For the five Mondays in June, I’ve been taking a break from my usual subject to make one of my stories available free online. We’re now up to the final part of An Abundance of Apples.
In part one and part two, we meet an orchard owner who starts to trade items in alphabetical order. In part three and part four, he keeps moving up the alphabet. Can he still reach Z?
West Hollywood Hotel
Naturally, a lot of my e-mails were coming from the US, and one in particular caught my attention: a four-night stay at the West Hollywood Hotel in return for the Beetle.
We spent evenings on the phone negotiating delivery of the car. We’d read up thoroughly on international deliveries since the Australia incident and we had arranged to pack it off, when by chance, Kelly spotted a news article.
A group of criminals had been passing themselves off as representing prestigious hotel chains and airlines, and they would take payment for stays and flights that never happened.
We’d been so swept up in trying to find a swap that we’d failed even to check their quoted phone number against the one listed on the real hotel’s website.
We felt like prize idiots. I made an online post to that effect.
My parents talked to me like I was five years old and told me this was a wake-up call, that I’d had a good run and I needed to stop now. Kelly had supported me unwaveringly so far, but even she started to express her doubts. I remained as determined as ever to see this through to Z.
Only Daniel didn’t care one way or the other. He’d forgotten his football obsession thanks to his new girlfriend, some little brat from his class.
While the flood of messages had slowed sharply, I still had a number of contacts willing to swap. I learned my lesson and no longer considered foreign offers but I found someone who wanted to swap my Volkswagen.
We only played it for five minutes before the sound really started to grate.
Jeez, do you know how much a new xylophone costs?
I thought a few hundred at most, but even a second hand one can go for over a grand. I know this because the instrument dealer who inspected the Wurlitzer through thick glasses talked me through the entire history of the organ and current market values.
“Yngling? That’s not even a word,” exclaimed Kelly. “Don’t you mean yacht?”
“It’s not a yacht,” snapped the outdoorsy type as he unstrapped the thing from the trailer. “a yacht is a completely different class of boat. This beauty competed in the Beijing Olympics, you know.”
“All right,” I concluded. “Leave it here. I’m sure we’ll get it swapped somehow.”
“You mean leave her here?”
I made a You & We post that night, asking if anyone could swap us for something beginning with Z. One more push, just one more, and I would have completed the alphabet. We waited a whole week for something suitable.
A local travel firm called Sea the World came to our rescue, offering a holiday for two to Zurich. We checked it out, and it was genuine enough. They wouldn’t take the Yngling off my hands, but their staff had been following my swaps, and I was prepared to treat it as one.
With no further swaps scheduled, only one question remained: who would use it? Daniel and his bratty other half threw a strop when they found out they weren’t getting it. Mum and Dad hadn’t taken a holiday for years, yet wouldn’t consider it. I asked Kelly but she’d used up her annual leave until after the voucher’s expiry date.
I turned to You & We. I wrote a summary of how this whole project had started with a few apples, then blackberries, then carrots, and so on, and now we were stuck at stalemate with our Z.
I received an urgent reply from the dealer who had tried to swap me for the iPhone. He told me to come down to his shop at the double, and he would, “complete the circle.”
He looked at the value of the voucher, ran some figures through a calculator and I arrived home with my final swap.
Last year, we ended up with too many apples. This year, we ended up with two Apple iPads.
The usual angst and introspection returns next week.