by Robert Williams
"Des! Mick!" exclaimed Wayne.
"That's us," said Des and Mick.
"Oh yeah," said Wayne. "Well anyway, I've got a problem!"
"Have you seen your doctor?" said Des.
"Yeah loadsa times!" said Wayne. "Saw him in Tescos the other day!"
"So what's actually troubling you?" asked Mick.
"I'm skint mate!" said Wayne. "Times are 'ard in the winda cleanin' business! And I've just lost my big contract!"
"What was that?" said Des.
"The front window of Tim O'Tei's hairdressing salon!"
"So what do you want us to do about it?!" said Des.
"'Ere Des," said Wayne. "Lend us a fiver."
"You must be joking!" said Des. "I'm not lending you any money! I lent you 50p back in 1987, and you've never paid me back! By my reckoning, taking inflation into account, you now owe me, hmmm, let me work this out...£42.76!"
"Oh no! £42.76! I'll never afford that!"
"£142.76," said Des. "You misheard me."
"You've been taking tips from Mike the Manic Mechanic," said Mick.
"I'm really in deep stuck now!" exclaimed Wayne.
"Why don't you branch out?" said Des.
"No I'm not climbing a tree!" said Wayne.
"I mean why don't you expand your business into a new area?" said Des. "Why don't you open up a sideline until window cleaning picks up again?"
"That's a good idea!" said Wayne. "But what business shall I go into?!"
"You need to think of something that's popular, something everybody wants," said Mick.
"Like mbl phns," said Des.
"Naaah, everyone's already got one," said Mick. "Something that's going to sell like hot cakes. Like..."
"Hot cakes!" exclaimed Des.
"What?" said Mick.
"Hot cakes!" repeated Des. "When was the last time you saw anyone selling hot cakes?"
"Well...I can't remember," said Mick.
"Precisely," said Des. "So if hot cakes are so popular, how come no one sells them?"
"I don't know," said Mick.
"That means if Wayne sets up a business selling hot cakes, they'll sell like...hot cakes!!" exclaimed Des.
"Because no one else sells hot cakes," said Mick. "I see."
"It'll be a guaranteed success!" exclaimed Des. "I can't understand why no one's thought of this before! Tell you what Wayne, I'll go into partnership with you!"
"Brilliant!" exclaimed Wayne.
"Des and Wayne's Hot Cakes!" said Des. "Oh sorry Mick, do you want to join our business as well?"
"Not particularly," mumbled Mick.
"Great, so that's Des, Mick and Wayne's Hot Cakes!" said Des.
"Who's gonna cook 'em then?" said Wayne.
"The 'ot cakes!" exclaimed Wayne.
"Oh...I hadn't thought of that..." said Des.
"'Owzabout Mrs Greasy?" said Wayne.
"NO!!!!!" exclaimed Des. "Are you out of your mind?! Mrs Greasy mustn't find out about this, otherwise she'll insist on taking on the cooking herself!"
"Good point," said Mick. "We'll have to be very careful word doesn't reach her cafe! Anyway, we'll have to do the cooking ourselves."
Des, Mick and Wayne agreed to launch their business at the local market, although Des took a little bit of convincing.
"Only a market stall?! Why aren't we going to open a proper shop?!"
"Everyone's got to start somewhere," said Mick.
"I suppose you're right," said Des. "Like that Mark Spencer bloke..."
"No, no, that was two people," said Mick.
"What are you taking about?!" said Des. "How can Mark Spencer be two people?! Anyway, didn't he start by selling goods from house to house? And everything he sold only cost a penny!"
"That's right," said Mick. "I think we might charge slightly more though."
"And there's that bloke who started WH Smith," said Des. "What was his name?..."
The day before they decided that they had better cook some cakes to sell, so they gathered in Des's kitchen. Des was all ready with his pinny and baking powder.
"What kind of cakes are we going to make?" said Mick.
"Hot ones!" said Des.
"Yes, but what kind?! Chocolate cake, fruit cake, sponge cake, Christmas cake?"
"Chocolate cakes I think, that's my favourite. Right, well you make the cakes then."
"What about you? You've got your pinny on ready!" said Mick.
"I've got to make a sign for our market stall!" said Des. "I'm wearing my pinny so I don't get paint on my tank top! Here's the baking powder, by the way."
So Mick, armed with recipe book and baking powder, got busy making some hot chocolate cakes, while Des got busy painting a sign to put on their stall.
"They look awful," said Des when he saw the brown blobs that Mick had baked. "They look like Mrs Greasy has cooked them!"
"Des!" exclaimed Mick. "That's the ultimate insult!!"
"Well all right, maybe not that bad," said Des. He picked up one of the cakes and immediately dropped it again. "Aaaarghh!!! Well at least they're hot! Very hot!! Yes, they'll do!!"
"Thank you," said Mick. "Now let's see your sign."
Des lifted up his newly painted sign which had 'DES, MICK AND WAYNE'S HOT CAKES' scrawled across it.
"That looks awful," said Mick. "What are those hedgehogs supposed to represent?"
