by Robert Williams

Not for the first time, Mrs Greasy and Mike the Manic Mechanic were both in financial difficulty.

"Any ideas how I can attract more customers into the cafe?!" asked Mrs Greasy of Mick and Clive.

"No!" said Clive. "Anyway, how come you've got financial problems again?!?! What happened to all that money Des paid you to keep this place open?!"

"Those satellite TV subscriptions aren't cheap, you know!" said Mrs Greasy. "Neither was running my own satellite TV channel! The way things are going, I don't think I'll be able to keep my cafe going much longer!!"

Things were just bad at Mike's Manic Motors, where Des had taken his Fiat 126 in so that Mike the Manic Mechanic could pass its MOT for another year. But Des was in for a shock.

"Sorry Des, I'm failing your MOT!" said Mike.

"WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?" exclaimed Des. "I don't understand!!"

"Your car isn't roadworthy!" said Mike.

"It hasn't been roadworthy for ages, but that hasn't stopped you passing its MOT before!" said Des.

"Look Des, I'm in dire straits," said Mike.

"That's funny, I thought you were in Mike and the Mechanics X!" said Des.

"Ha ha, very funny," said Mike. "Now this is serious, I'm in financial crisis! I've even had to temporarily suspend broadcasts of my satellite television channel, Mike and Motors TV!"

"What a shame," said Des. "I'm sure its viewer is most upset."

"Stop messing about, Des!" said Mike. "Now I need you to buy a new car off me! I don't care whether its one of my quality fast Fords I've got here on the forecourt, or one of the old Austins I've got round the back, just buy a car!!"

"But I don't like the look of any of them," said Des. "I want my Fiat back."

"Well you can't have it, I've just sent it to the scrapyard," said Mike.

"YOU'VE DONE WHAT?!?!?!?!?" exclaimed Des.

Just then Mike's mobile phone rang.

"Excuse me one moment," said Mike. "Hi there, Mike's Manic Motors, Mike the Manic Mechanic speaking, how can I help you?!...oh hello Mr Chan, delighted to hear from you!...can we talk...yes we most certainly can...I'll see you right away then!! Sayonara, Mr Chan!!"

"Mr Chan?!" said Des.

"Yes, Charlie Chan!" said Mike. "He runs the local Chinese takeaway with his wife Jackie! He's expressed an interest in forming a joint venture with me in order to safeguard the future of my garage! I'm going to meet with him now!"

"But what about my Fiat?!" whined Des.

"Never mind that now!" said Mike, getting into his car. "I'll sell you a new car when I get back!!" He drove off.

"You'll be hearing from my solicitor!" shouted Des after him, but then he realised he didn't have a solicitor. So instead he decided to pop back to the cafe.

"Can you believe it?!" declared Des as he walked into the cafe. "That cheeky Mike the Manic Mechanic has failed my Fiat 126's MOT, just so he can sell me a new car..."

But no one was listening to him. They were all staring at Mrs Greasy, who was staring open-mouthed at a letter that the postman had just delivered.

"What is it, Mrs Greasy?" asked Mick.

"It's from UCI!" said Mrs Greasy.

"What? The cinema chain?!" said Mick.

"No, no, the cafe chain!" said Mrs G. "United Cafes International! They want to buy my cafe and turn it into one of their branches!"

"And of course you're going to sell, aren't you!" said Clive.

"Of course not!" said Mrs G. "This cafe is my whole life! You don't understand how much this place means to me!"

"Let me see that letter," said Mick. He read the letter. "Mrs Greasy, do you realise how much they're offering you?! You could retire on that!!"

"And you should have retired a few years ago anyway!" said Clive.

"Mrs Greasy, I don't think you have any choice!" said Mick. "Just a few minutes ago, you were telling us you're on the breadline and that you won't be able to afford to keep the cafe open any more!"

"Hmmmm," said Mrs Greasy, sitting down to think.

"Well anyway, as I was saying, what about my car?!" exclaimed Des. "It's on its way to the scrapheap right now!! It's about to get squished!!"

"You'd better go and rescue it then," said Mick.

"I can't!!" exclaimed Des. "I haven't got a car, have I?!?!"

"Go on the bus!" said Mick.

"Be realistic!" said Des. "The bus route's just been altered, and now it goes via Cricklewood! There's no way I'd get there in time!!"

"Oh for goodness sake," sighed Clive. "I hate to see a grown man cry. Here, borrow my car! But don't dirty my upholstery!"

