by Robert Williams
It was 7.20 on the night after Hallowe'en, and once again Des was hiding from Dickie the Vicar. Crouched under the window in his darkened living room, he waited for the doorbell to ring. And sure enough, come 7.25, three times it rang, like it always did. But then it rang a fourth time.
"Oh, not again," moaned Des. Safe in the knowledge that Dickie the Vicar only ever rang the doorbell three times, he went into the hall and opened the front door. "What do you want, Wayne?!"
"We wish yer a merry Bonfire Night, we wish yer a merry Bonfire Night, we wish yer a merry Bonfire Night and an 'appy new year!!" sung Wayne, waving a sparkler in Des's face.
"Careful Wayne, those things are dangerous!!" exclaimed Des, backing off. "Anyway, it's not even Bonfire Night yet, it isn't for another five days!"
"Yeah, but everyone's 'olding their firework parties tonight!!" exclaimed Wayne, continuing to wave the sparkler at Des.
"It being Saturday night, I suppose," said Des. "Well anyway, can you hurry up and go away, I'm supposed to be hiding from Dickie the Vicar...oh hello Dickie the Vicar."
"Hi there Des!" said Dickie the Vicar, coming up behind Wayne.
"Oh brilliant," said Des. "Thanks a bunch, Wayne."
"I'm sorry for my lateness, but I just had to reprimand some flippin' kids who were messing about with fireworks!" said Dickie.
"Dear, dear, that's bad, kids today are so irresponsible!" said Des.
"Anyway, I'm just here to invite you to a fabbo charity disco..."
"Sorry Dickie, I can't come!" said Des.
"Oh botherations," said Dickie. "Why ever not?!"
"Because...um..." mumbled Des, quickly trying to invent an excuse. "Because I'm going to a fireworks display!!"
"But Bonfire Night isn't till Wednesday!" said Dickie.
"Yes, but everyone's holding their parties tonight because it's Saturday," said Des.
"Come on Des, I'll give you a lift in my churchmobile!" said Dickie.
"I'll remember this, Wayne," grumbled Des, as he and Dickie made their way out to the street where the churchmobile was parked. They got in, and Dickie tried to start the engine. However, it wouldn't start.
"Oh dear what a shame, looks like I won't be able to go to your disco," said Des.
"Nonsense, we'll walk!" said Dickie.
"Yes, but...it's a long way," said Des.
"Nonsense, it's only just down the road, turn right, then take the second on the left, then the third on the right and it's just after the post box!" said Dickie.
"Dickie, I know where the church hall is, I've spent approximately forty per cent of my entire life there!" said Des. "(The other seventy-five per cent at Mrs Greasy's cafe)." Maths was never Des's strong point.
"So let's go!" said Dickie, trying to start the engine again.
"I thought we were walking," said Des.
"Oh yes, of course!" said Dickie. "It's a good thing I'm here otherwise you'd never remember anything!!"
A confused Des got out of the car, and he and Dickie proceeded to walk down the road to the church hall. As they walked, Des tried to devise some way of getting out of going to Dickie's dreary disco. Before long, he came up with a highly original and cunning scheme.
"Dickie, look over there!" said Des suddenly, pointing at nothing in particular.
"What?! Where?!" said Dickie, looking all around. While Dickie's attention was diverted Des took the opportunity to nip behind the nearest bush. He waited until Dickie shrugged his shoulders and carried on walking.
"Excellent!!" said Des, grinning. He was about to emerge from the bush when he noticed that he wasn't alone behind there. In fact there was a whole bunch of flippin' kids with him - and they were holding fireworks!
"Oi!!" exclaimed Des, leaping out of the bush. "What do you think you're doing with those?!?!"
"Durrr, whaddya think, mister?!" said one of the kids.
"Those are dangerous you know!" said Des. "How old are you?! You can't be old enough to have bought those!! It's illegal to sell fireworks to children, don't you know!"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever!!" said the boy. "You sound just like that boring old vicar!!"
