by Robert Williams

"Gosh, it's foggy today," said Des, as he was giving Mick a lift back from the shops in his Fiat 126. "In fact, it always seems to be foggy when I go out for a drive, strangely. And yet as soon as I get out of the car, it all suddenly clears!"

"I think it might have something more to do with the fact that you haven't cleaned your car for years," said Mick.

"Good point," said Des. "I know, I'll take it into a car wash later."

"About time, you can hardly see a thing through this grimy windscreen," said Mick.

But when they reached the next set of traffic lights they certainly were about to be able to see something through it - for a man with a big chin and a big grin on his face suddenly came up to Des's car with a bucket of water, a cloth and a squeegee, and started pouring soapy water across his windscreen.

"Don't you just hate it when this happens," groaned Des.

"Well it obviously hasn't happened to you at any point in the recent past," said Mick.

"Oi, I don't want it cleaned!" exclaimed Des, poking his head out of the window.

"Yes you do!" said Mick.

"Actually, yes I do!" exclaimed Des.

Before long, the man had finished cleaning Des's windscreen.

"Blimey, he's actually done a really good job!" said Des, who, for the first time in years, was actually now able to see his Fiat 126's bonnet from the driving seat.

"He certainly has!" said Mick. "In fact I've met him before! He came round my house yesterday offering to clean my windows, and he did a really excellent, thorough job! Much better than what Wayne normally manages - and he didn't even accidentally tip a bucket of dirty water all over my begonias like a certain individual does unfailingly every single time!"

"Who is he then?" said Des.

"He gave me his card, think I've still got it in my pocket..." Mick reached into his pocket. "Here it is - Fred Snarkbucket, The Window Cleaner With A Big Chin, And A Big Grin'."

"Snarkbucket?" said Des. "That's a funny name...just a minute, why is everyone tooting at me?"

"Because the lights have changed!" said Mick.

"Oh yes, so they have!" said Des. And so he quickly drove off.

"Des, I don't think you should have done that," said Mick.

"Why?! The lights had changed!" said Des.

"And Fred Snarkbucket is still sitting on your bonnet!" said Mick.

"Oh!" said Des. "Didn't see him there!"

"Dear, dear, it's all very well having your windscreen cleaned," said Mick. "But it's not much use if your glasses still need cleaning!"

Des pulled over to the side of the road to let Fred get off.

"Sorry about that!" said Des.

"No problem!" said Fred, getting off the car. "A simple mistake, could have happened to anyone!!"

"Is there any way that I can repay you?" said Des.

"No, no, don't worry about it!" said Fred, who was still grinning with his big chin. "Catch you later!" He walked off.

"What a nice friendly fellow he is," said Mick.

"Yes!" said Des. "Imagine if that had been Clive or Mrs Greasy or someone, I'd be getting no end of abuse from them!"

"I think we need more people like Fred Snarkbucket round here," said Mick.

"Now I must get the rest of my car cleaned, to match the windscreen," said Des. "However I can't be bothered to do it myself, so I think I'll get Mike the Manic Mechanic to clean it for me."

But on their way to Mike's garage, they noticed a brand new garage which had just opened up - and outside was a car wash.

"I'll take it in here, shall I?" said Des, driving onto the forecourt.

"Snarkbucket's Snazzy Saloons?" said a confused Mick.

"Must be coincidence," said Des.

But as they got out of the car they were surprised to see none other than Fred Snarkbucket walk out of the showroom.

"Oh! Hello!" said a very confused Des. "How did you do that?!?!"

"Do what?" said Fred.

"Well...just now you were...and now you're..."

Fred look baffled.

"He'd like to put his car through your car wash," said Mick, quickly.

"That would be a pleasure!" grinned Fred.

Des then proceeded to drive his Fiat 126 through the car wash.

"Blimey!" said Des, once the job was done. "I've never seen my car looking so clean!!" In fact it was so sparkling bright and clean, Des had to put his sunglasses on to look at it. "Excellent job, thank you so much!"

"Happy to be of service!" said Fred, grinning with his big chin.

"Actually, while I'm here, I wonder if there's any chance you could have a look at my car?" said Des. "Ever since I last took it to Mike the Manic Mechanic to look at it, there's been this knocking noise coming from the rear suspension. I reckon it might be the clank fracket playing up again."

"The what?!" said Fred. "Tell you what, I'll have a quick look at it. In the meantime, please feel free to browse the showroom! We have a whole selection of quality used cars on offer!"

While Fred inspected Des's Fiat 126 in the workshop, Des and Mick had a look inside his showroom.

