My name is Danny – named after my waster of an uncle who I never saw because he’s been inside since I was three - and my story starts one day when I was riding from the market where I worked to the nearest bus stop to my house which was still a good six minute walk further on. It had not been a great day. Or rather, it had been a brilliant day takings wise. But profits… Not good. Very bad.
I’d tried speaking with the boss, Ron, at various times over the past few weeks. Tried and failed. So instead of sorting things out, I’d stood there all day, high up above the rest of the stalls, touting my wares in a loud voice (which had got quieter as the day wore on and my throat wore out) and selling out of everything, down to the last mangy prawn, but making no money.
It was depressing. It was disheartening.
Even me, who had failed his GCSE maths in a pretty spectacular manner, knew that in order to make a profit, and therefore run a successful business, you had to sell stuff for more than you bought it for. But we weren’t. Not recently anyway. Ron had taken me to one side on a surprise visit when I was setting up and told me that he was slashing all the prices. Rock bottom. Between us we changed all the price signs and then Ron left me to it. But he had also left his supplier folder, and I leafed through, interested to see how it was done because I harboured the dream of buying the stall from Ron one day, of taking it over as my own. Branching out, expanding. Oh, yes, I had plans all right. I was excited, it kept me going through the dark, wet mornings and the boiling hot days.
But as I looked through page after page of numbers, I realised something. We were selling for less than cost price. We were going down.
I remember the bus stopping and making a move to get off. I made it to the front, paused, turned round to the driver and asked for an extension on my ticket. Just a couple more stops. Ron’s place. We had some talking to do.
Ron was standing by his gate when I arrived. “I’ve been waiting here every day for the past week,” he said, sounding a bit miffed. “You took your time.”
I said nothing. Stared. Must have looked a bit mental.
“Come on, lad,” Ron said. “I take it you’re here about the business. About buying it. I’m doing such a shoddy job and you want to take it on, am I right?”
That wasn’t what I had been going to say. I’d had been going to say that we needed to talk about profits, and ask whether I needed to start looking for another job since this one was going down the pan.
I honest to God heard my brain tell my mouth to say that. Only it didn’t. What it said was, “Ron, I need to buy it. I need to turn it around.” Jesus. I didn’t have more than a hundred quid in the bank and that was mostly spoken for. What the hell was I saying?
Ron was smiling. “Good boy. I knew you’d get there sooner or later.” We went inside, me with my legs trembling and my stomach flipping like an Olympic diver, him with his arm around my shoulders. I was grateful for that, it held me up.
We drank. We talked. We agreed that I would buy the business and pay him with a percentage of the profits until I’d hit his asking price. I signed a load of stuff that he’d had prepared and shook his hand.
So the next day, in a daze, I went to work as my own boss, put the prices back up and sold nothing.
Well what did you expect?
No one was going to pay the new prices after they’d seen how good they could have it.
I lost everything. I’d taken on the debts, hadn’t I? I’d signed for it all. And there were a lot of debts. Seems Ron had been siphoning off the profits for years now. No wonder I envied him. Envied his lifestyle, his house, his car, everything.
No wonder I gave him the out of date prawns. I didn’t mean to kill him, though. And that’s the truth.
On the upside, I have met up with my Uncle Danny. He’s not a bad bloke really.
©Lisamarie Lamb 2011