When I got back from London yesterday tired and weary, I picked the hairy one up from her grandma’s and drove home in heavy traffic trying hard not to fall asleep at the wheel.
‘I know it’s rather early, Audrey,’ I told her, ‘but I think I’m going to have to go to bed as soon as we get in.’
‘But what about my evening walk, father?’ she barked. ‘You are not thinking of excluding it from today’s schedule, surely?’
We managed a hasty ten-minute trudge around the rec’ and headed for home. Then weirdness happened.
As we reached our front door we were approached by a young man with the face of a moustached gerbil, and a gaunt old woman in a handsome trouser suit who was pushing a wheelchair containing a beautiful child. ‘Good day to you,’ said the man. ‘We are Aleph. We can see you are busy, sir, but we are collecting for our church and we were just wondering if – ‘
‘Let me stop you there,’ I told him, searching for something succinct to say that would explain with accurate precision my lack of sympathy for his mission. I found something quite unambiguous in ‘F*ck off.’ I was too worn-out to say anything else.
As I was closing the door I heard the woman chiding me. ‘There are people in this world who are dying in agony because of men like you,’ she hissed. ‘Dying in agony.’
I dare say she had a valid point.
Before shutting the door completely I waited a beat while I calculated an apposite reply. Satisfied I had found something appropriate, I continued with: ‘Drop dead.’
I checked that the door was securely locked, and while Audrey settled in her favourite spot upstairs beneath the mixing desk I went into the kitchen to prepare a light supper of green tea and cold pizza. Reaching for the kettle, I was taken aback when it suddenly moved three inches to the left as if propelled by an invisible hand.
Too many ants.
I don’t mind one or two about the place, they add a little ornamental detail to the kitchen surfaces, but the current situation was unacceptable.
The man from the council said I have a nest behind the oven. A veritable infestation. Not good.
I do not like killing insects. I cannot douse houseflies in insecticide or arrange slug pellets in the garden, and standing on a snail leaves me distraught for days. But I was pleased when Steve, the council pest-destroying fellow, arrived to spray the ant nest with poison.
I watched as the first of the little creatures to be affected began a chaotic death-dance of hellish confusion. They were not dancing for long. Sorry, ants. Good job it wasn’t horses.
I eventually managed to put the slaughter out of my mind and settled down to watch a movie starring Karl Malden and several Yugoslavians.
You will refuse to participate in a game of ‘murderball’ during an afternoon PE class taken by your least favourite games teacher-sadist, preferring instead to go home and listen to the new Clash and Sex Pistols albums.
As a punishment, you will receive ten days of after-school detention which you will elect to not attend. The head of sixth-form will write a letter to your parents.
You will always wonder whether you did the right thing. You will have a recurring dream about this in later life.
Audrey and I keep bumping into Reg and Hercules, his little Jack Russell terrier. I was flabbergasted this morning when he asked me: ‘Didn’t see you in church this morning, Napoleon. Something better to do, eh?’
‘Well . . . I was . . . erm . . .’
‘No excuses, mate. I‘ll see you there next week, won’t I?’
‘Er . . .’ My mouth was desperately pinging my brain for instructions but there was no response. Stupid brain.
Reg bought his hairy nose about six inches away from mine. I thought for one horrified second he was about to take me in a manly embrace and give me a Christian peck on the cheek. His full-English-breakfast cigarette breath hit me like a solid block of rancid hell-on-earth as he told me something that made my heart sink. ‘Don’t worry, my friend,’ he said, ‘next week I’ll come round to pick you up – eight o’clock on the dot. I know which house is yours.’
I couldn’t answer; I was paralysed from the lips downwards.
He strolled away humming, obviously very pleased with himself. Audrey and I stood and watched in silence as he and Hercules – who was barking like there was no tomorrow – turned the corner and disappeared from view.
‘That dog deserves a place in the Barking Hall of Fame.’ I finally said. Hercules barks constantly, seemingly at nothing, even when walking along on his lead.
As we were walking home, Audrey looked up at me and told me something with her eyes. ‘I think he’s ridiculous,’ she said.
I slept so well last night, for the first time in ages.
I awoke feeling absolutely marvellous and leapt out of bed like a character in a mattress commercial. I had some difficulty putting on my trousers due to the spectacular case of morning glory I was experiencing – a prominence so uncharacteristically proud that I suspect it was detectable on radar.
My mood could have had something to do with the fact that I went into the city and purchased a new Focusrite compressor yesterday. I lied to the geeky salesman about his company’s inaccurate detailing of the unit’s specifications so convincingly that I managed to get the price reduced by £100.
But I feel much more satisfied about life than I think I should for a wet and windy Thursday morning in January – much more so than can be attributed to my clever and disingenuous dealings with impressionable sales staff, anyway. There is just something beautiful in the air today: something the ineffable and wondrous nature of which cannot be denied.
As I type this, however, my feelings of elation are beginning to be tempered somewhat by worry and doubt. I am starting to feel very guilty and corrupt for paying less than I should have done for a piece of valuable audio outboard equipment. Every time a car pulls up outside or whenever the telephone rings, I break out in a cold sweat, fearing that I have been found out and am about to be arrested by a policeman with a moustache. Maybe I am simply being paranoid. I used to suffer a lot from anxiety and agoraphobia. I was suffering so badly at one stage that I felt compelled to visit my doctor.
‘I am inclined to conclude that you are experiencing an acute case of clinical depression and paranoia, Napoleon,’ he told me, smiling.
‘Paranoia!?’ I gasped. I was shocked but I couldn’t take his diagnosis seriously as he had a large green morsel of food – a piece of spinach, perhaps – stuck to one of his teeth. I tried to lighten the mood: ‘Did you hear the one about the G.P. whose patient comes to see him,’ I asked him, ‘who says “Doctor, someone is putting something in my food to make me paranoid”?’
He stopped smiling and wrote me a prescription in silence.