"Goshingtons!" said Des. "They're all Fiats!" They were indeed - Snarkbucket's Snazzy Saloons had a full range of approved used Fiats for sale at surprisingly competitive prices. There was everything, from the latest sporty Panda right down to a fully restored, pristine Fiat 126. And not a furry dice in sight.

"What do you think?!" said Fred, coming into the showroom.

"I really fancy this classic 126!" said Des.

"Oh for goodness sake," said Mick. "After umpteen years of driving the same old Fiat 126, when you actually finally decide to buy a new one you choose another Fiat 126!!"

"I haven't decided to buy it yet, I'm just thinking about it!!" said Des.

"Well don't feel pressured into buying anything," said Fred, grinning. "Just come back any time you like and I'm sure we can work out a reasonable deal!"

"Thank you very much!" said Des.

"Anyway, I'm pleased to tell you I've sorted your car," said Fred. "I have to tell you though, it wasn't the clank fracket - because there's no such thing!"

"No such thing?!" exclaimed Des. "But Mike the Manic Mechanic said...hmmm...well anyway, thank you for fixing it!! And so quickly!!"

"Pleasure to be of service!" said Fred.

Des paid Fred a reasonable sum for the work. He and Mick got back into the car, waved goodbye to Fred, and drove off, headed for Mike's Manic Motors.

"What are we going there for?!" said Mick.

"So I can have a go at Mike!" said Des. "There's no such thing as clank frackets! What other car parts has he been making up?! Crankshrift? Splonkpipe? Engine???"

But they hadn't even got as far as Mike's garage when Des suddenly slammed on the brakes.

"What are you doing?!" exclaimed Mick. " Why have you stopped right outside Mrs Greasy's cafe?! Are you insane?!"

"Look!" said Des, pointing at the parade of shops on the other side of the road to Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"Good grief!!" said Mick. "The betting shop's closed down! Oh dear, Dickie the Vicar's not going to be happy about this!"

Des and Mick got out of the car and walked across the road to investigate. The former betting shop, directly opposite the cafe, was in the process of being refitted for something else - and the sign in the window told them exactly what.

"'Coming soon - Snarkbucket's Cafe'!" read Mick. "Oh dear, Mrs Greasy's not going to be happy about this!!"

"That man gets everywhere!" said Des. "And here he is now! Gosh, he doesn't hang about!!"

"Hello!" said Fred Snarkbucket, coming up to them. "Opens on Monday! Looking forward to it??"

"Certainly am!" said Des.

"Super!" said Fred, grinning with his big chin. "I'll see you later then!" He walked inside the new cafe.

"This is uncanny!" said Des. "That man is multi-talented!"

They pondered on this for a little while.

"Hold on a minute Des, we shouldn't be hanging around here!!" said Mick. " Mrs Greasy might spot us!"

"Oh yes!" said Des. "Quick!!"

They rushed back across the road, jumped into Des's car and sped off down the road to Mike's Manic Motors. When they got there, Mike came outside and looked at them in amazement.

"What's wrong, Mike?!" said Des, getting out of his car.

"What have you done?!" exclaimed Mike, staring at Des's car. "For the first time I actually know what colour your car is!!"

"Yes, I've just had it cleaned down at Snarkbucket's Snazzy Saloons!" said Des.

"You did what?!" exclaimed Mike. "You traitor!! And just as I've had that thing installed at great expense!" He pointed to a rather rickety-looking new car wash.

"Snarkbucket's car wash is much better than that one!" said Des. "Look, it did a really good job!!"

"I reckon my car wash would do a much better job than Snarkbucket's!" said Mike. "Why don't you take it through anyway?!"

"Has that car been through it already?" asked Des. Parked just in front of Mike's new car wash was a Ford Capri which had a bent aerial, squew wiff windscreen wipers, a wonky bumper and wing mirrors that were about to fall off.

"Ummm...nnnnnooooooo..." mumbled Mike.

"I think I'll give it a miss, if that's all the same to you," said Des.

"All right then, would you like the Capri instead?!" said Mike. "Only 180,000 on the clock, and some unique features to give it some character!!"

Just then Des's mobile phone rang.

"Excuse me," said Des, answering the phone. "Yes?!"

"Oi, Des!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, for it was her. "Where are you?! You were parked outside my cafe just a moment ago!! Now you've vanished!! Come back here immediately!!"

"Roll on the opening of Snarkbucket's Cafe," sighed Des.

He and Mick drove back to Mrs Greasy's cafe, and walked inside.

"Have you seen that over the road?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I can't believe it!! A rival cafe!! So what are you going to do about it!!"

"Start going there instead?" said Des.

"Ha, ha, very funny," said Mrs Greasy. "Whatever makes you think Mr Snarkbucket, whoever he is, will cook better food than me?!"

