls squawked against the grey sky, they were as grumpy as Toby that there weren’t tourist around to feed off.
Why did it have to rain today? Today couldn’t be a bad day, it just couldn’t. Toby had put off the Jones boys for the last three days, they surely wouldn’t wait any longer. He only needed another twenty pounds, just a score and he could make that easily on a sunny day, but on a dismal grey day the task just became a lot harder.
The beach was his patch, but he’d have to be careful in town. Callum Case and his boys ran the town, if they caught Toby pulling his tricks on the main drag then there would be hell to play. But beggars can’t be choosers, although Toby didn’t like to think of himself as a beggar. He was a street performer, a trickster, a magician if you like.
Toby set up his table at the sea end of the main high street. With a bit of luck Callum’s cronies wouldn’t come down this far. He dealt the cards and started playing with them. Soon he had a small audience and started taking bets.
“Find the lady,” he said. The tourist pointed at the card in the middle. Toby flicked it over to reveal the ace. He smiled and took the money.
The next time, he lost, but he did it on purpose. You had to let the punters feel they had a chance.
It wasn’t as busy as down by the beach, where men bored of sunbathing were always up for a challenge, but it was busy enough, maybe he’d make the money he needed.
“Oi you little toe-rag.” Toby didn’t need to look to know who was yelling at him. Callum Case doing his Cardiff strut down the street. He looked like a constipated seagull the way he waddled towards Toby. His eyes were as emotionless as a seagull’s too.
“Gotta go,” Toby said, grabbing his table, the cards and most importantly his winnings. He ran like there was no tomorrow. Haring down the street towards the sea. He was smaller and faster than Callum so he knew he could get away but Callum had people everywhere. Toby had to get down to the beach. That was Jones boys’ territory. Callum and his gang would never go anywhere near there.
Toby was a freelancer, only allowed to operate on the Jones’s patch because he paid a tithe. The payment promised protection but only on home ground. But because he’d forgotten to pay for the last few weeks and Archie had made his final demand, he couldn’t even be sure of protection here. He hoped Callum hadn’t heard that on the grapevine.
Puffing and panting Toby darted across the road that was the threshold between the Case’s and the Jones’s patches, he knew he was safe now.

“Oi you little toe-rag, watch where you are going.” Toby may have escaped his first problem, but he’d just run into his second problem - Archie Jones.

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