from the publisher's notes: Tasmin is large, pushy and likes to get her own way; Melvin is something of a softy who is more than a little workshy. So when Tas rescues him from a dead-end doorman's job, he has no objections; at least not until she 'employs' as her partner and accomplice in an endless succession of money-making schemes, all of which are doomed to failure. A highly entertaining and amusing read, Do It Tomorrow is written in a refreshingly engaging style. It is a light-hearted and witty look at an odd but like him able couple.
Chrissie Loveday was born in Stoke-on-Trent and has traveled extensively, most notably in South America and Malaysia. Now living in Cornwall, she lectures part-time at Cornwall College in the Special Needs Department. [New Millennium, ISBN 1 85845 021 7, paperback]
Music by permission of the composer, Roger Bagula
Tasmin considered the rather well-built man on the door of the club. He looked quite nice and she decided it might be worth having a go at chatting him up. She wanted to have a look in at the club, just to see what was going on, not to stay and have a drink or anything, so it really wasn't worth paying out the two pounds admission fee. She sidled up to him and put on her most persuasive smile.
"Hallo. Haven't seen you here before have I? You new?"
"Not really," he replied without interest. "Don't usually do the door, but they're a bit short tonight, so here I am."
Tas studied him. He was a bit taller than her and not bad looking really. Brown curly hair, neatly greased back and he had blue eyes, behind the horn-rimmed glasses.
"What do they call you?" she asked.
"Mel, amongst other things. Depends on their mood!"
"Short for Melvin, I suppose. Nice. Sort of dignified. I shall call you Melvin."
"Suit yourself. Look, are you going in or what?" His accent was from somewhere up North, she thought.
"You don't come from round here do you?"
"Look love, either go in or go away. You'll get me into trouble, standing there."
"Let me in for just a minute or two. I'll get you a drink. I don't want to stay long, so it's not worth paying. I'd rather spend the cash on getting us both a drink." She smiled coyly and tilted her head in what she imagined was a winning way.
Mel stared at this vision. She was extremely large, the sort of woman you could hardly ignore. She had long dark hair and peered at the world through large lensed glasses. She amused him, and strictly against his orders, he let her go in. She returned shortly with two pints, one of which she gave to him.
"Thanks love. I hope you realise I could get the sack doing this. Mind you, I don't exactly get paid. I'm working off a debt."
"I see. Is that legal?"
"Don't have much choice."
They continued to chat for a bit. The group who were providing the entertainment droned on. Not to either of their tastes, so they paid scant attention. She was glad she hadn't forked out the two quid to get in. Mel was wary and kept looking around. Suddenly he became tense.
"Hang on. Get behind that doorway. The Boss is coming." He pushed her through the gap, afraid that she would not be covered sufficiently by the curtain and he placed himself carefully in front of the bulge, hoping the Boss wouldn't realise what was going on.
"Now then Mel. What's this I hear about you and some lady, an extremely large lady? A new girl-friend perhaps? Gaining favours she isn't entitled to? If what I hear is right, you're out of a job and a home, you realise?"
"Oh no, Boss. She was only chatting." Blimey, he thought, that perishing bloke must have spies everywhere.
"You were seen drinking together, two rules broken and so you give me no choice. You will collect your things from your room and remove yourself immediately." The Boss was not a man to be argued with.
"Eh, no Boss. That's not exactly fair. I was only being polite to a customer, like you told me."
"I don't want to hear you Mel. I am not listening. Remove yourself now. Otherwise I might have to insist on full repayment of your debts. I said, go. Now. And you can take your girl-friend with you." His eyes lingered pointedly on the shaking bulge behind the curtain.
Mel tried to protest, but it was no good. Once the Boss had spoken, it was law. He was a hard man.
Tas emerged from her corner. She shook the dust from her shiny satin top which stretched tightly over her ample bosom.
"You're better off without him ruling your life, miserable so and so," she announced. "You must come home with me. I'll get you sorted out in no time. You can stay in my chalet and if you haven't got any money, well, you can do some painting to pay for your keep. OK? What are you waiting for? You can't have some man like that bossing you around, thinking he owns you."
Mel considered her words briefly. Somehow, the sound of her words did not allow room for argument and just for a moment, he wondered what he may be letting himself in for. Was it his imagination, or did she sound just the tiniest bit like the Boss, himself? Quietly, Mel finished the drink he'd hoped he'd been hiding and went out through the door. Tas followed him, as he went round the back of the building to what was little more than a shed, the room spoken of by the Boss man.