"Just an inkling," said Mick.

Just then who should walk into the cafe but none other than Fred Snarkbucket yet again. And he was still grinning with his big chin.

"Hi there!" said Fred. "The name's Snarkbucket!! I'm new to this area!! I've just set up Snarkbucket's Nightclub down the road, and I've just popped in to let you know you're all invited to our opening night!! We've got a super disco lined up, with some great tunes, both old and new!! And all the proceeds are going to the local children's hospital!! It all starts tonight at 7.30!!"

"Sounds fantastic!" said Des. "I'll be there!!"

"Catch you later then!" said Fred. "Ta-ra!!"

He then walked out of the cafe.

"Was that that Snarkbucket fellow?!" said Mrs Greasy. "Wait till I..."

Just then Dickie the Vicar walked into the cafe.

"Hi there groovers!" said Dickie. " I've just popped in to let you know you're all invited to a fabbo disco I'm holding at Dickie's Nightclub (aka the church hall)!!! I've got some fabbo tunes lined up, both old and old!! And all the proceeds are going to the fund to fix the church roof!! It all starts tonight at 7.30!!"

"Sounds rubbish," said Des. "Anyway, we're going down to Fred Snarkbucket's disco tonight instead!"

"Oh botherations!" said Dickie. "Fred Snarkbucket?! What makes you think he'd be a better DJ than me?!"

"Just an inkling," said Mick.

Des and Mick had a fantastic time down at Snarkbucket's Nightclub that night. The place was buzzing with people, the music was fantastic and even the nibbles were great. In fact, it was such a success that Snarkbucket decided to hold another fund-raising disco the following night - and the night after that. Meanwhile, no one whatsoever turned up to Dickie the Vicar's discos.

Then on Monday morning came the grand opening of Snarkbucket's Cafe. Des and Mick were in attendance, and were honoured to be the first two customers to be served there. And the food was so tasty, they went there again the next day. And the day after. Unsurprisingly, Mrs Greasy was getting somewhat annoyed about this. So she decided to call a crisis meeting at her cafe, to which were invited Mike the Manic Mechanic, Dickie the Vicar and Wayne.

"We are gathered here today," said Mrs Greasy, opening the meeting, "to discuss a matter of very grave concern. A certain individual, known only by his name of Fred Snarkbucket, has arrived in the area, and is threatening to put us all out of business simultaneously!!"

"Yeah, that's right!!" said Wayne. "Everybody's saying that Freddie's a much better winda cleaner than me, and now no one wants me to clean their windas for 'em!! Just 'cos he don't accidentally drop his buckets of dirty water all over people's flowers!! I can't 'elp it!!"

"Never mind your window cleaning business!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "I haven't sold a single car all week since he opened his garage!! Nor has anybody asked me to service their car for them, or even taken their car through my new car wash!!"

"I' ave!" said Wayne. "By the way, Mikey, is there any chance yer could put me windscreen wipers and wing mirrors back to 'ow they used to be?!"

"I haven't had a single person come along to my grooooovy disco since he opened his nightclub!" said Dickie.

"And most importantly of all," said Mrs Greasy, "business at my cafe has gone right down the drain!! I've even been shunned by my most loyal customers of all time, Des and Mick!!"

"What I don't understand," said Mike, "is how this Snarkbucket fellow has the time and energy to run four businesses all at once!! And annoyingly, he runs them all so well!!"

"We need a plan," said Mrs Greasy. "A plan to drive old Snarkbucket out of town!"

"We need to discredit him!" said Mike. "And I know just how we'll do it!! We'll make a fake version of the local newspaper, with a front page headline exposing Snarkbucket as a ratbag, a cheat and a downright nasty piece of work! Then I'll go down the shop and switch the real papers with our versions, and then when everyone buys their copy, old Snarkers will lose all his business at once, in an instant!! He'll be ruined!! HA, HA, HA!!!"

Mike, Mrs G, Dickie and Wayne all cackled in an evil way.

"Right, we must be off then!" said Mike, as he, Wayne and Dickie got up from their chairs.

"Where are you all going?!?!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Oh, just over to Snarkbucket's Cafe, to get some decent grub!" said Mike. "Ta-ra!!"

Once they had all enjoyed a delicious meal at the cafe, they got to work producing their fake version of the Tolworth Bugle. As it was his idea, Mike appointed himself editor of the publication.

"Now Wayne, as picture editor of our paper, I need you to go and get a photograph of Snarkbucket for our front page," said Mike. "But I don't want him grinning!! He needs to look remorseful, like someone who's just been disgraced!!"