"Thanks!!" said Des, as Clive tossed his car keys over to him. Des rushed out of the cafe and over to Clive's house, where his brand new BMW 630i was sitting in the drive.

"Another new car," said Des. "How on earth does he afford them all?!"

He drove off to the local scrapyard. When he arrived he got out of Clive's BMW and started looking all around for his Fiat.

"Excuse me," said Des to the scrapyard owner. "Has a Fiat 126 just been delivered here for scrapping?!"

"You mean that comedy car over there!" said the scrapyard owner, pointing over at Des's car. "Yeah, we're just about to send it to the crusher!"

"Sorry, there's been a mistake!" said Des. "I need it back!"

The scrapyard owner shrugged his shoulders.

"Thanks!!" said Des. He rushed over to his car and got inside. Luckily, the key was still in the ignition - and his wallet was still in the glovebox - so he was able to drive straight back home. Well, to the cafe actually.

"Phew! That was a bit of luck!" announced Des to the others in the cafe. "Got my car back all right!! So everything's all right with the world!! Hooray!!"

"Shhh Des," said Mick. "And sit down! Mrs Greasy is about to announce her decision!"

"Lords, ladies, gentlemen," declared Mrs G. "I have come to a decision regarding the future of my cafe! I have thought long and hard about this, and let me tell you, it's not an easy decision to make. But now I have made it. After much soul searching I have decided that I am going to..."

Just then Mike the Manic Mechanic burst into the cafe.

"Hi there everyone! Exciting news! I've clinched the deal!! Myself, Mike the Manic Mechanic of Mike's Manic Motors and Mr Charlie Chan of Charlie Chan's Chinese Takeaway have signed a contract to set up a joint venture company which will safeguard the future of my garage!! Isn't that exciting!!"

"Whatever," said Mick.

"See you later then!!" said Mike, walking out again.

"As I was saying," said Mrs G, "before I was most rudely interrupted...um...now what was it I decided to do... Oh yes! I'm going to sell to United Cafes International!"

"YES!!!" exclaimed Des, Mick and Clive, punching the air simultaneously. They stood up, linked arms and started dancing round the cafe.

"I'll go and get your lunch," said Mrs Greasy.

"It's good news day!!" laughed Des, as they danced round. "Mrs Greasy's cafe is closing, and I've saved my car from destruction! Yippee!!"

"Oi Des!" said Clive. "Talking of that, I want my car keys back!"

"Your car keys..." said Des. He stopped dancing, and started checking all his pockets. Then he remembered he'd left Clive's car keys in Clive's car - which he'd left at the scrapyard! "Oh my goodness!! Sorry, I've got to go!!"

He rushed out of the cafe, got in his car and drove back to the scrapyard. When he got there he looked all around for Clive's BMW.

"Excuse me," said Des to the scrapyard owner. "What happened to that BMW I parked over there?!"

"It's in there," said the scrapyard owner, pointing at that crusher. Des gasped. "Don't tell me, there's been a mistake."

"Umm...yes!" said Des. He looked on in horror as the remains of Clive's BMW popped out of the crusher. "Um, there isn't any chance of, um, getting it back to how it was??"

"No," said the scrapyard owner.

"Great," said Des. "Just great." He drove back to the cafe again, wondering what to do.

"Where are my car keys?!" said Clive, when Des arrived. "Where is my car?!"

"Your car..." said Des. "Your BMW..."

"Yes!" said Clive. "My BMW!"

"Your BMW..." said Des.

"My BMW 630i, with sports suspension, active cruise control and bluetooth technology!!" said Clive.

"Ah!" said Des. "Back in a bit!"

He rushed over to Mike's garage. When he got there he was surprised to find that all of Mike's cars had vanished from his forecourt. Des walked in.

"Hello Mike," said Des. "I'd like a car."

"What?!?!?" said Mike.

"I'd like a silver BMW 630i with sports suspension, active bruise control and bluebeard technology."

"Just like Clive's, then," said Mike. "Sorry Des, no can do! However, if you're after a Chinese takeaway, I'm your man! How do you fancy this delicious Chop Suey Foo Yung, complete with a fully reconditioned fried egg roll and only 60,000 on the clock...oh, hang on a minute..."

"I don't want a Chinese takeaway, I need a car!" said Des.

"Well if you're after a car, you'd better go and see Charlie Chan then!" said Mike.

Des got back into his car and drove to the Chinese takeaway.

"Good afternoon sir," said Charlie Chan.

"Hello Mr Chan," said Des. "I'm after a silver BMW 630i with sports suspension..."

