Tart Cards


Note: This is a 750-word Challenge story

It started out as something of a joke.

‘Tart cards,’ Charlie said.

Tina, his supervisor, frowned. He hadn’t really expected her to agree immediately.

‘You know. Phone boxes?’ he said. ‘Mistress Strictly will see you now. For sale: A large chest. Phone owner.’

Tina continued to frown.

‘There’s a chap drinks in the King’s Head collects them. Says he has thousands. Reckons one day they’ll be worth a fortune. He’s picking the Tate Modern for the first major show.’

‘Really?’ she said.

‘Really is probably what someone said about Eduardo Paolozzi’s I was a Rich Man’s Plaything,’ Charlie said. ‘Or Andy Warhol’s soup cans.’

‘Oh, I can see where you’re coming from. But Pop Art was, well, it was….’ (Although she didn’t say exactly what it was.) ‘Also, remember, we are talking a doctorate here.’

‘Sub-culture,’ Charlie said. ‘The fine art of little craft. Little in more ways than one.’ Charlie’s forefingers outlined a postcard-sized something in the air. ‘Although not the large chest. Obviously. Forty-four double-D. At least.’ And he grinned.

‘They’re hakkari escort bayan illegal, aren’t they?’

‘Large chests? Or tart cards?’

‘Tart cards.’ (Tina was not amused.)

‘Most interesting things are,’ Charlie said.

‘And I don’t imagine there is going to be much literature to review.’

Charlie picked up his coffee cup and, smiling quietly, just sat there. In total silence. The next person to speak loses this argument, he told himself.

‘Well… perhaps,’ she said. ‘Give me a brief outline. A sort of table of contents. It doesn’t need to be too detailed. Just give me some idea of the scope.’

Charlie nodded. And smiled.

Bernie, the chap who collected tart cards, wasn’t in the King’s Head that night. Charlie waited for the best part of an hour and then headed for home via Edgware Road. Several of the cards along Edgware Road were in Arabic. Something that Charlie hadn’t considered.

New in town. Bird in your hand. For a spanking good time. Charlie gathered up a few cards and slipped them into his jacket pocket.

Just around the corner, in George Street, hakkari escort Mimi was advertising French Lessons. Mimi’s card — red, white, and blue — stood out from the sea of black and white. Charlie wondered if the slim lingerie-clad woman really was Mimi?

‘Looking for some company?’

The voice had come from behind him. Charlie guessed that she was about 40. He laughed. ‘Just, umm, doing a bit of research,’ he said.

‘Looking for something in particular?’

‘A PhD in art history.’

The woman was not unattractive. She had very expressive eyes. That was about all Charlie could see. The lower part of her face was covered with a Covid mask. Charlie thought that she might have been Lebanese. ‘Are you…?’ Charlie gestured towards the array of cards.

The woman shook her head. ‘Not anymore. Top shelf these days,’ she said. And her eyes smiled again.

‘Perhaps you could help me,’ Charlie said.

‘Oh, I’m sure I could,’ she said. ‘Just tell me what you desire.’

‘Information,’ Charlie said.

The woman seemed disappointed. ‘Information? You’re not a cop, are you?’

‘No. escort hakan Not a cop. A student.’

She nodded. ‘What do you need to know?’

‘Not sure.’

‘Do you have any money?’

Charlie laughed. ‘I told you: I’m a student.’

She glanced at her watch. A Rolex? Or was it just a copy? If it was a copy, it was a very good copy.

‘This Covid has really messed things up,’ she said. ‘Just as well I have a rainy day fund. Don’t know how this lot are managing.’ And she too gestured in the direction of the cards papering the walls of the telephone box. ‘We can sit in my car if you like,’ she said. She pointed to a late-model BMW parked nearby. ‘The back seat. There’s more room.’

‘Right,’ she said, once they were settled. ‘Ask away.’

Charlie asked her lots of questions. And she gave him lots of answers.

‘OK?’ she said, after 25 minutes or so had passed. ‘Does that help?’

‘Very helpful. An excellent start,’ Charlie said. ‘Thank you.’

‘And you’re sure you don’t have any money?’

‘Hmm… maybe a fiver,’ Charlie said.

‘A fiver? Yes, that’ll do. I just don’t like giving it away free,’ she said. ‘I’m a professional. It’s a matter of principle.’

From somewhere, she produced a bottle of hand sanitiser and ‘washed’ her hands. Then she unzipped Charlie’s zip and took him in hand.

Charlie could see why she claimed to be top shelf. She certainly knew her business.

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