"Hedgehogs?!" said Des. He stared at his sign. "They're hot cakes! Hot chocolate cakes!"
"Well why have they got spikes in them then?"
"Spikes?!" He stared at the sign again. "That's the heat coming off them!"
"I suppose it'll do," said Mick.
Early the next morning they loaded all the cakes into the back of Wayne's van and drove to the local market. Mick laid out the chocolate cakes on a table, while Des put the sign up over their stall. The three of them then stood at the table ready for the general public to come flooding to buy their hot cakes.
"Have you noticed something?" said Mick to Des. "I made the cakes, you made the sign, but what's Wayne's job?"
"I'm the brains be'ind the business!" said Wayne. Des and Mick sniggered. "And I'm gonna hit the crowds wiv me sales technique!"
"Oh god," said Des.
"GET YER 'OT CAKES 'ERE!!" yelled Wayne through a megaphone. "COME ON LADIES AND GENTLEMAN! THESE 'OT CAKES ARE SELLIN' LIKE 'OT CAKES!! SO GET YER 'OT CAKES TODAY BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!"
"Have you quite finished?" said Des, taking his fingers out of his ears.
"What exactly are 'ot cakes'?" said Mick.
Business through the morning could best be described as disappointing. Despite Wayne yelling his head off the whole time, few people seemed interested in their cakes. However they did get a lot of enquiries about hedgehogs.
"Des, you know the problem with these hot cakes?" said Mick suddenly.
"Wassat then?" said Des.
"They're not hot."
"What?!?!" exclaimed Des. He felt the hot cakes - which were actually extremely cool cakes. "They were when I picked them up!"
"Yes, that was yesterday! But they've had 24 hours to cool off!!" said Mick.
"No wonder they're not selling!" said Des. "If they're not hot cakes, they're not going to sell like hot cakes!!"
"And we're misleading the public," said Mick. "What do you suggest we do then?"
"Well I don't know...try sitting on them to warm them up or something!" said Des.
"Okay!" said Wayne. He leapt onto the table and sat on the cakes.
"Good grief," said Des. "I was only joking."
Wayne got off the table and they were left with a load of squashed cakes. Wayne was left with chocolate all over his trousers (which did come in quite handy when he was feeling peckish later on).
"Let's try again next week," sighed Des.
The next week they decided they needed to make some changes.
"How are going to ensure our hot cakes remain hot cakes?" said Des.
"Get up really early and cook them before we come?" said Mick.
"You're joking," said Des. "I'm not getting up any earlier."
"Well it's quite simple then," said Mick. "All we need to do is take an oven with us, to keep them hot!"
"That's it!" said Des. "We need a portable kitchen, like what Mrs Greasy's got!"
"If that makes them taste like what Mrs Greasy cooks, then no!" said Mick.
This time they decided Des would cook the cakes, and Mick would make a new sign.
"They look awful," said Mick when he saw Des's efforts. "They look like Mrs Greasy cooked them..."
"Oi!" said Des.
"...and then rejected them!!!
"OI!!" exclaimed Des. "Well anyway, they're hot, and I'm putting them back in the oven now so that they stay hot!! Where's your new sign?"
"Here," said Mick.
"Looks awful. You've missed the hedgehogs off," said Des sarcastically.
"At least my pictures of cakes look like cakes!" said Mick.
"It'll do," said Des. "Anyway, we'll attract custom from far and wide just by the wafting smell of my delicious hot cakes!!"
Des left his chocolate cakes in the oven overnight and the next morning transferred them into the portable oven that Mick had bought.
Once again they set their stall up. Des left their cakes in the oven right up until they were ready to start selling. Then, as Wayne was ready with his megaphone, he donned his oven gloves and took them out.
"Aah, now feel those," said Des. "No one can deny those are hot cakes!"
Mick agreed. They laid them out on the table and waited for the punters to flock to their stall. But once again - flock they didn't.
"Hmmm, there's only one explanation," said Des.
"That's right," said Mick.
"They're obviously not hot enough!" said Des. He picked them all up again, shoved them back in the oven and turned the heat up. Des, Mick and Wayne then sat down with their arms folded and legs crossed. Half an hour later, Des took the cakes out again. Now they were piping hot and steam was pouring off them.
"Hot cakes, that's what the public wants, not mildly warm cakes!" exclaimed Des.
But apparently the public didn't want hot cakes. Whilst even the Keith Chegwin memorabilia stall next door remained busy, passing shoppers continued to be apathetic towards Des, Mick and Wayne's Hot Cakes stall.
"I can't understand this," said Des, wearing his Cheggers T-shirt. "Why aren't they selling like you-know-what?!"
"Dunno," said Mick. "Maybe it's because they don't look very nice."
"Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner!" exclaimed Des. "No it's obvious. They're still not hot enough."
He picked up the cakes, piled them back in the oven and turned the heat all the way up.
"Are you sure that's wise?" said Mick.
"Of course!" said Des.
