by Robin Wrigley
‘What now Ted you really are becoming quite tiresome with your whining you know, don’t you?’ Ever since lockdown started their conversations began more like petty arguments conducted between Edward’s study and the kitchen.
‘That pair in number twenty-one haven’t paid their bloody rent again.’
‘What’s the date?’
‘It’s the fifth already and this is the second time they’ve been late in a row.’
‘Well give them a call. They probably just forgot. You know what they’re like. To be honest I’m amazed they’ve stayed this long.’
‘I did naturally, several times and there is no reply.’
‘Now that doesn’t surprise me,’ Lillian had joined him in the study doorway wiping her hands on a tea-towel. ‘I hope they haven’t done a moon-lighter. That’s all we need, to lose a thousand quid at this time, not to mention the problem of finding new tenants. I’ll make a cup of tea and we’d better go round there, and by the way.’
‘What?’ Ted looked up trying his best to keep his temper under control.
‘Do try and remember to take the key when we go darling,’ she said over her shoulder on her way back to the kitchen.
‘Course you never forget anything, do you, little Miss perfect?’ he muttered under his breath at the computer screen.
‘I heard that.’
Later that afternoon, having drunk their afternoon tea and Edward had dunked his two allotted digestive biscuits, (never enough as far as he was concerned but none the less Lillian religiously limited him to just two fearing he was putting on weight), they put on their coats and went outside to their car.
It was only a fifteen-minute drive to the cottage they had rented out ever since they inherited it from Lillian’s parents when her mother died. It was a pretty little cottage sitting quite isolated up a short track on the edge of a wood on one side and open farmland on the other.
The place looked eerily quiet and the curtains were still drawn even though it was only the middle of the afternoon. Having wrestled with the garden gate and walked up to front door Edward commented quietly to his wife that they would have to mention the state of the front garden again.
‘Bloody untidy isn’t it?’ he hissed hoping they might hear via the upstairs bedroom window which was wide open as he rang the doorbell with his latex-gloved finger. Having waited a reasonable amount of time he rang it again.
‘Don’t think they can be in,’ he turned and said to his Lillian, ‘so I think we’d better go in,’ retrieving the door key from his jacket pocket and inserting it into the lock he opened the door.
‘Anyone home? Freddie? Laura? It’s only us, Mr and Mrs Jackson.’ His request was met with silence.
‘Jesus, it stinks in here Lil, more than it ever did before. I don’t know what the heck they’ve been doing in here.’ They both walked into the lounge and started to look around. The couple had never been very tidy and today it looked no different. Fred and Laura Jackson were an old couple who had sold their flat in the town and rented the house because they wanted to be in the country, or so they said.
‘You’re right Ted it is a bloody awful smell,’ Lillian said while pulling a mask out of her pocket and clipping it in place. ‘I’d suggest you put yours on too Ted,’ which he promptly did even though always with great reluctance.
Leaving the front door open they carried on into the kitchen which again was very untidy with unwashed plates and cutlery in the sink. They both looked out of the rear window over the sink into the garden. The grass was overgrown and a several old towels were hanging on the washing line.
‘This pair are no better than those new-age travellers we're plagued with every summer Lil,’ Edward turned away from the window and started back into the lounge.
‘C’mon let’s get on upstairs. Hello! Anyone up there Freddie? Laura? It’s Mr Jackson, I’m coming up.’
As the couple advanced up the stairs he turned to Lillian and gasped, ’God the stink is even worse up here Lil, like a rat crawled up here and died.’
Reaching the top of the stairs Edward tapped on the front bedroom door and gingerly opened it. He put his head around the door, gasped and instantly pulled it shut behind him.
‘Go back down Lil for Christ sake.’ He started to turn and face his wife. ‘Go on, quickly for pity’s sake Lil.’
‘Why? What’s wrong?
‘Just get down and get that back door open, quickly unless you want me to throw up over you.’
Once they were both outside in the garden Edward ripped his mask off and wretched. 'They’ve only gone and croaked it Lil. The pair are still in bed dead as dodos, have been for several days as far as I can see.’
Lillian searched into her pocket and pulled out her mobile phone and started to open it.
‘What are you doing now Lil?’
‘Phoning the police of course. We have to report this straight away Ted.’ She looked at her husband with a quizzical look on her face. ‘Don’t you agree?
‘Whoa, whoa girl just hold your horses. We’ve got to think this one out before we jump to any hasty actions that we might regret later.’
‘What on earth do you mean? Don’t start one of your games Ted. I know what your mind is like and I wouldn’t mind a quid for every time one of your hair-brained schemes landed us either in debt or worse.’
‘Look Lillian if we involve the police and the health authorities who will be close on their heels you can kiss six month’s rent goodbye on this place my darling. Mark my words.’
‘You can’t be serious Edward. ’ It was quite interesting how when contentious issues surfaced the pair always addressed each other with full unabbreviated Christian names.
‘I’m not saying that it is the way we will end up going but I’m sure as hell not going to invite policemen plod in here to mess up our retirement pension without some serious consideration.’
Lillian sat down on one of the garden chairs and went into deep concentration chewing on the corner of the phone, an unfortunate habit of hers.
‘Yes, you do have a point. Those health and safety blokes probably would tie us up forever the way they go about things darling.’ Lillian was being manoeuvred around to Edward’s way of thinking which usually required some flattery and the odd endearment.
‘C’mon, Lil, let’s get this stink-hole locked up and go home for another cuppa. We have got a lot of planning to do if we are going to get rid of this pair and get this re-let.
About the author
Robin is a regular contributor to CafeLit both on line and in the published annual anthologies. He is a member of the Wimborne Writers’ Group
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