About five years ago I lent Colin £200 to get him out of a sticky situation. Tonight, finally, after years of silence, he has formally announced his plans to pay me back.
“Well,” he says, sipping his pint. “Partially.”
“That’s fine,” I say, smiling. “Partially is fine.”
This is wonderful news. Colin’s actually going to start paying me back tonight. The only pity is there has been no time to alert the press.
“Now, what happened was…” he starts, with a finger in the air, and immediately my heart sinks, because if a sentence from Colin begins like that, then no one’s getting paid. “I had an idea.”
And that’s the worst way for it to end.
Still. I am intrigued as to what this idea could be, for it must be an idea which is better than simply paying me back.
He pulls out a small box from his jacket pocket and hands it over.
“Open it,” he says, a smile of anticipation playing on his lips.
Maybe this will be the moment Colin finally proposes.I open the box. I raise
Inside is a small piece of flat metal.
“It’s a small piece of flat metal,” I say.
But then I turn it over. It is actually a small piece of flat metal that’s been bent in the middle.
Why has he given me this? What is it?
“It’s a money clip!” says Colin. “Solid silver!”
“Wow,” I say, smiling, because now I can slide the money he owes me into the money clip and I can wander around the pub like an East End gangster or an elaborate dandy, showing off my wonderful eccentricities, just as I have never wanted to do.
“Yeah, it’s pretty expensive,” he says, willing me to look impressed.
“Well, that’s very nice of you,” I say, and it is. I was not expecting gifts tonight. It’s like he’s paying me back and there’s a present for interest. I hold the money clip, and look at him, expectantly.
“It was 80 quid,” he says, nodding.
Seems expensive, considering. It looks like it’s worth about £15.
“Well, that’s really cool,” I say, and then I leave another expectant pause, because this is definitely the moment he should get some money out so we can put it in the money clip.
“So,” he says, “now I only owe you 120.”
He nods at the bar.
“Your round,” he says.
I stare at him. I do not walk to the bar.
“Could you…” I say. “Sorry, run that by me again?”
“I owed you 200 quid. That money clip was 80 quid. So now I owe you 120 quid.”
I hold up the piece of metal.
“You’re giving me this instead of 80 quid?” I say.
“It’s solid silver,” he says, again.
“But I don’t want it!” I say, and he looks offended. “I don’t want a money clip!”
“Sometimes people don’t know what they want,” he shrugs.
“I do!” I say. “I want my money back! Not a money clip! I’m not David Dickinson!”
“But that’s worth 80 quid!” he says, like I’ve gone stark-staring mad and I’m in danger of causing a scene. “You don’t seem very grateful!”
“Grateful for what?”
“Grateful for the money clip!”
“You bought me a money clip with my money!” I say. “I bought this money clip! Now there’s no money to put in the money clip!”
“It was expensive,” he agrees, quietly. “It was 80 quid.”
“I know!” I say. “I paid for it!”
He frowns, like he’s disappointed in my behaviour – like I’m a toddler who someone’s arranged an amazing trip to the zoo for, and who’s kicking up a stink because he just wants to look at a dog instead.
“Well, if you don’t want it I’ll have it back,” he says, with great petulance.
“Fine!” I say, and I put it back in the box, close it and hand it towards him. He reaches to take it, but then stops as a thought occurs to him.
“Wait…” he says, like I’m trying to trick him. “If I take this back will I owe you 80 quid more again? Is that your plan?”
“Yes!” I say. “And you’re right, this whole thing has been my plan from the start. Five years ago I anticipated this very sequence of events. I knew that you would buy and charge me for an unwanted solid-silver money clip.”
He says nothing. I have won!
“But it’s your money cliiiiip!” he whines, like this is really unfair.
“Fine,” I say. “Give me the receipt. I’ll take it back myself.”
At this, he balks. Shakes his head.
“Why don’t you want me to have the receipt?” I say, but I’ve worked it out already. He doesn’t have one. Any more than he’s sure this is solid silver.
“You win!” he says. “Let’s call it 75 and be done with it.”
What exactly’s in a number?
As well as having an extremely threatening name, it was a great pleasure recently to encounter Swing4You! – the Swiss Close Harmony Quartet.
“The best five-man quartet in the business” – ShortList.
For when you need two specific things in one visit
I was walking through London the other day when I had two distinct and very specific thoughts to myself: I must sell my house and get a haircut! Sadly there was only time to do one or the other.
And then I looked up.