First Line Fiction (14)

The first line of this fictional short story was sent to me by Chris Tabone, who lives in America. It is relevant to my fiction serial, ‘A Good Runner’, making it a tricky prospect to pull off as a stand-alone story. I have decided not to recap though.

“With Ken’s affairs now fully in order, considering it was time to see what could be done to take Witney Cars to the next level.”

Trevor was a man with big plans, and they involved expanding everything to do with the taxi business he now owned. Stella was going to be a great help. After all, she had more or less run the place for Ken, though looking after her daughter Amy was always going to be her first priority. That meant taking on someone to work in the office when Stella couldn’t be there, and Trevor got the advertisement in the paper that Friday.

He also spotted an opening for other kinds of transport locally. School buses didn’t get out to the smaller villages, so if he could get some contracts from the council and buy a couple of minibuses, that could prove lucrative. In the school holidays and at weekends, the minibuses could be used for larger groups like wedding parties, and door-to-door trips into Oxford city centre for shoppers or theatre-goers.

And with many people facing long trips into the city for hospital appointments, he was sure he could tie some of those together, offering regular runs for customers with medical issues and disabilities.

A young woman named Janice was employed to work in the taxi office. Between him and Stella, they would show her how things worked. She had been doing administration work for an estate agent, but when they changed location she didn’t want to have to travel to work. As well as that, she was young and attractive, and that couldn’t hurt to have her as the public face of the office during the day.

Offering the hire of the Jaguar for weddings worked out well too. Even though it wasn’t white, he soon received many bookings for the following summer.

By the new year, and after a visit to the bank manager to get a business loan, Trevor had three new minibuses, a two-year contract with the local education authority, and dozens of confirmed bookings for larger parties to the airport, and hospital appointments. He also used a local company to repaint the office, and bought a smart new sign to go above the door. He felt he was really making something of himself, but Stella was worried.

“Don’t you think you are over-extending, Trev? I mean, the loans on the minibuses have to be paid, and the monthly insurance bills are very high too. By the time the education people pay their bill after twenty-eight days, we will have already had to find the money for what we are paying out. Then there is Janice’s weekly wage, and paying the minibus drivers in cash. It’s going to be tight, love”.

Trust her to be negative, Trevor thought to himself. He wanted Witney Cars to be the largest taxi company in Oxfordshire one day, maybe even make some inroads into the city of Oxford itself. “Actually, I was thinking of opening up another office, in Burford. I could offer minbus tours of the Cotswold Villages for tourists. They love to visit those English villages, and it’s an all year-round trade”. Stella looked concerned.

“That would mean more minibuses to buy, more drivers to pay, and someone to take the bookings in the office. It’s up to you, Trev, but think carefully love.”

By the start of the summer, Trevor had his small shop front next to a tea shop in Burford, two more minbuses, and drivers to run the tours. He did a deal with some local hotels and guest houses, and they agreed to promote his village tours in return for a small commission. A local lady who used to be a librarian worked taking the bookings from nine until three, and they started to flood in. After a great year of trading, Stella had a suggestion.

“Seems you were right about the Cotswolds tours, love. But it would be a good time to think about selling the business as a going concern, don’t you think? Take the profit, pay off the minibus loans, and concentrate on the local trade in Witney”. He was beginning to get fed up with her, that was the truth. “Why would I sell now? If anything, I should be thinking about putting on another couple of minibuses and expanding”. The rest of that evening at home had a bad atmosphere.

The first thing to go wrong for Trevor happened the following March. Just about to leave home to take a bride and her father to a local church, the gearbox went in the Jaguar. Frantic phone calls were made, but nothing suitable could be hired to replace the Jag. Stella managed to contact the bridal party with their apologies, and had to offer a full refund. But the father of the bride was a respected local businessman, and she knew the reputation of the firm would suffer as a result of letting him down.

When they got the estimate for repairs to the Jag, they knew there wasn’t enough money available to get it fixed. Janice had to contact all the summer wedding bookings, and cancel them. Then one of the Burford drivers quit, deciding to go back to driving bigger coaches. Trevor had to step in and take some of the booked tours, but his knowledge of the area was not so good, and that led to complaints from some of the tourists.

Then the former librarian who ran the tour office had to go into hospital for an operation on a hiatus hernia, Trevor had no alternative but to close down Cotswold Tours in Burford.

Bad luck continued when the education authority gave notice of cancellation of the contract for schools. They were going to buy their own bigger bus and start picking up the kids from the villages themselves. Then Janice’s boyfriend proposed. He was in the Army, and that would mean living in Yorkshire once they were married. So she gave two week’s notice.

Following a long evening going over the company accounts, Stella gave him the bad news. “The minibuses have to go, Trev. We are still paying the loans on them, and getting no business worth talking about. Nobody around here is ever going to book us for a wedding again, and you can forget reapplying for any school contracts now they are using their own transport. If we sell everything off, pay off the loans, we will just about have enough for you to buy a decent car and go back to just being a taxi driver. I can run the office while Amy is at school, but you will have to do the evenings and weekends”.

His face glum, Trevor nodded. Stella had been right all along.

Back to square one.

33 thoughts on “First Line Fiction (14)

  1. I see a few friends going down a similar path as Covid has changed the business and changed filled them with confidence. I hope for the best and expect the worst.
    At least they have the chance to start again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow. Great writing Pete.

    The Jaguar’s all too familiar reliability problem may have knocked him off balance, but the one-two punch of government retraction of business and labour problems makes it a microcosm of the struggles of the British economy in that period.

    Bravo!

    Best Regards,
    CT

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Chris. I am glad you liked what I did with your first line. So many small businesses kill themselves off by trying to expand too fast after some initial success. Without family money to back you up, relying on bank loans is a slippery slope to failure.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I had an off-licence business with my mum once. But she was so soft-hearted, the staff used to steal from her. She had to sell up after 4 years. Then she bought a grocery shop and ran it on her own. But she gave too many people credit, and they didn’t pay. That went bust too. 😦
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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