Ten minutes later he noticed smoke emanating from the oven. He opened the door and smoke poured out. Coughing and spluttering, Des reached in and took the cakes out. As he tipped them onto the table Mick stared at them.
"Des's, that's ridiculous, you can't sell those," said Mick. "They're burnt to a cinder! And all the chocolate has melted!"
"But at least they're hot!" said Des.
Not surprisingly, not many people seemed interested in burnt black cakes in a sea of melted chocolate. After a while, Des came to a conclusion.
"Mick, I'll tell you what the problem is this time," said Des.
"Yes?" sighed Mick.
"Our hot cakes were too hot."
"That's right," sighed Mick.
"Tell you what we'll do next week..." said Des.
"Oh god, we're not doing this again next week are we?" groaned Mick.
"...we won't make chocolate cakes. We'll make a different kind of hot cake."
For the third week of existence for Des, Mick and Wayne's Hot Cakes Company, they switched to sponge cakes. However they kept the same sign. And this time, when they opened up their market stall, Mick kept the heat levels strictly regulated.
But they hadn't had a chance to catch many customers before their greatest fear came true.
"'Ere Des," said Wayne, just coming back from the portaloo. "Guess who I've just seen!"
"Keith Chegwin?" said Des.
"Mrs Greasy! She's lookin' round the market right now!!"
"OH NO!!!" exclaimed Des. "She doesn't normally go shopping on Thursdays!!" In a panic, he swept all the cakes off the table and onto the floor.
"Des, what are you doing?!" said Mick.
"She can't know!!" exclaimed Des. "Back in a tick!"
He rushed off to the garden shop, and came back soon later having bought a load of garden rakes. He dumped them on their stall, then rushed off to the DIY shop.
"What is he up to?" said a bemused Mick. Wayne shrugged his shoulders.
It wasn't long before he rushed back, completely breathless, with a pot of paint. He climbed onto the table, and changed the letter 'C' on the sign into a letter 'R'. He clambered down just as Mrs Greasy came along.
"Oh hello you lot, surprised to see you running a stall here!" said Mrs Greasy.
Des, Mick and Wayne just grinned inanely.
"What are you selling then?" she said. She looked up at the sign. "Des, Mick and Wayne's Hot Rakes. Hot rakes?"
"Hi there Mrs G!" said Wayne. "Wanna a hot cake, I mean a hot rake!!"
"Tell me," said Mrs Greasy. "Why would anyone want a hot rake over a normal one?"
"There is a very good reason for that," said Des, still out of breath. "Mick, tell Mrs Greasy what the reason is."
"Thank you Des," said Mick. "Ummm...the reason is...a very good reason...and Des would very much like to explain it to you."
"It's for cold weather!" exclaimed Des. "When you need to rake up some leaves in the garden in the middle of winter, it's to stop you from getting cold hands."
"The leaves fall down in autumn, not winter," said Mrs Greasy.
"It still gets cold in autumn," said Des.
Mrs Greasy picked up one of the rakes.
"It's not hot at all!" she exclaimed. "It's stone cold!"
"You must have cold hands," said Des.
Mrs Greasy gave Des a mean look and plonked the rake back on the table.
"You lot are mad," said Mrs Greasy. "I don't know how you think you're going to make money selling hot rakes that aren't hot. Now if you had set up a stall selling hot cakes (with catering by my good self of course) you would have had a major success on your hands. Still, your loss. Goodbye!"
"Phew, she's gone!" said Des.
"Hey, why didn't we think of that?!" exclaimed Wayne.
"What?" said Des. "Oh never mind." He started picking up all the hot cakes from off the floor and putting them back on the stall.
"Des, you can't do that!" said Mick. "They're dirty, you can't sell those!"
"Well what are we going to do then?" said Des.
"We'll just have to sell these instead, these hot rakes that aren't hot," said Mick.
"They will be once I've...no they won't fit," said Des, trying to put one of the rakes into the oven. "Hang on, I know what to do instead."
Soon afterwards, their stall - now renamed Des, Mick and Wayne's Hot Rakes That Aren't Hot - was doing brisk business.
"I can't understand this," said Des. "We're doing much better business now we're selling rakes!"
"You could say they're selling like hot cakes," said Mick.
At the end of the day, they had made £142.76 which was exactly the amount that Wayne didn't really owe Des.
"Cor that's a bit of luck!" said Wayne, handing over the £142.76 to Des, who winked at Mick.
"Right I'll take that," said Mick, snatching the £142.76. "That covers the cost of that portable oven thing I bought."
"Oh botherations," said Des. "Still, same time next week?"
"Naaaah, no need!" said Wayne. "I've just signed a new contract with Ray Deeo to clean the front winda of his radio shop every week!! So I've decided to liquidise our partnership!"
"Liquidate," said Mick.
"Don't be ridiculous Mick, are you saying I've got a liquidator in my kitchen?!" said Des. "Well anyway, I was thinking of leaving the company anyway. I've got too many other things to do. Like right now, I need to rake up some of those leaves in my back garden. It's quite a cold day...you know, I could just do with a hot rake..."
Copyright © Robert Williams
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