"Is someone talking about me?!" said Dickie the Vicar, coming up to them.
"Oh thanks a bunch," said Des to the boy.
"Now where were we going, Des?" said Dickie.
"Back to my house," said Des.
"Oh yes, of course!" said Dickie.
The next morning in the cafe Des expressed his concerns at irresponsible kids getting hold of fireworks. Also present were Mick, Clive, Mike and Mrs Greasy.
"Of course, it's not actually those flippin' kids who are breaking the law," said Mick. "It's the shopkeepers who are selling them the fireworks!"
"Exactly," said Des. "And it's our duty to expose those unscrupulous shopkeepers!"
"Oh no," groaned Mick. "Why does it have to be our duty?"
"You and I, Mick, and going undercover!" said Des. "We are going to pose as children and try to get the shopkeepers to sell us fireworks!"
The others burst out laughing.
"Good grief, Des, you do come out with some corkers!!" laughed Clive.
"Yes Des, how do you expect us to pose as kids," said Mick. "We're both nearly sixty you know!"
"All right, all right, no need to tell the whole cafe!" said Des. "We'll put young people's clothes on, like, erm, baseball caps and stuff. And we'll go in talking about young people's things, like, erm...um..."
"Talk about the latest cool pop bands!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic, who was the only member of the present cafe collective with his finger anywhere near the pulse of the nation's youth. "Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs etc!! And talk about computers, the internet, MySpace, Facebook!!" Des hurriedly scribbled down notes. "And don't forget to keep your finger stuck up your nose - and say 'whatever' all the time!!"
"Whatever," said Des.
"Very good," said Mike. "And one more thing - in order to look even remotely convincing as teenagers, you have to walk into the shop fiddling about with your mobile phones sending text messages to each other!!"
"Oh," said Des, getting out his mobile phone which he had owned since 1994. "I don't think you can send text messages on this one. I'm not even sure if you can make phone calls on it..."
"Well borrow my one then!" said Mike, getting his trendy new mobile phone out.
"What about Mick, he doesn't own a mobile phone at all!" said Des.
"He can borrow my other one!!" said Mike, getting another trendy new mobile phone out.
Before long Des and Mick had decked themselves out in some clothes borrowed from Wayne, who normally dressed like a twelve year-old anyway. They went along to Mr Patel's newsagents wearing jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps the wrong way round. But Mick wasn't happy.
"What's the problem, Mick?!" said Des.
"I'm not happy with this t-shirt," moaned Mick. "I don't want people thinking I'm a fan of Mika! What if someone I know spots me?!"
"I know you and it doesn't bother me," said Des. "Not that I know what a Mika is."
"Why have we come here, anyway?" said Mick. "I can't believe Mr Patel would sell fireworks to underage kids, it's not like him at all!!"
"Apparently he's the only seller of fireworks in this area!" said Des. "Those kids must have got them from here!"
They walked into the Mr Patel's newsagents and started fiddling about with their mobile phones.
"'Ere, 'ave yer 'eard?" mumbled Des in a teenagery kind of way. "The Arctic Chimpanzees are number one in the charts, whatever."
"Whatever," mumbled Mick in a not-very teenagery kind of way.
"'Ave yer been on yer FaceSpace today?" mumbled Des. "I've got 234 friends on mine."
"Whatever," mumbled Mick.
"Can I help you?" said Mr Patel.
Des stopped fiddling with the phone and rammed his finger up his nose.
"Oh yeah, we're a couple of flippin' kids, can we 'ave some fireworks, whatever," mumbled Des.
"Certainly, which ones would you like?" asked Mr Patel.
"That one, that one, and that one," said Des, pointing to some of the fireworks that Mr Patel had on display.
"That'll be £3.20," said Mr Patel.
"Whatever," said Des. He went to get his money out but realised that he couldn't when he had one hand holding his mobile phone and the other stuck up his nose. So, mumbling and grumbling, Mick had to pay instead. Mr Patel handed them their fireworks.