Tas was horrified at the squalor.
"Don't tell me this is what you've had to put up with? Why it's a scandal. I hope you haven't been paying to live in this rat-hole? Never mind, I'm taking you away from all of this. Pick up your things and we'll go."
For some reason, unknown to himself, Mel did as he was told.
* * * * *
Two weeks later, they had become what the soaps all describe as an item. Occasionally Mel wondered if he had jumped out of the frying pan, but on the whole, he was content to sit back and let Tas organise him. He had spent most of his life being organised by someone or other and the only difference here, was that he was being well-fed and cared for. He was also getting quite a bit more besides. Whatever you said about Tas, those tits, or breasts, as she liked him to say, were something out of the ordinary. A chap could drown in there, he decided. Mostly, Tas was OK, but she had a number of faults that he felt one day may become a problem to him. The worst fault was the nosiness, her endless questions.
"Where exactly do you come from?"
"Grimsby, well not exactly Grimsby, not to start with, but I did live there."
"You mean you weren't born there?"
"No. I were born near Sheffield."
"I see. And do you have any brothers or sisters? What did your parents do? Are they still living? What do you do for work? How long have you lived down here? What brought you down here?"
The list went on. He couldn't remember what he'd been asked by the time she had finished bombarding him. Nor could he always remember what answers he had given to the questions. At times, she tried to catch him out. There were some things in his past he felt he shouldn't admit to, not in these early days of the relationship. As far as he knew, he hadn't got any family. He had left home very early in life, as a result of being taken into care. He couldn't stick that, so he had left, changing his name so he wasn't followed. After that, he had spent several years living rough and finally and inevitably, ended up in prison. Naturally he did not want to tell his interrogator about this phase in his life, particularly why he had gone to prison and he contented himself by telling her that he had lived in an orphanage. It was the same sort of thing, he reckoned. He was right. She was suitably sympathetic at the thought of this poor deprived child and she just knew she could help him to better himself. During the twenty or so years between the "orphanage" and now, he had tried a number of jobs and these he was able to talk about in some detail and with some enthusiasm. She listened avidly and soaked up the information like a sponge. She absorbed details and filed them away in her head for later use.
Mel had been less successful in finding out about Tas's past life. He realised that she was somewhat prone to exaggeration, not the sort of outright lies that he was capable of, but slight bending of the truth. She always came out on top in her accounts of her life and never once had she failed in anything. She claimed to have had a number of devoted boy-friends in the past, but here she was, pushing forty-four and living alone in her chalet, in the Cornish sea-side village of Porthcullion. Even the village was less than successful as a holiday centre, having nothing more than a reasonably sandy beach, a couple of pubs, the usual beach shop and a general store. There was a rather squalid collection of ancient dwellings, in various states of dis-repair, housing many unemployed unfortunates whose rents had become the responsibility of the State. Tas was very much aware of the difference in her station, being the outright owner of her chalet and having only to pay the ground-rent, in monthly instalments of 30. She was, Mel discovered a terrible snob. She wouldn't have anything to do with the other residents of the ghetto, as it was known locally. As to her back-ground, he had heard little, but gathered that her parents were native to Cornwall, though they now lived up-country. He gathered that meant anything beyond the Tamar. To him, one of the more interesting bits of information she had let out was about her name. Her mother had wanted to give her the Cornish name of Tamsin, but she had misspelt it on the birth registration document and so the child was baptised Tasmin. She had been known as Tas ever since.
He also discovered that he could leave her chatting on for hours, as long as he murmured the occasional yes or no, she rarely noticed whether he was listening or not. On these excursions into the meaning of life as she saw it, he made no contribution, except for the occasional grunt, which she took as his agreement to her elevated thoughts. If ever she asked his opinion on anything, she would word it so that his disagreement would start a whole new interrogation about some aspect of his former life. It was never worth the hassle, so he tried to agree with everything she said. Indeed, he had decided that he was onto a good thing here. She wasn't a bad cook and she didn't seem to make too many demands on him. She was a bit on the bossy side but a kind-hearted soul. She was always doing things for people, even when she didn't have enough time to do her own things and even when the other people didn't want her to. He wasn't sure whether she did actually earn any money. She seemed to have plenty and never worked. She did go to car boot sales, he discovered, but he doubted that would bring in enough to live on. She always bought more junk than she sold, whenever she went to one. "Trading stock," she called it, but junk was what it was. In fact the chalet was even more like a store shed than the one he'd recently left. It was the sort of place usually let to holiday makers but she used it as a "working home".