"That's gonna be 'ard!" said Wayne. "Every time I've seen 'im, he's always grinnin' with his big chin!!"

"Well try!!" said Mike. "Insult him, or kick his leg or something!!"

"Okay!!" said Wayne, running off with his camera.

Unsure of whether Fred would be at the cafe, the garage, the nightclub or out cleaning windows, Wayne decided to try the cafe. And, as luck would have it, there was Fred, busy serving orders to the customers, who at that point included Des and Mick.

"Oh look, it's Wayne," said Des, as Wayne walked inside with the camera. They were then rather alarmed to see Wayne kick Fred in the leg, and then elbow him in the stomach. But this still didn't wipe the grin off Fred's big chin.

"What's he doing???" exclaimed a baffled Mick.

"You rotter!!" said Wayne. He quickly took a photograph of Fred, and dashed out of his cafe.

Meanwhile Mike had got busy writing copy for their newspaper. As they were producing a whole paper, it was not just the front page story discrediting Fred Snarkbucket that he had to write - he needed to come up with an entire paper's worth of totally believable news stories. Mrs Greasy helped out by writing the recipe page, while Dickie the Vicar contributed a 'Thought for the Day'.

Just then an out-of-breath Wayne burst into Mike's workshop, waving a polaroid photograph at him.

"Oh Wayne!!" groaned Mike, looking at the photo. "He's still grinning!!"

"Sorry, tried me best!!" said Wayne. "Anyway, gotta go!!"

"Why are you in such a hurry?!" said Mike. "I need you to sit down and write our jokes page!!"

"Sorry!" said Wayne. "But PC Plod wants to see me down the station now!!"

Mike tutted.

Mike spent all that night busily putting the finishing touches to their paper, and then using an old printing press he had hanging about in his workshop, printed off a couple of hundred copies.

By now it was early morning, and so armed with a wodge of completed papers he went along to the local newsagents. Wayne, who had luckily been released from his police cell, met him there, and while Wayne distracted the shopkeeper with some hilarious gags, Mike switched the real copies of the local paper with his fake copies. The pair of them then dashed off, dumping the real copies at the recycling centre, being the environmentally friendly chap that he is.

Later that morning, Des was having a delicious meal as always at Snarkbucket's Cafe, when Mrs Greasy called him on his mobile phone.

"Des, I want you here now!" snapped Mrs G.

"Owww, Mrs Greasy, I'm trying to eat this delicious bacon and eggs out here on Snarkbucket's alfresco section on the roof!" moaned Des. "You get a great view up here, it's much better than your alfresco section!!"

"I want you here now!" snapped Mrs G. "It's time for our regular meeting!!"

"Oh for goodness sake," groaned Des. "Can't you set up a video conferencing facility or something, to save me actually having to walk inside your cafe!"

"No!" snapped Mrs G. "Now get a move on!!"

Moaning and groaning, Des left his bacon and eggs, and walked across the road to Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"Where's Mick?!" said Mrs G, still in a snappy mood.

"I don't know!" said Des.

"Well anyway, it doesn't matter!!" said Mrs G. "Have you seen today's Tolworth Bugle?!" She handed Des a copy of their fake newspaper. "It's appalling!!"

"You're right," said Des. "The paper's much lower quality than usual..."

"Not that!!" said Mrs G. "Look at the headline!!"

"'Snarckbucket Disgraced!'," read Des. "'Fred Snarckbucket, who recently moved into the area, has been sensationally revealed to be a total rotter, a liar, a cheat, a right bounder, a ratbag, a scoundrel and a two-faced cretin! In other words, a downright nasty piece of work!'"

"It's a sorry tale," said Mrs G.

"I don't believe this!!" exclaimed Des. "He seemed such a nice chap!! 'Snarckbucket is single-handedly conspiring to bring down Tolworth's much-loved local shops and services, particularly that highly talented and exceptionally good-looking Mike the Manic Mechanic, who runs London's number one garage Mike's Manic Motors and who currently has a full range of tasty fast Fords for sale including a superb, slightly restored Sierra XR4i with a mere 750,000 on the clock and yet still has its original carpets (and also Mrs Greasy's cafe, Dickie the Vicar's discos and Wayne Coach's window cleaning business).' Well who'd have thought it!!"

Des then started leafing through the paper.

"Umm, don't look at the rest of it," said Mrs Greasy, who hadn't been that impressed by Mike the Manic Mechanic's attempts at believable news stories.

"'Gordon Brown Reveals He Doesn't Want To Be Prime Minister'," said Des, reading one of the headlines. "'John Prescott Goes On Diet'. 'Rolling Stones Not Going On Comeback Tour This Year'." As Des looked through the paper, he also noticed there seemed to be an awful lot of adverts for Mike's garage.