"BUSTED!!!!!!" exclaimed Des, dropping the teenager act. "MR PATEL, YOU'VE BEEN RUMBLED!!!"
Mr Patel looked bemused. Des took the mobile phone and tried to ring the police. As Mick and Mr Patel stood waiting, Des fumbled about with Mike's flashy, new-fangled 3G phone.
"Sorry about this, won't be a minute," said Des. But however hard he tried, he couldn't figure out how to make a phone call.
"No, it's no good," said Des, giving up. "Can I borrow your phone instead, Mr Patel?"
"Yes certainly, a pleasure," said Mr Patel.
Des went behind the counter to borrow Mr Patel's landline.
"Hello, police? I'd like to report that Mr Patel of Mr Patel's Newsagency has been caught red-handed selling fireworks to underage kids!!"
Before long PC Plod arrived on the scene.
"Mr Patel, you are under arrest for selling fireworks to underage kids!" said PC Plod.
"But I haven't done anything wrong!" protested Mr Patel. "I would never do such a thing!!"
"Thank you for exposing this dangerous criminal to us," said Plod to Des and Mick. "Whereabouts are the children who were sold the fireworks?"
"Well...we're still here," said Des.
"That's right!" said Mr Patel. "All I did was sell some fireworks to these two gentlemen!"
"With respect sir," said Plod to Des and Mick. "Neither of you is anywhere close to being underage."
"Yes I know, we were only pretending!!" exclaimed Des.
"I think you're a little mature for these kind of games," said Plod.
"Des?! Mature?!" said Mick.
"Now if you're not careful I'll have you arrested for wasting police time!" said Plod.
"Cor!" said Des. "Well you can keep your fireworks, Mr Patel!" Des plonked the fireworks back on the counter and he and Mick walked out. Then he stood and thought for a moment, and then walked back in. "Erm, could I have a refund please?"
Des and Mick, back in their normal attire, went to see Mike the Manic Mechanic at his garage in order to return the mobile phones to him.
"The cheek of it," said Mick. "You asking for a refund when I was the one who paid for those fireworks!"
"I can't understand it," said Des. "If Mr Patel didn't sell those kids those fireworks, who did??"
"I did!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic.
"You sold them the fireworks?!?!" exclaimed Des.
"Got a job lot of them," said Mike. "No one wants fireworks after Bonfire Night, so I need to get rid of them quickly otherwise they'll be cluttering up my workshop until next year!!"
"And I know how you hate a cluttered workshop," said Des, as they looked at Mike's cluttered workshop. "Well, I'm sorry Mike, but your actions are totally irresponsible! I'm phoning the police!!" He picked up his own mobile phone.
"Des, you get me arrested, you'll never get the MOT on your Fiat 126 passed again," said Mike.
"Oh yes..." said Des, putting his phone down.
Three days later, it actually was Bonfire Night. And, as ever, Des was hiding from Dickie the Vicar. As usual, at 7.25, the doorbell rang three times. Then it rang a fourth time.
"Oh no, what does Wayne want now," groaned Des. He opened the front door and, to his horror, Dickie the Vicar was standing there. "Dickie!! You normally only ring three times!!"
"Well today I thought I'd try a fourth time!" said Dickie. "I've just come to invite you to a fabbo charity disco..."
"Sorry Dickie, I can't come!" said Des.
"Oh botherations," said Dickie. "Why ever not?!"
"Because...um..." mumbled Des, quickly trying to invent an excuse. "Because I'm going to a fireworks display!"
"Sounds fab!" said Dickie. "Can I come?"
"Well...umm..." mumbled Des.
"Your house at 8.00 it is, then!" said Dickie. "Tell you what, why don't I invite the whole street!!"
"Oh gawd, not again," sighed Des. As Dickie went off down the street inviting people to Des's fireworks party, Des looked around in the sky to see if anyone was already holding a display that he could send them all to. But despite being Bonfire Night, he couldn't see any fireworks anywhere.
