The Sunday Serial: Episode 3 – Whiskers
Blood on the carpet? Broken crockery? A man on the loose? Something is not right. Join OLD DAL for another installment of the Sunday Serial…
The laptop lid was thrown down, Jamie’s wrist grabbed from the en-suite, and a fist thrown at Sarah’s door.
No reply. A glass of wine, which now lay stomach-locked and diffusing into her bloodstream, encouraged Sam to push open the door, Napoleonically throwing a right foot into the room as she did so. Territory claimed; presence asserted.
There was no-one there. A mug lay smashed on the floor, the words “Keep Calm And Carry On” rudely divorced from one another by a Harry Potter shaped scar. The curtains provocatively bellowed in the storm at the wide-flung window. Was that blood on the carpet?
The words “pathetic phallacy indicates imminent danger” stood proudly next to a flashing cursor.
Not ten miles from The Sleepy Corridor, in his well-furnished studio flat near Homerton, a man paced tirelessly around his kitchen set-up.
Any first glimpse would have guessed him middle-aged, underweight and zinc deficient; a yellowed appearance owed not lightly to a diet composed almost exclusively of crisps, Nescafé espressos and Roundtree pastels. The nights in front of the computer screen hadn’t helped, of course. In fact, these had added to the gothic ensemble the weighty indigo bags below his eyes and the slight crust on his lower lip where saliva often escaped a vacant, hanging mouth.
The man watched – and he regretted this – a huge quantity of snooker on TV; still in his suit after work with a finger or two teasing at the surface of a bag of Bombay Mix. He also watched a lot of Futurama. At one point, he had thought this would give him something to talk about with his son.
The man fished his iPhone5 out of his pocket with some difficulty, and prodded the screen with a taught index no less knobbly (or off-green) than that of E.T.’s. The tapping of accidental nail against glass as he selected a name from his contact list.
“Yeah. Any news? …Hello?”
The female voice the other end had obviously told him what he hadn’t wanted to hear, or indeed taken too long to answer. The man kicked over the cat’s bowl, and then looked around in immediate desperation at the dry drunks of Whiskers Complete corrupting the marble finish.
Alf looked left and right at said disseminated Whiskers Complete with devastating nonchalance, before simply slinking towards the most inviting clump and continuing. No purr this time. Tail at half-mast.
“Just get home straight away… Hello?” – the sound of Alf’s jaw locking with determination on a particularly stale chunk – “…Hello?”
The door swung open and a woman marched in. “I was just coming up the driveway,” she snapped. “Was coming to the end of my credit.”
The man had always marvelled at his wife’s resistance to phone contracts. This wasn’t, she often exclaimed, because of any fear of commitment, but because she found nothing more liberating than the excuse of having no more credit.
The woman, next to her husband, was a vision of health. She put this down not just to a robust diet of salmon, avocado and jacket potato (including all variations on a theme) but also to just the right about of coffee and cake. Once, at the McDonald’s drive thru, she had opted for the bag of carrot sticks with a petite Tropicana. This wasn’t to say she didn’t love the odd burger. Just that, this time, she had had appetite for carrots sticks with a petite Topicana. She deplored Bombay Mix. In fact, she deplored Bombay Mix in much the same way she deplored Futurama, both in terms of her son’s watching it, and her father’s thinking that his own watching it might be a useful parenting decision.
“He’s going to give the game away…” Alf half-choked ominously on another stale chunk, swallowed it with some difficulty, and then continued unthinkingly on another. The purring recommended. Tail back up to full salute.
“No,” replied the woman. “He’s run away before. You know how he is… just gets agitated at the last minute and bottles it before…”
“Get in the car.” The man took the bag of Bombay Mix, sealed it up with a clothes peg, and dropped it into his pocket. They left the house, leaving the cat, the television and the open fridge unattended to.
Back at The Sleepy Corridor, Jamie and Sam had just found the smashed mug, the wife-flung window and the blood on the carpet.
It wasn’t long before Cassandra, excited by the noises of disapproval outside her door, came to see what was what. She burst in, of course, without announcing herself. She was a vision in emerald.
“Cassandra!” Jamie spoke first. “Don’t you think she’s gone too far this time? Not one of us chose to live with her, and look what she’s doing to our quiet, concentrated corridor. Blood on the carpet. Sam said he’d heard a man’s voice. Panting.”
“What does it say in the letter?” replied Cassandra cooly.
Jamie and Sam had neglected to see the note scrawled on a post-it next to the laptop with its flashing cursor and its “pathetic phallacy indicates danger”.
Sam snatched it up, and all three read it quietly in bemusement.
Steps outside, approaching with purpose. A knock on the door.
“Everything alright, ladies and gent?” It was Jeremy the porter, self-important and with heavy duty flashlight. “Someone’s been seen around college looking a bit dodgy. People have said they’re uncomfortable.”
“Jeremy, there’s been something that…”
A not-unevil thought came to Cassandra’s head, and she kicked Jamie sharply in the ankle.
“All fine, Jeremy. We certainly haven’t noticed anything here.”