"Sorry sir," said Mr Chan. "I no do BMWs! But can I interest you in 1978 Ford Capri V6 with push button stereo and only 145,000 on clock..."

"No you can't," said Des. "By the way, while I'm here, could you do me a prawn cocktail?"

"If you want Chinese takeaway, you better see Mike Manic Mechanic, he do Chinese takeaway!" said Mr Chan.

Des decided to go back home to have a think.

"I suppose I'll just have to go to the BMW showroom and pay full price," sighed Des. "But those BMW 630is don't come cheap! And they don't come quickly! It'll take weeks to get delivered! What am I going to tell Clive in the meantime?!"

Des peered out of his front window, thoughtfully. He was rather surprised to see a brand new BMW 630i, identical in every respect to how Clive's used to look, reversing up Wayne's driveway next to his battered Ford Escort van. He rushed outside to investigate.

"Hi Des, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!" said Wayne, getting out of the BMW. "Like me new car?!!"

"How on earth did you afford that?!?!" said Des. Wayne grinned his usual inane grin. "Oh never mind, I'd like to buy it off you!"

"Naaah," said Wayne.

"Oh go on," said Des.

"Okay!" said Wayne.

Before long Wayne had sold his BMW to Des. Des got into the car, drove it out of Wayne's drive and across the road into Clive's drive, just as Clive came walking along the road.

"And about time!" said Clive.

"There!" said Des, getting out of the car. "So everything's okay now!"

"'Ere Des, that Clive's 'ouse, not yours!" called Wayne.

"Err, yes, I am aware of that, Wayne!" called Des. "I'm not stupid!"

"The registration number's different," said Clive. "This isn't my car!"

"Oh..." said Des. He hadn't though of that. "Well...in order to show you my gratitude for letting me borrow your car, I've bought you a personalised registration plate."

"Hmmm," said Clive.

They looked down at the number plate - and to Des's surprise the last three letters just happened to be the same as Clive's initials. But still Clive looked suspicious.

A few days later, Mrs Greasy had moved out of her cafe, after so many years. With the money Mrs Greasy had made from the sale, she could have afforded a very nice detached house in the country. But instead she moved into the semi-detached house in Des and Mick's street that had been up for sale for ages.

One week later, and the latest branch of United Cafes International had just opened in what was formerly Mrs Greasy's cafe. Des, Mick, Clive and Wayne all visited on the opening day.

"Goodness, I've never seen it so busy in here!" said Des.

"I can't believe we're actually going to get some decent food in here for the first time ever!" said Clive.

Just then Mrs Greasy came up to them. She was dressed in a waitress's outfit.

"Mrs Greasy, what's happened?!" said Mick. "You didn't need to get a job! What about all that money you've got now?!"

"It's not about the money," said Mrs G. "Have you tried watching daytime television?"

"Every day," said Des.

"Hmmm, I don't like what they've done to this place," said Mrs G. "All modern and jazzed up! Just looks like any old cafe now! Anyway, I'd better take your order quickly, it's packed in here!"

Before long Des, Mick, Wayne and Clive had been served their lunch. But while Des, Mick and Clive were tucking in, Wayne was just picking at his food.

"What's the matter, Wayne?" said Mick. "Don't you like your mashed potato?"

"No, it's 'orrible," said Wayne. "It's nothin' like what Mrs G used to cook!"

When Des got back home from lunch, he looked at the calendar and noticed the date.

"Oh no!" he said. "Today's the day my MOT runs out!! If I don't get it passed today, I won't be able to drive it any more!!"

He drove it across to Mike's Manic Motors.

"Mike, is there any chance you could pass my car's MOT?" asked Des.

"No chance," said Mike. "I don't do MOTs any more! That's Mr Chan's responsibility! However, I reckon I can do you a cracking deal on a delicious plate of chicken chow mein, and I'll even throw in some mud flaps!"

"No thanks, I've already eaten," said Des. He popped across to the Chinese takeaway.

"Good afternoon sir," said Charlie Chan.

"Hello Mr Chan," said Des. "Any chance you could pass my Fiat 126's MOT for me?"

"Certainly sir," said Mr Chan. He went outside, and drove Des's car round the back of the shop.

Des waited and waited. Finally, Mr Chan walked back in and gave Des the MOT certificate.

"FAILED?!??!" exclaimed Des.

"Sorry sir, your car not roadworthy!" said Mr Chan. "However I can do you superb 1992 Escort Cosworth with stainless steel exhaust and sunroof..."

Des stormed right out of the shop.

