An Advert For A.D.T.

Contributor: S.R. Buckley

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Jamie drove them into town, winding through the suburbs at a gentle forty and dropping to thirty as the trees and cul-de-sacs began to fade to terraces and hemmed in, monoxide-shaded office buildings. Jen gave the glove compartment a little tap with her finger, and watched streams of sixth-formers wind their way around a large green park. Jen looked at Jamie’s hands on the steering wheel: still smooth as peaches, without even ghosts of hairs. Her parents would have sounded off about it on any other day: ‘never done a hard day’s work in his life! Call himself a man?’ Today, though, they sat back behind the two of them and said nothing. Cordial, or perhaps intimidated by the inevitable sight of some huge suburban villa.

The houses around here were dog-eared, cracked, lopsided. It was all fine having a chip on one’s shoulder: but then even their home, a little adjunct to a rain-swept village, looked pretty idyllic compared to this. No grass on the brown angles of those towers, there; trees were spaced out by poisoned stumps. Incompatible: tearing up pavements, ripping up foundations. Rid: poisoning of stump, removal of all arisings. Wait: Jamie was taking them down a side road, deeper into the area.

‘Detour?’ Jen said.

‘Yeah,’ Jamie said. ‘Like to avoid the main road, there.’

‘Can’t imagine this is your neck of the woods,’ her father ventured. ‘Eh? Lad like you...’

‘Dad...’ Jen said.

‘Not the kind of place you want to make your neck of the woods,’ Jamie said. No accent; not a trace. ‘You go to college to avoid it.’

Jamie slowed to avoid a flurry of kids on BMXs.

‘Suppose all your mates went up, did they?’ her father said.

‘I told them all again and again,’ Jamie said. ‘It’s the way, the best way. Called me a boff. Sissy. But tell you what, saw the alternative: some of them left at sixteen, before they even did their exams. Dads promised them jobs down on the building sites, down at the shops. Then it was Lehmans etcetera. Nothing left to go to, kicking about doing nothing.’

‘Oh dear, well, that’s how it is now. Not much out there...’ her father said.

‘No,’ Jamie said. ‘Not much at all. But I said time and time again...’

Jamie turned down another side street, a bare brick canyon, and Jen saw two young lads heave a flat-screen into the back of a car. As they neared the end of the street, a group of lads gathered around the front of one house waved to Jamie, and he slowed and wound down his window before anyone could protest.

‘Sup, Boz?’ Jamie said, rolling to a stop.

‘Oh look, the college kid,’ one of them said; all laughed.

‘See that?’ Jamie said, pointing to a yellow alarm box on the house. ‘See that, Boz? Yeah. That’s an A.D.T. alarm. It’ll be wired to the front door, and the windows. You touch that house, it’ll send a squawk straight to the company headquarters, a big hub in Sheffield. Then it’ll send a squawk to the nearest police station, which I think’s a few streets away. You’d have, depending on the traffic, two minutes. You can see it’s set...look...flashing blue lights on the underside there.’

The group stopped, looked, and then grew solemn. Boz nodded.

‘Cheers, Jamie. You’re a good lad, you are. A good lad.’

‘Plenty more fish in the sea,’ Jamie said. ‘Over on St. Albans Road there’re at least six places with rusty old boxes on the walls.’

‘They’ll have been got already,’ Boz said, ‘if they’re even still houses.’

‘True,’ Jamie said. ‘But no harm in...’

‘No, no harm.’

‘Maybe thieves have taken up residence,’ Jamie wondered aloud. ‘Plunder for them, plunder for all. That’d be ironic.’

‘Hehe. You’re a weird, weird lad, you know.’

‘I know. Take care, fella.’

Jamie moved off, wound up the window, and smiled over at Jen. Her parents’ mouths were still wide open.

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