Somehow, the days just sped by. Together, they would spend hours doing nothing. They didn't get up too early and didn't have to go anywhere or be anywhere at any special times. It was all something of a novelty to Mel and he loved his new life-style.
"What's the point of being self-employed, if you can't take advantage of it?" Tas said, almost daily. Mel was not going to argue with that. But he did wonder often where the time went. Making unlimited cups of tea or coffee were responsible for much of his personal daily activity and the drinking of them, took up more of the time.
As for being self-employed, there was little evidence of what the employment was. There were certainly ideas galore. Tas had an endless capacity for talking about what they might do, but it was a rare occurrence when anything actually happened. They would discuss her ideas for a couple of days, get very enthusiastic, take advice, rush around asking people things...testing the market, as Tas put it, finally abandoning the project when she tired of the idea. Occasionally they got involved in a project to the extent of making actual purchases towards implementing it. The Great Fishing Idea for one.
Mel had once worked on a trawler and Tas had listened to his romanticised tales of life on the high seas. He had earned vast sums of money, he said, on the route to Spain. Trapped on boat, there was nowhere to spend the wages. It seemed that Mel had problems with money, in as much as he could never hang on to it for long. If he had any in his pocket, he would treat everyone in the pub to drinks. Even strangers, he had never seen before or would ever see again, were treated to his wages. He had many friends, usually fairly short-term friends, as they usually disappeared, when his cash ran out. But, he did know a bit about fishing. Even though most of the time he had spent on the trawlers, had been in the galley, where he was the cook, he had picked up a few useful things about fish.
Tas had watched the locals fishing. They often had a couple of rods which were stuck in the sand while they sat back with a can or two, waiting for the fish to attach themselves to the lines. Tas had stored this information deep in her mind. She could improve on the technique and decided that the thing to do, was to set up a long row of fishing lines on the beach, near the tide-line at low tide. There would be a strong washing line, tied between two stout poles and light nylon lines with hooks and bait would be tied on between the poles. When the tide came in, bringing large quantities of fish with it, they would all rush for the bait and get hooked, ready for the low tide to leave them uncovered and ready and waiting to be collected by Tas or Mel.
"We have to have some bait. That could be expensive."
"Don't be so defeatist," she had replied. "I know the cook at the pub. He'll let me have the left-overs every day. There's bound to be stuff there we can use."
"We need something a bit more reliable than that," he stated flatly. His tone allowed no argument and, for once, she bowed to his superior knowledge.
"So what do we need?"
"They usually go for raw fish or meat of some sort. Not your actual stuff in batter, like the pub does. I'm not sure about fixing sausage to the hooks either. Could be tricky."
Tas was obviously deep in thought. Mel put the kettle on, thinking it might assist the deliberations.
"Right," she said rather suddenly. "Here's what we'll do. When the tide is low, the rocks are uncovered and there are loads of limpets there. Would they do for bait?"
Mel was speechless with admiration. She was really something this woman. At last he said,
"They'll be brilliant. Just the ticket and all we'll need is a bucket or two and a couple of stout knives. I don't know," he continued, shaking his head in wonder, "however do you keep thinking up your ideas?"
She blushed with pleasure at his obvious approval. "Easy," she replied. "I just look at a problem and find the solution. I've been doing it all my life. All my business training, I suppose. Just one thing though, why do we want a couple of knives and buckets? We surely don't need to collect that many limpets?"
"It's just not practical for us to share a bucket. We'll spend all the time reaching over each other, to put them in. It'll be much easier with a bucket and knife each."
"Don't be soft. I won't have time to collect limpets as well as oversee the business. I shall have the paperwork to do...you know, the ordering, delivery arrangements and everything. That will keep me busy practically full time." It sounded so reasonable that Mel did not argue, despite the warning bells that were sounding in his head.
"OK love, whatever you say." He was finding life easier if he didn't argue and realised that if he quietly forgot about something, she made no attempt to force the issue and it often just went away.
