You’ll have to excuse the shaky handwriting and the blue ink of the pen – I’ve always been wary of men who prefer blue ink, always thought that they were in some way effeminate. It’s a fault in my character I know, but then if I didn’t have any faults I wouldn’t be me, and I suppose it’s my faults that have led me to where I am at this moment. And where am I? Well, I’m coming to that.Hold on, while I get another scrap of wallpaper.
Here’s a nice bit – this should last me for a while.Wallpaper can disguise a multitude of sins. Irene told me that before she went away for the weekend with Derek. She was always telling me useless things like that, always stating the bleeding obvious, always criticising.Three weeks have passed since she went away for that weekend with Derek. As she left I tried to kiss her but she pulled away before my lips could connect with her cheek; Derek didn’t want me to kiss her either and he let me know in his own inimitable way. Irene gave me a look of disdain (or maybe it was disappointment) as she turned the key to the ignition on the Ford Capri. A thought crossed my mind as she drove away – if she died in the wreckage of her Capri on the way to wherever she was going she’d take Derek with her. The thought of her and Derek ending up in a multiple pile-up on the motorway always put a smile on my face. It would have been a shame for all the other people involved but hey – what did I care? I was past caring.Back inside the cottage I filled a bucket full of warm soapy water and fished out the wallpaper scraper from under the sink; I already had two tins of lilac paint hidden under the stairs. It seemed odd but despite my hatred of the bitch I still wanted to please her. Like some performing dog, I was waiting for a biscuit and a pat on the head, some kind of reward to show me that she at least still cared for me. I don’t know why I bothered – it was never going to happen. Not in a million years. Not after I had discovered about her association with Cheesefinger.After I had finished stripping the wallpaper and painting the walls lilac I was leaving and never coming back. I’d show her that paint can cover up as many sins as wallpaper – especially when it’s a lilac colour, which I knew she hated. It would be waiting here for when she returned – an empty lilac room filled with hate.That was what I thought at the time. But, you know, things don’t always go as planned . . .I suppose I should tell about the circumstances that brought me here and once I’ve found a decent sized scrap of wallpaper I will.
OK – where was I? Ah yes – me. I was happy once, you know – deliriously happy – but that was before I met Irene.
Back in the good old days I worked as a consultant, setting up systems of work for department stores and warehouses throughout the country. Of course all the places I was called into had their own people who could do the kind of thing I did but there always seemed to be a lack of trust – no, that’s not the right word – confidence (that’s better) in their own staff’s ability to see the big picture, which was fine by me because it made a lot of money and by the time I was forty I was able to retire. But, like an aging career bank robber, there was one last highly paid job that tempted me out of retirement. And that’s where it all went wrong.I met Irene whilst I was working on the development of the Frontiere Cheese Factory in Braintree. She was bright, funny and absolutely gorgeous with a figure that reminded me of those photographs of Marilyn Monroe when she was in her prime. And man, she was sexy – she taught me things that I’d only ever read about in the pages of Hustler. She seemed too good to be true and rather than let her slip through my fingers I asked her to marry me. She said yes and a month later (two years ago) we were married in Braintree Registry Office and we moved into this cottage, which now serves as my prison.The change in her was barely noticeable at first, but as we entered the first year of our marriage it became much more pronounced. This was after I’d found out that she was seeing a man who went by the stupid name of Cheesefinger. The sex stopped and her overreaction at any mistake I made was just crazy. In the universe according to Irene the scale of the mistake didn’t seem to enter into the equation – to her a mistake was a mistake and I should be humiliated for it.
All the mistakes I’ve made pale in comparison to the one I made when I let her bring Derek home. Derek has seriously buggered up my life. He’s over in the far corner of the room at the moment, staring at me with his mad eyes.I never wanted a dog; it was Irene’s idea, but I reluctantly agreed in the hope that she would have sex with me. I am, to my eternal regret, like all men and any sensible thoughts involving reason or practicality simply evaporate at the prospect of a bit of heavy breathing and an exchange of bodily fluids.Derek came to us a puppy from a, suave well-dressed man called Clifford Kirberly, who was the managing director of the recently opened Kirberly Chemicals plant which was situation on the other side of Braintree. We met him in his office, which was filled with all kinds of gadgets for all kinds of activities. “I like to have only the best,” he told us as he handed over a small bundle of fur with a screwed up face and big take-me-home eyes.Susan bonded with Derek the dog immediately, but he never warmed to me. He would snap at me and bare his small sharp teeth whenever I went near him. And he barked at me all the time – somehow he knew exactly where I was at any given time and he would bark suddenly and loudly, making me jump and my heart race out of control. Whenever he was in the garden and I looked out of the window he would start to growl at me.Derek grew up fast; his rate of growth was completely disproportionate to his intake of food, and as he grew that cuteness that had been his selling point disappeared and was replaced with an ugliness that was just short of repulsive. His teeth were enormous and unmercifully sharp. I hated him.
