“Upper-class tosser! Bloody hell, I’ve seen some pretty dodgy ads in my time, made a few myself, but that takes the cake,” A furious Ray Purvis screamed down the phone to his assistant.
Ralph Fly leaned back in his office chair and waited. He knew better than to interrupt one his boss’s rants, so confined himself to the odd grunt so that Mr Purvis knew he was still listening.
The meeting with Sir Murray St Clair had not gone well. Sir Murray didn’t throw open his wallet; even worse, he indicated that if this were to happen, Purvis would still need to find additional finance. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the meeting had ended with Sir Murray preening himself in front of the latest television commercial for the company.
“Christ, what Biggles knows about finance you could put on the head of a pin with a paint-roller. In other words sweet FA! And as for being some sort of ‘technology genius’, give me a bloody break!”
“Ralph,” Purvis demanded after a few seconds of silence.
“Yes Mr Purvis.”
“Got to get cracking on those two shops. See what you can find out about the crystal place, just don’t let on we want to buy it.”
“Okay Mr Purvis, she won’t suspect a thing,” Ralph replied.
“Good, good.” Purvis said. “Be a customer, buy something. Get yourself a string of beads.”
There were no beads, but a plastic helmet in the shape of a pyramid caught Ralph Fly’s attention as soon as he entered Sky Crystal’s shop. The pyramid was a bright crimson colour, with antennae-like extensions on each side and a transparent strip at the bottom. With a wry smile, Ralph read the attached label claiming the helmet was purpose-built to help concentrate the energy of the mind. The price of $160 transformed Ralph’s expression to one of astonishment.
Fly picked up the pyramid, and expecting it to sit like a hat on the top of his head, tentatively put it on. The pyramid slowly slipped down until the top half of his head was encased in red plastic. He gently tried to lift it off, but it wouldn’t budge.
The swish of tie-dyed curtains opening caught Ralph’s attention. He quickly ducked behind one of the shelves as Sky Crystal, kaftan billowing, sailed into the shop carrying a box of incense sticks. In desperation Ralph grabbed the antennae on either side of the pyramid and wrenched upward. The right antennae snapped off in his hand, but the helmet remained firmly locked on his head.
“It looks great, and it’s your size too,” Sky said as she put the box on the counter.
With a nonchalantly air, Ralph lifted his right hand and held the broken antenna in its correct position as he turned to face Sky, casually leaning the elbow of his bent arm on the upper shelf of the display cabinet.
“Do you want to take it?” Sky continued.
“Uh, oh sure,” Ralph replied as he looked at her through the clear strip of plastic at the bottom of the helmet. “Like a hole in the head,” he added to himself, but the broken antenna in his right hand told him he had no choice, and certainly couldn’t argue about the price.
“A lot of people would say it’s a rip off,” Sky offered. “They don’t understand.”
Ralph, his confidence returning, seized the opportunity and with just a hint of hurt in his voice replied, “Oh no, not me. Don’t be put off by my suit. It’s just my work uniform.”
“I’m sorry. Of all people I should know better than to judge someone by the way they look. It’s happened to me often enough.”
Ralph reassured Sky that he wasn’t offended and asked if she had any information about the helmets. “An article perhaps? I’d like to learn more about them.”
“Cool, I’ve got something out the back.” As Sky pulled open the tie-dyed curtain, she threw Ralph a lifeline, “If you want to take that off, lift from the back and tilt it forward.”
Relieved of the helmet, Ralph rested it on the counter holding the broken antenna in its correct position with his right hand. Sky returned with a pamphlet and soon they were chatting like old friends. Ralph quickly discovered the shop was owned by Sky and although business wasn’t exactly booming, she wasn’t interested in selling.
“I believe in the power of positive thinking. This place has such good vibes, I know it’ll succeed.” Sky confidently asserted. She was determined to prove to all the critics, particularly her father and uncle, that she could make a success of the business.
“Do you want me to wrap it for you?” asked Sky, indicating to the helmet.
“Oh, no thanks. Save the packaging,” Ralph replied.
With one hand and considerable difficulty, Ralph managed to take a wallet out of his jacket pocket, flip it open and extract a Visa card. “Hope you take Visa?” he asked.
Sky did the business with the credit card machine and passed Ralph the Visa docket and a pen. “Here you are.”
“Thank you” Ralph said, reaching forward with his right hand to take the pen. The antenna, no longer held in place on the side of the helmet, swung through 180 degrees before dropping onto the counter between the two of them.
“Shit!” Ralph cried before regaining his composure. “I’m sorry, I must have broken it, but don’t worry, I’ll still take it.”
“Oh, it’s not broken. They’re supposed to come off so you don’t get them caught in the branches when you’re bush walking.”
Ralph signed the docket in silence. After a quick, “Catch you later and have a nice day,” Sky watched the slumped figure of Ralph walk slowly out the door, red energy-pyramid helmet tucked safely under his arm.
In the next episode, “Trapped”, Ruth and Jane’s pleasant morning row ends in disaster that threatens one of their lives.