"I suppose everyone had their fireworks parties on Saturday," sighed Des. "What am I going to do..." He decided to do what he normally did when he didn't know what to do - he went to see Mick.
"What do you want now?!" moaned Mick.
"Mick, I've got 35 minutes... well, more like 34 now, to organise a fireworks party," whined Des. "But I don't know what to do!!"
"Get some fireworks!!" exclaimed Mick.
"Yes, but where from?" said Des. "I can't go to Mr Patel's again, not after the other day!"
"Mike the Manic Mechanic's got a job lot of them, hasn't he?" said Mick. "Get some off him!"
"Good idea!" said Des. He dashed off down to Mike's garage. "Mike! Mike! I need fireworks! And I need them now!!"
"Sorry Des, I've run out!!" said Mike. "I just sold the last ones to some flippin' kids!"
"Oh great," said Des. "I've got to hold a fireworks party in less than half an hour and I haven't got any fireworks!"
"Well you'd better try and get them off those kids then!" said Mike. "You'll be needing one of these as well, of course!"
He picked up an old shop dummy off the floor and handed it across to Des.
"What's this for?" said Des.
"You'll be needing a Guy, won't you!" said Mike.
"Guy?!" said Des. "Why have you gone all American on me?!"
"Guy, as in 'Guy Fawkes'!!" exclaimed Mike. "You dress it up in tatty old clothes and then stick it on your bonfire!!!"
"Oh yes, of course!" said Des. "But where am I going to find some tatty old clothes?"
"Try your wardrobe," said Mike.
"Brilliant!" said Des. "Thanks for your help, Mike!!" He went to leave.
"Oi Des, I'm not giving you that dummy for free!" said Mike. "I want a tenner for that!!"
"£10 for the Guy?!" exclaimed Des. "I thought it was supposed to be 'penny for the Guy'!!"
"This is the 21st century now, mate!" said Mike. Des reluctantly handed over ten pounds for Mike's manky old dummy. Then he set off looking for those flippin' kids to whom Mike had sold his last fireworks. Before long, he found them loitering in the street. They were the same kids who Des had encountered the other day. When they saw Des walk up to them carrying an old shop dummy they started sniggering.
"Erm, excuse me, are you going to be using those fireworks?" said Des. "Only things is, I'm holding a fireworks party in a few mins, and I thought they might come in handy."
"Let me think about that..." said one of the boys. "No! Now naff off, Grandad!!"
"Oh go on!" said Des. "You can come!!"
"Not interested!" said the boy.
"Erm...Zippy, George and Bungle will be there!" said Des. The kids still looked unimpressed. "Err...the Crazy Frog will be there!"
"Cool!!" said the boy. "We'll be there!"
"Great!" said Des. "It's at my house at 8.00. You won't forget to bring the fireworks, will you?!"
"Durrr, no!!" said the boy.
"Excellent!" said Des. He walked off thinking to himself. "Now where am I going to find a Crazy Frog outfit at this time of night...I know!!"
He quickly rushed over to the All-Night Fancy Dress Shop who luckily had a frog costume in stock, though unfortunately there wasn't really anything particularly crazy about it.
"It'll have to do!" said Des. "Now I hope Mick isn't busy tonight..."
He went round to Mick's house, rang the doorbell, and Mick answered the door. But as soon as Mick saw Des standing on his doorstep holding a shop dummy in one arm and a frog costume in the other, he closed the door again straight away.
"Mick, don't go, you've got to help me!!!" exclaimed Des. Mick opened the door again.
"What do you want, I'm trying to watch the repeat of that documentary that was on the other night about 16th century Norwegian tapestry," said Mick.
"I only want you to dress up in this frog costume!!" said Des. Mick went to close the door again. "Mick, you've got to!! Otherwise I'm going to get into big trouble!!"
"Big trouble?" said Mick. "With who?"
