I tiptoed quickly past next door. It’s been several days since the guinea pig debacle, but I couldn’t help glancing at the doorstep, half expecting the Tupperware box to still be there. It wasn’t, of course…
I intended to tiptoe past old Mrs Mort’s house too, but I simply had to stop to admire her clematis. I noticed the bedroom curtain twitching and glanced up to find Mrs Mort observing me sternly. I beamed my best reassuring smile, threw my arms wide and mouthed, “Beautiful!” but she jumped back visibly. I hurriedly tried to indicate the clematis, but she drew the curtains surprisingly quickly for someone in a hairnet and curlers.
Finally, I tiptoed past the Rev. Thomas’ house. I’m sure it’ll all blow over in time, but better to let him make the first move.
I stood in a small queue waiting to pay for my Daily Mail. I was delighted to note that Sir John St John, our local nobility, was paying for his paper ahead of me. I allowed myself an inner smile. Ed Balls has promised me a peerage (that was the deal for writing the report he wanted me to write), so soon I’ll be able to sit alongside Sir John in the House of Lords. Lord Badman. Sir Graham Badman. Not before time, though. I wonder if Sir John would be willing to give me a lift in his Bentley.
Stan, the newsagent was wittering on about some rubbish he’d been listening to on a radio phone in.
“It’s all a lot of nonsense if you ask me,” Stan, was saying. “I’ve never gone in for all that psychic stuff.”
“Hmmmm?” Sir John was counting out coins, clearly only half listening.
“I think the young woman must have been on drugs – don’t you agree? Sex with a ghost – what a ridiculous claim.”
“Ah…. What? What did you say? On the radio was it? Good Lord, that takes me back! I remember many a pleasant evening. Course, I wouldn’t have gone on the radio and bragged about it! Kept it to myself. People wouldn’t understand, you see. Young people today – very brash. I didn’t tell a soul for years.”
“Are you saying you think it’s true?” Stan was open mouthed.
“Of course! Done it meself, several times. I just explained that, didn’t I?”
Stan handed over Sir John’s change, still staring incredulously at him. “You’ve had sex with a ghost?”
“……GHOST?..... Sorry, old boy, I thought you said GOAT.”
Sir John quickly exited while I re-evaluated if I would want to accept a lift in his Bentley after all. Stan was still staring through the open door as I handed over the correct money for my paper.
“Did you hear that? My God, you have to wonder what goes on in public school, don’t you?”
“You surely don’t think deviant behaviour is encouraged at public school, Stan?”
“Well, I wouldn’t know. I went to the local secondary and we didn’t have goat molesters there. We had everything else, mind!” he added with a low chuckle.
“But at least you were safe,” I pointed out. “Not like all these children in home education. Who knows what goes on there? All sorts of atrocities. Did you know it’s a cover for child abuse? Physical, verbal…. all sorts.”
“I didn’t realise that. Funny, I can think of lots of instances in the news where it’s gone on involving teachers and church officials, but I don’t remember an instance with a home-ed kid.”
“Oh you don’t need physical proof. It’s the opinion of a leading expert in the field. What more evidence do you need? Ask yourself why these kids aren’t in school in the first place.”
“Cos a lot of schools are rubbish and fail the children on lots of levels?”
“How dare you!” I snatched my paper off the counter. “I shall give serious consideration to taking my custom elsewhere in future.”
Stan shrugged. “Your choice. That Mr Smith comes in here with his kids. They live next door to you, don’t they?”
“Yes they do and there’s a case in point. You DO know they’re home educated?”
“Yes. They’re nice kids. Very polite, seem ever so intelligent. Never any trouble, either. I can’t say that for the local school kids.”
He pointed to a notice on the window. It stated that no more than two children from the local school would be permitted on the premises at any one time.
“If you ask me, schools are a breeding ground for bad behaviour and attitude.”
“Well I didn’t ask you! I do not need your limited opinion. I am an expert, I need no-one’s opinion, thank you very much.”
“D’you know what Mr Smith told me yesterday?”
“No,” I hissed. I just wanted to get away. I should have just walked out.
“Some sicko left a dead, mutilated hamster on their doorstep. Stuffed in a Tupperware box an’ all! I’ll bet that wasn’t done by a home-ed kid!”
“It was a guinea pig, not a hamster. And it wasn’t mutilated, it was simply covered in someone’s blood.”
“He said it was a hamster.”
“Well that rather proves my point, doesn’t it? How can you entrust the education of young minds to a man who doesn’t know the difference between a mutilated hamster and a blood stained guinea pig!”
“They would have taught them in school to recognise the difference would they?”
I opened my mouth to respond – but found I had lost the will. I sighed.
“It must have been unpleasant for them. Family pet, too,” I said.
“Eh? Well, someone’s family anyway,” he responded.
“What? You mean it… it WASN’T theirs?!?”
“No. They don’t know who it belonged to.”
My head was reeling so much I missed the next thing he said and had to get him to repeat it.
“I said they’ve called in the police. Forensics, I shouldn’t wonder. Could be a big story in the papers. Who knows, I might need to take on extra staff!”
When I arrived home Autonomous Ed was sitting on the front wall. I’ll swear he was smiling. After all that animal’s done to me!