"At least Mr Chan didn't send my car straight to the scrapheap," grumbled Des, as he drove back to Mike's garage.

"Hello Mike again," said Des when he got there. "I don't know what to do, Mr Chan's failed my car's MOT!!"

"Quite right too," said Mike. Then his phone rang. "One moment, Des. Hello, Mike's Manic Chinese Takeaway, Mike the Manic Mechanic speaking, how can I help you?! Oh, Mr Chan! Yes...yes...yes...oh no...oh no...oh no!!!"

"What's wrong, Mike?" said Des.

"That was Mr Chan!" said Mike. "He's not happy about the way our joint venture is going! He hasn't sold a car all week! Now he wants to come over and examine my books!"

"Eh? Why does he want to see your old Rupert annuals?!" said Des.

"No, no, I mean my financial books!" said Mike. "This is dreadful, what am I going to do?!?!"

Mike was in dire straits once again. And things weren't going well for Mrs Greasy either - she was not enjoying waitressing at all. In fact, she had resigned after just one day's work.

"I miss cooking!" said Mrs G at the following morning's meeting which had shifted from its traditional cafe location to her living room. "I want my cafe back!"

"Hey Clive, have you bought another new car?" said Mick.

"Yes," said Clive. "Can you believe it, Wayne's bought a new car that was identical to mine!! (Or rather the car that purported to be mine anyway, Des!)"

"He's bought another one?!?!" said Des. "I don't understand, where has he found all this money all of a sudden!"

"I don't know, but there's no way I'm driving the same car as Wayne!!" said Clive. "So I've upgraded to a 730i!"

Just then Mike the Manic Mechanic walked in. He looked distraught.

"It's Mr Chan!" said Mike. "He wants to meet with me later to dissolve our joint venture!! He spent all last night examining my financial records, and now he says he doesn't want anything more to do with me!! Now I've got no choice but to close the garage!!"

"What was that funny noise?" said Mick.

"It's the Breaking News jingle on the television," said Mrs Greasy.

"Why are you watching Sky News?" said Des.

"Got to be better than 'Flog It to Death' with David Dickinson on BBC1!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Shhh!! Listen!!" said Mick.

"News just in!" said the newsreader. "The financial world has been rocked to its very foundations this morning with the purchase of the world's biggest restaurant company, United Cafes International, by a South London window cleaner!"

The gang stared incredulously at the television.

"Wayne Coach, of Tolworth, became a multi-millionaire last week when he sold his highly successful internet website, WCs Reunited, to ITV!!"

"WCs Reunited?!?!?" exclaimed Des. "What was he thinking?!?!"

"We now go live to Tolworth where Mr Coach is giving a press conference."

They all peered outside where Wayne was indeed standing on his doorstep next door, surrounded by television reporters and cameras.

"'Allo world, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!" said Wayne, reading from a piece of paper. "Following the sale last week of me website, Winda Cleaners Reuni'ed, to ITV for 60,000,000 quid, I would like to confirm that I've gone and bought Uni'ed Cafes In'ernational for 59,875,000 quid, and that I'm gonna close it down!!" There was a collective gasp from all the reporters. "Furthermore, I wanna take this opportuni'y to announce that I've also gone and bought Charlie Chan's Chinese Takeaway for 75,000 quid, and I'm gonna close that down as well!! Only problem is, now I'm skint, so could anyone lend us a fiver?!"

Des, Mick and the others, pushed their way through the barrage of reporters to see Wayne.

"What's going on, Wayne? Why have you bought the world's biggest cafe company, just to close it all down?!!" said Mick.

"'Cos I miss Mrs G's cookin'!" said Wayne. "So now she can re-open 'er cafe!!"

"That's right, and I can afford to now, with all that money I got when I sold it!!" said Mrs Greasy. "Hooray!!"

The others groaned.

"But why buy the Chinese takeaway as well, Wayne?" said Mick.

"'Cos Mr Chan failed me Escort van's MOT!" said Wayne.

"And under the terms of me and Mr Chan's joint venture, if one of our businesses closes, all the assets get passed to the other!" explained Mike. "So that means I can afford to reopen my garage!! Hooray!!!"

"What about our MOTs?" said Des.

"Don't worry Des and Wayne, I promise I'll pass both your cars' MOTs for you!"

"Hooray!!" exclaimed Des and Wayne.

"So everything's back to normal," sighed Mick. "Including Wayne being broke."

"You'll have to sell your BMW, Wayne," said Des. "I reckon Clive would like it!"

Clive snarled.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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