“Hello? Is that Muh-Mr Buh-bare-bare-badman?”
“No, this is not Mr Bare-bare-badman. Mr Bare-bare-badman does not live here, you intellectually challenged mollusc. Neither does Mr Madman, Mr Batman or Mr Bedpan. You’ll find no-one here called Sadman, Crabman, Fatman, Splatman, Taxman, Ratman, Catman, Saucepan or Katmandu. I will not deign to converse with morons who call up spouting verbal diarrhoea in stupid, squeaky voices. You are an odious, pathetic non-entity with the intelligence level of a pine cone. If you ever call here again I will track you down and personally see to it that you receive the full frontal lobotomy that you so richly deserve and that will no doubt result in a doubling of your I.Q!”
I slammed the phone back into its cradle, drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly with a sense of achievement. I strode purposefully into the kitchen, beamed at my wife and kissed her on the forehead.
“Are you feeling unwell, Badders?” she asked with concern.
“Me? Not a bit of it. I feel really good. In fact I feel so good that I think I won’t have my usual Choco Straws for breakfast, my dear. No – I think a boiled egg is in order this morning.”
I almost skipped to the kitchen table and grasped the handle of the saucepan waiting for me there.
An icy hand of dread ran its fingers up my spine and plucked the small hairs at the base of my neck. I turned stricken eyes to my wife who stared uncomprehendingly at me.
“Whatever’s wrong?” she said.
With nerveless fingers I grabbed the saucepan lid. Trembling slightly, I raised it an inch or two and peered within. I slammed it back in place and leapt back as though electrocuted.
“Badders?” She touched my arm and looked at the saucepan in bewilderment.
“It’s still in there.” I said.
She reached out and pulled the lid off the saucepan allowing us both to stare at its occupant. The guinea pig stared back at us with sightless eyes. The blood from my scratched hand had congealed in its fur forming stained, dried spikes that stuck out at odd angles. Rigor mortis had pulled its lips back from its teeth giving it a terrifyingly angry sneer. One little paw was raised in a frozen poise of accusation.
“You’ll have to take it back.” She said quietly.
“Are you insane woman? They’re home-edders! I’m Graham Badman. They’ll think I did it deliberately. My God – what if they go to the papers?”
“I still think you ought to take it back. Perhaps if you explain….”
“Explain! How’s that going to come across? ‘Excuse me, Smith, but as you liked my idea for studying Scooby-Doo so much I thought you might be interested in my next idea. I thought your children might like to dissect your guinea pig which I seem to have asphyxiated in my saucepan having first marinated it in my own blood.’ ”
“You suggested they study Scooby-Doo?”
I waved an arm impatiently, “Not now….!”
“I wonder if it did die from suffocation,” she mused.
“What? What?! No, perhaps you’re right. Maybe it couldn’t face the shame of living in a house of home-edders and decided to end it all. Hang on, I’ll have another look. Maybe there’s a suicide note scratched onto a sunflower seed!”
“There’s no need to take that tone, I’m only wondering if it was shock rather than suffocation. You did say the cat brought it in, before you smothered it in blood and stuffed it in a saucepan.”
“You’re not helping, you know.”
We both stood gazing at the unfortunate cavy. It continued to stare back with its glazed eyes.
“No – sorry, Badders. You have to take it back.”
“Really? Couldn’t we just…. um….”
“If you’re about to suggest flushing it down the loo, you can forget it!”
“No, of course not. But we could put it in a bin bag and…”
“But they’re home-edders!”
“They’ll do something weird with it!”
“Whatever are you talking about?”
“You don’t know what they’re like. I’ve talked to them. They’ll see this as an opportunity for a ‘learning experience’. They’ll be making a coffin out of paper mache and composing a eulogy.”
“You’re being ridiculous!”
“No I’m not. They’ll dig a big hole in the garden and sing sad songs while the children shake maracas and tambourines and blow kazoos. And you know the worst part of all? They’ll dress it up in their next report to the local education authority as part of their educational philosophy and provision.”
“No it isn’t. They’ll say its art and craftwork, creative writing, music tuition and bloody gardening!”
My wife put the lid back on the saucepan. “It goes back,” she said firmly. “Now!”
“Oh….. must I?..... I thought I might just….”
I sighed and picked up the saucepan. This wasn’t going to be a success. I went through the kitchen door with a heavy heart.
Autonomous Ed was sitting by the front gate washing himself.
“This is all your fault!” I moaned. He stopped washing, one paw held in mid air and glared at me from lowered eyelids (after all I’ve done for that animal!) I waved the saucepan at him threateningly. “You did this.”
He actually backed away. He clearly thought I was going to throw it at him. Delighted, I waved it at him more vigourously and ran towards him. I stumbled. The lid went flying over the gate and rolled down the pavement. I only just stopped the guinea pig following it, leaped over the gate and raced after the lid.
It came to a very noisy halt, colliding with Old Mrs Mort on her way to the postbox. She looked at it and then slowly drew herself up to regard me with a suspicious eye. Mindful that our recent meetings had gone none too smoothly I gave her my most you-can-trust-me-I’m-an-expert smile and stooped to retrieve the lid.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs Mort,” I said “Must keep the lid on my…er casserole. Don’t want it going cold, do we?”
She peered into the open saucepan and gave a strange little cry. I thought she was going to scream and rushed to calm her, but she fled surprisingly quickly for someone who bulk buys anti-chafing cream.
Finally arriving at Smith’s front door I rang the bell with a sense of trepidation. He opened the door without offering any greeting and regarded me owlishly.
“Hello, Smith. I was just wondering what you might be doing with the children.”
“Here we go again,” he sighed through gritted teeth.
“No, no, no. You misunderstand. I just wondered if….ummm…..gardening? At all?”
“What on earth are you implying?”
“A bit of singing, maybe. It’s a nice day. In the garden…nature….biology…spot of dissection, perhaps…..no, no, no NOT dissection. Sorry, I was thinking of something else.”
“Look is there some point to all this? I’m in the middle of showing the kids how to rewire a plug. I don’t really have time for being harassed with a saucepan.”
“Rewire a plug? Good Lord, is that safe? I mean where are they going to plug it when they’ve finished?”
Do you know the insolent man actually closed the door in my face! I was left there with the saucepan. I slunk back home, but fortunately my wife had gone out to the W.I. Quickly decanting the guinea pig into a Tupperware container I sneaked back to Smith’s front door and quietly left it on the step.
I kept a low profile for the remainder of the day.
“What on earth have you done to upset Rev. Thomas?” my wife demanded when she returned home.
“Nothing!” I was baffled. “I haven’t seen the man for days.”
“It’s a funny thing – but when he’s really angry his stutter completely disappears.”
“Apparently he phoned here this morning to discuss your spell checker problem and you were incredibly rude to him. Quite frankly he told me you can stick your computer…” and she went on to describe something anatomically impossible.
Odd that. I’d have thought a man of the Rev. Thomas’ education would have had a better grasp of human physiology.