“‘Discontent’ should be your mother’s middle name. Dorothy Discontent Dawkins!” Sylvie laughed.
“She’s not that bad!”
“Yes, she is, she’s always complaining, criticising people all the time.”
Sylvie wasn’t wrong.
“She doesn’t like me coming round, and we never get a chance to, well, you know ….” Sylvie blushed.
That evening, Mother came in, ashen-faced. “I just went round to old Pat Elliot’s. She’s dead!”
Pat lived in an isolated cottage, covered in ivy and partially collapsed at the rear. There was a gap where you could squeeze through. And you could look at the stars whilst having a pee.
“She’s sitting in the lounge – freezing cold and stiff.” Mother sat down, looking faint. “Sue Garrett said she took her some groceries last week and Pat seemed OK. I’d better call the police.”
“Hang on a minute. No one visits her. Well, hardly ever.” My mind was whirring. “I need to store some stuff. I could use her house.”
“Michael, no! I’m calling the police.”
“Look, I’ll shift her upstairs, put my gear in the lounge, and in a week’s time we can ‘find’ her in bed, sadly demised.”
Mother looked worried. “What ‘gear’?”
“Oh, for Baz.”
“It’ll be stolen!”
“Look, I dunno, he just told me he’ll pay good money for someone to store some boxes for a week.”
“It wouldn’t be right.”
“Look, I’ll buy you a new hoover. That old one’s past it.”
“Just a week?”
“Just a week.”
I grunted and rolled off Sylvie.
“Couldn’t you wait?” she complained, snuggling her naked body against mine.
“No, actually.” I laughed.
“Pig!” She licked my nose. “This bed’s smelly. And I don’t like … that … being there.” She gestured to a single bed in the corner, where the covers bulged with something cold and stiff. I’d had to bring Pat upstairs, even though the story about Baz and the boxes was bollocks, designed to throw Mother off the scent.
“You like them stiff though, don’t you!” I said.
“Ha ha.” She jabbed me in the ribs. “Seriously, it’s starting to pong.”
“OK, I’ll shift it into the other bedroom.” It was full of junk but Sylvie had a point.
Just then, the doorbell rang.
“Jesus Christ! Who’s that?” she whispered.
I peered through the ivy-clad window. It was Mrs Garrett, presumably on grocery duty.
The doorbell rang again, more insistently.
“Look, get dressed and tell her you’re Pat’s granddaughter and she’s having a nap.”
“You do it!”
“Don’t be stupid, she knows me! Quick, hurry up!”
Sylvie pulled on her sweater and jeans, just as the door-knocker rapped. “Hold your horses you old bag!” She disappeared down the stairs.
I stood at the bedroom door, listening. It sounded like the woman was arguing.
Suddenly I heard a strange groaning sound. Looking around I saw the mound in the single bed moving. I froze with fright.
“Whoooo,” the groan came again.
Fucking hell! I flung the door open and ran down the stairs, starkers.
“Michael Dawkins!’ Mrs Garrett looked shell-shocked.
I covered my modesty. “She … She’s come to life. Pat’s not dead!”
“Of course she’s not – her granddaughter’s looking after her! What are you doing here anyway?”
“Listen!” Heavy steps were coming down the stairs. Sylvie and I exchanged horrified glances. The steps continued, … clomp … clomp … clomp.
An anguished face appeared at the bottom of the stairs – “Ha ha. That had you going!” – Baz!
“You bastard! How the hell …?”
“I bumped into your mum.”
“Well, where’s Pat?” Mrs Garett asked. “Michael?”
All eyes turned to me. Shit! It looked like I had some explaining to do.
Featured in the book, To Cut a Short Story Short: 111 Little Stories
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