So it was that he spent a decidedly damp morning clambering over the rocks, prising off limpets. It was hard work and required a strong wrist, good balance and a very poorly developed sense of smell. He had a strong wrist, poor balance and the smell made him feel sick. After two hours, Mel had collected what he considered a good bucket full. He put some sea water over them, to keep them fresh and set off back to the chalet. He was cold, wet and none too happy. He thought longingly of a hot meal, steak and kidney pie perhaps or at least some good hot soup. He arrived back at the chalet, sniffing the air hopefully for the smell of lunch. He had got very wet, mostly when he had lost his footing and slipped waist deep in a rock pool and was, by now feeling very uncomfortable, cold and miserable.
"Leave them out at the back," requested Tas. "Pooh, what a smell. Oh Melvin, you've got yourself soaked. Change your clothes and come and see what I've been busy doing."
He smiled at her tone of concern. She must have bought a take-away and it was still in its box, so he couldn't smell the cooking. She wouldn't let him down. He peeled off the revoltingly wet, fishy clothes and dried himself. He put on clean jeans and shirt, leaving the dirty things in the tiny bathroom.
"What have you got then?" he asked with a hopeful smile on his face. "Is it Chinese or Indian?"
"Don't know what you're talking about. Look."
Tas had not been idle. She had bought what seemed like hundreds of yards of nylon line and some hooks.
"You can buy them in bulk and they cost hardly anything," she said.
"Great," he said. "What are we having for dinner?"
"This is lunch-time Melvin. Only common people eat dinner at midday. There's some cheese left I think. You'll have to make do with that. I haven't got time for anything more. Make me a sandwich while you're at it. Make sure you wash your hands though. You still smell all fishy."
Mel hardly liked to protest. She was, after all, working to give them both a living and she had laid out money for the gear. He sighed and cut them both thick wedges of bread and lumps of cheese, that seemed to be well past its sell-by date. Perhaps she would take them to the pub for a steak and kidney pie for supper.
The next few days were busy. The busiest Mel had known since he met Tas. They tied hooks onto lines and arranged them carefully over the boxes of old china, the trading stock. The second day was spent sorting out the tangles, caused by Tas needing to find some mugs she knew were stored in one of the boxes. They had run out of mugs to make the tea in and time pressure was too great to waste time doing the washing-up. Mel was left to complete the hooking-up, while Tas spent half a day working on the paperwork that seemed an essential part of her life. No-one ever knew quite what she meant by paperwork, but it tired Tas so much that she was forced to take many breaks, usually coinciding with one of the many soaps she watched on TV.
With only a few pauses to increase his tea levels, Mel worked away steadily enough. It seemed that as soon as he had sorted out one tangle, another knotted itself around the first.
"Keep at it love," murmured Tas. "You will get a big surprise soon, when I've finished this bit." The table was buried in an ever-growing pile of papers. She stabbed intermittently at a calculator and finally sat back with a smile of complete disbelief on her face.
"We are going to make an absolute fortune," she said, hardly able to contain her excitement.
"Yer?" Mel was definitely interested. He even took the liberty of stopping the fruitless task of untangling.
"This has to be my best idea yet. Do you realise that if we set out forty lines each night, that's forty fish each day. Even if some of them are too small, we can eat them and we shall save money on buying food. We'll have a minimum of thirty top quality fish to sell. They will fetch top prices, being fresh and we can deliver them daily to the hotels and restaurants. The best bit is, we have no expenses and have all our days free to do other things. Brilliant, don't you agree?"
Mel recalled that she had been unable to help with the limpet harvesting because she was too busy with paperwork and wondered how they would possibly have all the day left to do other things. He was most confused.
"I'm not sure. How will we be able to sell this fish? Most places have contracts and things with proper fish-mongers."
"Because ours will be freshest and the best quality, getting top prices. The other fish-mongers won't stand a chance. I reckon we should clear at least two hundred quid a week, with hardly any effort. Come on, let's go and celebrate. The pub's open."
Mel abandoned the tangled mess of nylon, hoping that Tas wouldn't notice the prime instrument in her potential business empire was now rendered virtually useless. As they walked along the beach towards their favourite bar, Den's Dive, she noticed that the tide was just about at its highest.
"I think we shall have to wait for another few days before we can start, because the lines would have to be set too early in the day. They will only get pinched by holiday makers. Give it another week and the tides will be just right."
"What about the limpets? We haven't done anything about them since I picked them." Mel was remembering painfully, the hours he had spent gathering them. The blister on his thumb, raised by the action of prising, had barely healed and he couldn't bear the thought of all that time and effort being wasted.