The Jade Camel #12


Patterson finished the careful adjustment to his starched shirt cuffs, lining them up half an inch beyond the end of his jacket sleeves, before running his gaze over the group of short and stocky individuals standing before him; a slight furrow grazed his forehead, ‘there are five of you now and still he eluded you?’

Louis shuffled forward as if to offer an apology, feigning a sad expression, ‘the lad might’ve got away, but we’ll find him,’ he looked up, holding something out to Patterson with a triumphant grin, ‘look, he dropped this!’

Patterson held the grubby piece of cardboard between his thumb and forefinger, a look of distaste on his face as he examined it, ‘his Unemployment Benefit Card, there’s no address, how is it supposed to help?

Jimmy stepped forward, ‘allow me to introduce the newest member of our team,’ he indicated a fresh-faced young man, ‘this is Ron’s baby brother, Sam,’ Ron nodded, pushing his sibling forward, Jimmy continued, ‘he doesn’t say much either, but he has special skills.’

Patterson inclined an eyebrow.

‘Sam also has a job at the DHSS*,’ Shacker added; ‘don’t worry, Mr Patterson, you can count on us to catch up with Joey.’

next episode

*Department of Health and Social Security, responsible at the time (among other things) for the administration of Unemployment Benefits. The card which Joey dropped is a UB40**, the card you had to take when you went to ‘sign on’ at the ‘dole office’. It has the claimant’s National Insurance number from which Sam will be able to trace Joey’s address.

**From where UK band, UB40, took their name. The title of their song ‘One in Ten’ refers to the number 9.6, being the percentage of the local workforce claiming unemployment benefit in the West Midlands in the summer of 1981 when the song was released – the figure was double that in Liverpool by 1985.

Written in response to two challenges:

Di of Pensitivity 101’s Wednesday’s Three Things Challenge: UPHOLD, SAD, APOLOGY
Denise Farley of GirlieOnTheEdge’s Sunday’s Six Sentence Story Word Prompt: BOARD

More #SixSentenceStories here

Photo credit: illustration from a book somewhere on my bookshelves which has mysteriously disappeared🐪

73 thoughts on “The Jade Camel #12

    • Thanks very much, Chris! Between you and me, I had to bring Sam in, since I misremembered the number of ‘short and stocky men’.😉
      Oops, yes DHSS – well spotted and thanks for pointing it out. I’ll rectify that before anyone else notices. I must be getting mixed up because of the endless hours I spent queuing at the Housing Office.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That made me smile! Mentioning the old DHSS reminded me of a DJ who used to work on a local radio station when I was growing up (I’m not usually a ‘fan’ as most of them seem to somewhat ‘up themselves’ of you get my meaning, but he always seemed ok). Anyway, he always referred to the DHSS as the ‘Department of Stealth and Total Obscurity’, which seemed quite apt…so thanks for the memory!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I was about to say I knew them as ‘Health and…’ but they could’ve been ‘Housing and…’ before that – they had many different names… before the days of GDPR would’ve stopped Sam’s little sideline! 😀
    But, they’re back on Joey’s tail again… I’m sure a certain mystical object will alter the course of events, Chris… what do you think? 🤔🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Big UB40 fan in their day. Still sing ‘red, red wine’ when I’m opening a bottle of same, much to the annoyance of those awaiting the contents. Re an earlier comment, of course there is always the other definition of crumpet in a British context. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, an inside contact in the DHSS was always a good thing to have! Amazing how 4 letters call up such a wealth of memories – not all of them pleasant! And the tension is shaping up nicely… All done in your lovely, clear style, Chris.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I look forward to discovering Sam’s “special skills”. Let’s hear it for the baby of the family being the “hero” at the end of the day, lol. Of course, we don’t want Sam to be the hero because he’s going after Joey. Unless! an unlikely alliance develops between Joey and Sam in the installments to come. (wishful thinking, Chris :D)

    I never knew the source of UB40’s name so thanks. Btw, my turn. The video is unavailable to me. Guessing it was a UB40 song?

    Liked by 1 person

      • So maybe Brexit isn’t as bad for the British as we all thought. Employment is very important for phycological well being. I read a paper on the phycological concerns about a world wide system of benefits for people who become unemployable due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It used to be put more simply as “the Devil makes work for idle hands.”

        Liked by 1 person

        • A culture of dependency is not a good thing and for decades there has been a small proportion of families who have been on benefits for at least two generations.
          Brexit still seems to have caused more problems than it might have addressed in the short term and I’m very sorry to have forsaken my European citizenship at Boris’s whim.


  5. I like the hard-hitting reality of unemployment (as it was back then) crossing over into the fantasy story realm. I remember well the UB40 hit ‘One in Ten’ … and having the mis-pleasure of joining a dole queue during a period of unemployment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hard to write about 1980s Liverpool without mentioning the grimness, even in fantasy. I too was in one of those lines and I remember a common greeting from back then. Not ‘how are you?’, but ‘are you working?’. Still, lots of great music came out of that period.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I remember searching the ‘jobbie’ boards for work and then taking the ref number of one of the cards to the dole officer, who would then phone up the employer to arrange an interview.
        So true about the music back then! Hard to choose another period for its musical dynamic than the 80s! Plus all the blockbuster sci-fi and horror films of the time! So glad I was there 😎

        Liked by 1 person

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