It was heaven when Irene took the bloody stupid thing away and I started to redecorate the room. The wallpaper came off easily and I started to pile it up on top of the sideboard. I was halfway through this task when I heard Irene’s Capri pull up on the drive outside the cottage. What the hell was she doing back so early? Had she forgotten something?I heard her open the front door and enter the house accompanied by the heavy footfalls of that bloody awful dog. The lounge door opened and she stepped in with Derek beside her. She didn’t say anything – she just looked at me with crazy eyes, before releasing Derek from his lead. “Inside,” she said.That was the last word I heard her say before she left the and locked the door behind her. As Derek skirted around the room I heard the Capri’s engine start up and tyres crunch on the gravel as Irene drove away. “Come on, Derek,” I said, trying to sound cheerful and not terrified like I obviously was, “let’s go for a walk.”It was worth a try, but he was an intelligent animal – he knew why he had been put in this room. He didn’t bark – instead he uttered a low growl, baring his teeth at me at the same time.I looked over at the window. Outside I could see the well-tended flowerbeds and the sycamore tree by the fence. I thought about making a dash for it and jumping through the window, but something told me that I’d never make it. If I’d made it to the window I’d have to smash my way through the thick glass, something that looked easy in the movies, but in reality would have slashed my body to ribbons. And even if I’d made it through the glass Derek would have been on me before I’d reached the end of the garden. So I just sat down and watched Derek as he watched me.That was three weeks ago. I’m tired. I haven’t slept – at least I don’t think I have. I know that I daren’t go to sleep. Lack of proper sleep and food and water is starting to affect my mind. Derek knows I’m feeling weak. I pee in the bucket that had the warm soapy water in it but that’s full and the pain in my kidneys is excruciating. Derek just squats down wherever he likes – his eyes never leave me for a second as he sits there straining one out. I won’t squat down in a corner like Derek – I like to think I still have some degree of civilization left in me. The only thing that’s kept me going is my belief in the resilience of my own humanity.That . . . and the flowers.I’ve kept myself alive by eating the flowers and drinking the water from the vases. By rationing myself I made the flowers last two and half weeks. I’ve still got a few drops of water left – it tastes bloody awful, but at least it keeps me going.
My pen is starting to run out, but I think one more scrap of wallpaper will do it.
Derek’s growling at me now. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty and he’s weak but he still has more strength than I have. We’ve spent the last three weeks trying to stare each other out, but Derek knows the balance has shifted and he is the leader of the pack in this room. I think he’s always known it. He looks more dangerous now than he’s ever looked and I know that it is time. I watch him lift himself up off the floor and shake the foam from his mouth and start walking towards me. His teeth are bared. His lips are drawn back in a grotesque mockery of a smile. I try and smile back at him, to reach some kind of compromise, but it’s a stupid and futile gesture because here, in this wallpapered room, only Derek has any good reason to smile.At least he knows where his next meal is coming from.
As Jim read Charles Smedley’s final sentence the lounge door opened and the large ugly dog that George Friteuse had seen in the barred room at the Hollybank Guest House stepped in. “Enjoy your final moments” laughed Mrs Smedley.
A few moments later they heard the engine of a car start up and the crunch of tyres on gravel. As they watched through the window they saw Mrs Smedley driving away with John Smith sat next to her. In the back seat was a well-dressed man, whom none of them recognised. They thought about who he might be until the growling of the huge ferocious dog stopped them in their tracks.
“Any ideas, anyone,” said George nervously.
“Ermmm . . .” replied Jim.
IS THIS THE END OF OUR HEROES?
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