"Well, this puts a whole new complexion on things," said Des, closing the paper. "I certainly won't be using Fred's services any more!!"

Just then Mick walked in.

"Where have you been?!" snapped Mrs G.

"Sorry I'm late, but Fred Snarkbucket was round my house, looking at my plumbing," said Mick. "He's not just a top window cleaner, he knows his pipes as well!"

"Hold on a minute!!" said Des. "That's impossible!! I've just been in his cafe - and he personally served me with some bacon and eggs. He can't have been in two places at once!!"

"Oh yes he can," said Mick. "Haven't you seen the paper?"

"I certainly have!!" said Des. "That Snarkbucket's a dirty rotten scoundrel!!"

"Where did you get that idea from?!" said Mick.

To Mike and Mrs Greasy's alarm, Mick had somehow got hold of a genuine copy of the Tolworth Bugle.

"Where did you get that?!" exclaimed Mike.

"Found it lying on the ground at the recycling centre," said Mick. "Well, it saves having to buy a copy, doesn't it!" He handed the paper to Des.

"'Snarkbuckets Save Tolworth'?!" said a baffled Des, looking at the front page headline. "But... but..." He read on. "'Tolworth residents are rejoicing this week as the four Snarkbucket brothers have arrived in the area. The identical quadruplets - Fred, Ted, Rod and Sid - have together saved Tolworth from languishing in a quagmire of poor quality shops and services, which the area has had to suffer for many years.'"

"'Poor quality shops and services'?!" said Mrs Greasy. "Whoever could they be talking about?!"

Des continued reading: "'Fred, the ace window cleaner, Ted, the world-renowned chef, Rod, the trendy nightclub disc jockey, and Sid, the exceptional mechanic, have in one fell swoop transformed Tolworth's local services so that they now rival the best in the world'." Accompanying the story was a photograph of the brothers, standing together, all grinning with their big chins.

"So there were four of them all along!!" said Des. "How dare you lot, trying to discredit them with your smear campaign!!"

"Mick's the one with the fake paper!!" said Mike, trying desperately. "That photo there, someone must have done it on a computer!!"

"Mike's right!" said Mrs Greasy. "Identical quadruplets, I mean what are the chances of that?!!"

Des read on: "Following a highly successful launch of their new businesses, the Snarkbuckets have exclusively revealed to The Tolworth Bugle that their next step is to bring out a series of stories, with an accompanying website. 'The Snarkbucket Chronicles' will detail the everyday lives of the perfect Snarkbucket brothers, in which everything they ever do goes exactly to plan and is a roaring success'...WHAT?!?!?! We can't have that!! Who on earth would want to read that?? That does it, we've got to find a way to discredit them!! I'm going to start a smear campaign!!! What we'll do is to make a fake version of the local paper..."

"For goodness sake," groaned Mick. "Just as soon as we finally get a decent cafe in the area, a garage owner who doesn't con his customers, a window cleaner who actually cleans right into the corners, and a DJ who holds discos that are actually quite enjoyable - and you want to get rid of them all!!"

Just then, in walked none other than Fred Snarkbucket himself - and he was followed by his three identical brothers.

"Done on a computer, eh, Mike?!" said Mick.

"You did say we needed more people like Fred Snarkbucket, Mick!" said Des.

"Hi there!" said one of the Snarkbuckets, grinning with his big chin.

"Let me at them, let me at them!!" said Des.

"We've come to make an apology," said another of the Snarkbuckets, grinning. "Myself and my brothers have just been reading today's Tolworth Bugle. We didn't realise we were destroying your businesses in this way!! That was not our intention at all!! So we've had a chat, and we've decided that we shall close down all of our businesses with immediate effect, in order to allow you all to continue trading just as successfully as before!!"

"HOORAY!!!" exclaimed Mike, Wayne and Mrs Greasy.

"OH NO!!!!" exclaimed Mick.

"Instead, the four of us will be joining forces, and re-opening the betting shop opposite!" said yet another of the Snarkbuckets, grinning.

"HOORAY!!!" exclaimed Dickie the Vicar, bursting into the cafe.

"What a nice bunch of lads they are!" said Mrs Greasy.

"I always said they were!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic.

The Snarkbuckets then went away to sue the Tolworth Bugle for defamation of character in a news story which they had never actually printed.

"But what about 'The Snarkbucket Chronicles'?!" said Des. "No one wants to read stories about their lives!"

"You mean you think they'd rather read stories about our lives?!" said Mick. "I hardly think so, Des!!"

Copyright © Robert Williams

All stories