"Some twelve year-old kids," said Des. Mick raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Look, no one will know it's you!!"
"What about my documentary then?" said Mick.
"I'll record it for you on my Betamax video recorder!!" said Des. "I won't mess it up this time, honest!!"
Mick sighed, and took the frog costume from Des. While he was putting it on, Des went back to his house, found a tatty old tank top and flares and dressed the shop dummy in them.
By the time Des and Mick were ready, a crowd of people who Dickie the Vicar had invited to Des's firework display were gathering in Des's front garden.
"Come on through!" said Des, leading them round to the back garden.
"Can't wait!!" exclaimed Dickie.
"Des, what is that dummy for?" said Mick, who was now wearing the frog costume.
"That's no way to speak about Dickie the Vicar!" said Des.
"I meant that one!!" said Mick, pointing at the shop dummy.
"Oh!" said Des. "That's my Guy!"
"What???" said Mick.
"Hey Mick, how are you doing?!" said the bloke who lived next door to Mick (other side to Des).
"Grrrrrr!!" grumbled Mick, giving Des a foul look, but he didn't see it since Mick was hidden inside his frog outfit.
"Shhh now Mick, I've got to make the opening announcement," said Des. "Greetings everyone, welcome to my fireworks party!" He scanned the crowd, but unfortunately there was no sign of those flippin' kids. "Umm, now the fireworks aren't actually quite ready yet, so, err..."
"What do you mean, the fireworks aren't ready yet?!" whispered Mick the frog to Des.
"They haven't arrived yet," said Des. "Those kids are bringing them. Don't worry, they promised they'd come."
"Good grief," groaned Mick, slapping his webbed hand across his frog eyes.
"So, er, in the meantime, why don't we all have a sing-song?!" said Des to the assembled party-goers. There were groans all round.
"Why don't you light the bonfire?!" said Mick.
"Good idea!" said Des. While the crowd stood and waited, Des gathered a few twigs and branches together.
"Is that it?" said Mick. "That little pile of twigs is your bonfire?!"
"It's all I can manage in an emergency!" said Des. "Anyone got a match?"
Luckily, someone did. Des lit the fire with it, and then dumped the dummy on top. Then they all stood and watched as the fire began to burn. But that wasn't really what they had come to watch.
"I can't understand it," said Des to Mick. "Where have those kids got to? Honestly, you can't rely on anyone these days!" He turned back to the crowd, who were getting decidedly bored. "No one brought any fireworks with them, by any chance?" Everyone shook their head.
Just then Des noticed that the bored looks on the visitors' faces suddenly changed looks of horror. He looked round, and gasped when he saw that what had started as a pathetic small bonfire, which had already managed to destroy the dummy, had spread to his garden fence!
"Oh my goodness!!!" exclaimed Des, panicking. "Help!! Help!! What shall I do, what shall I do?!?!"
"Call the fire brigade!" exclaimed Mick.
"Call the fire brigade, call the fire brigade!!" exclaimed Des. "Has anyone got their number?"
Someone went and rang the fire brigade. The rest of the crowd, who had been expecting to watch fireworks lighting up the night sky, stood and watched the even greater spectacle of the fire lighting up the night sky instead.
The flames continued to spread from Des's fence - now, to Des's abject horror, Clive's shed was alight! It didn't take long for Clive to emerge from his house.
"WHAT'S GOING ON?!?!?!?" he yelled. "WHO HAS SET FIRE TO MY BRAND NEW SHED?!?!?! IS THIS YOUR WORK, DES WEDNESDAY?!?!?!"
"Quick, give me that frog costume!!!" said Des to Mick.
As Mick changed out of the frog outfit, and Des changed into it, the fire brigade arrived. The crowd looked on as the firemen wasted no time in extinguishing the blaze.
"Well, what an exciting night it's been," said George, who was amongst the crowd.
"Yes, it certainly has!" said Zippy.
"Can we come again next year?" asked Bungle.