Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Audience Adventure - Day 3

“Off you go then.” Said Fiona, sweeping the last few bits of glitter off the fluffy red carpet.

“You don’t want me to help you close up?”

Fiona eyed the smashed snow globe in the dust pan and looked back to Emma. “I think you’ve done enough.”

Emma shrank inside her skin. “I’m… I’m not normally like this.” She said, and her voice sounded very thin, like it weighed very little.

“Aren’t you?” Said Fiona coolly, and went to empty the dust pan into the bin and finish the cashing up.

Emma stood in the middle of the empty shop floor feeling like a reprimanded school child. Her throat was constricting and for a panicked moment she thought she might be about to cry.

‘Absolutely not.’ She thought to herself, ‘No.’ Emma hadn’t cried since Primary School. Since the day Alistair Drummond had pinched the fat on the top of her arms and told her “girlfriends don’t have these”. That was the last time she had cried. Not because that had been particularly emotionally cauterising but, really, because she’d never been much of a cryer before that, and after that… well, once you’ve had someone fat shame you at 8 whilst also turning you down for a potential love interest AND pinching you, well, what could beat that? Certainly nothing that had since happened to Emma.

She headed into the little office cum staff room and gathered her jacket and bag to head back to the flat she was renting. The bell on the shop tinkled merrily as she exited and she turned to watch Fiona locking the door from the inside. Emma threw her a cheerful wave but Fiona just arched an eyebrow in response and returned to the till.
‘Best start looking for a new job.’ Thought Emma gloomily, it was a real shame because there was something ever so comforting about being in the Christmas shop. If it wasn’t for Fiona it would be perfect.

‘How does someone that aloof come to manage a shop that sells something as lovely as Christmas?’ Thought Emma as she idled slowly along the high street, not looking where she was going.

‘Perhaps she’s very repressed?’ Answered her other thoughts, ‘Perhaps Christmas is everything to her but she just can’t express it?’

‘Or perhaps this is her in a great mood and outside of the Christmas shop she’s an absolute raging bitch?!’

Emma was really beginning to think she preferred the latter voice in her thoughts and briefly wondered if she should try to think about naming the different thought streams for clarity.

‘You can’t,’ said one them, ‘you never really know which ones we are.’
‘Isn’t that schizophrenia?’ Asked the other.

She rounded a corner into The Crescent and the full weighty glory of the setting sun bounded into her eyes. It truly was a breathtaking bit of scenery - all the architectural majesty of Bath combined with Magic Hour lighting. When she’d been choosing a flat and moving here she’d naively assumed all of Bath looked like this, that she would be moving into a beautiful arc of townhouses and immediately being the sort of wonderful person who existed in a Paddington Bear film.

While Bath was generally more beautiful than the average town, she’d swiftly found that not all of it lived up to Crescent standards, and that applied with particular severity to the street she had chosen to live on. Her street was an absolutely banging mix of carefully chosen middle class dilapidation and genuinely gross. Her house, was one of the genuinely gross ones. On the outside, anyway. Inside she had done her best with the minimal funds available to her (and she cursed herself daily for not having had the foresight to save up a bit in case of eventual dropping everything and running across the country for a man who barely knew she existed).

She looked up to find her feet had faithfully traipsed her all the way back to the townhouse of which her flat made up the first floor. She looked up at the building and sighed, it was white and tall, and pretty in a dishevelled sort of way. If this building were a person it would be Tilda Swinton in an artists smock after a bottle of red wine. Emma didn’t really feel cool enough to live in it. She was a financial assistant from Reading with -

Was a financial assistant.’ She reminded herself in that thought voice that was definitely bullying her from the inside.

‘Yes, yes: was.’ She sighed back and hopped up the three steps to the front door hoping that in the short time she had been away someone had installed a lift. Of course there wouldn’t be one, and it wasn’t an enormous flight of stairs up to her own flat, but wouldn’t that be a turn up for the books to not have to get out of breath?

She put the key in the lock and opened the front door, thumbing through the letters on the side table to see if there was anything for her flat.

‘How could there be, you’ve only lived here a week?’ She reminded herself.
‘And you’ve been too embarrassed to tell most people that you’ve moved here.’ Came the unkind thought right on cue.

“I’m not embarrassed.” She said out loud, and then instantly reddened and peered around the stairs to check that none of her neighbours was in the foyer and had heard her.

‘I am now.’ She admitted cerebrally, and padded up the stairs. As she put the key to her flat door into the lock the door swung open in front of her.

‘Oh bollocks you stupid cow you’ve left the door open and been burgled.’ She thought in alarm.

‘It could be just one or the other?’ She interjected hopefully.

“Well either way it’s not good.” She muttered out loud, feeling increasingly like she was somehow babysitting her thoughts rather than just having them.

‘Shhhhhh,’ she thought hysterically, ‘They might still be in here.”

Emma tucked her keys between her fingers and moved cautiously into the flat. Her right foot swivelled slightly on the welcome mat as she made her way into the gloomy hall. She kept her eyes on the doorway to the living room. A few steps into the hall she sniffed, something smelt awfully unpleasant. She craned her neck around the door frame but the living room was empty.

As she lifted her foot to turn and check the kitchen the awful smell hit her full front in both nostrils. It smelt absolutely rancid, she thought probably dog mess and whizzed back to check whether the window in the living room had been open. Although, how any dog could produce a turd that smelled strong enough to be this awful from outside and a floor down she didn’t know. That was a dog with a diet worse than her own - which was really saying something. The living window was closed but the smell was overpowering, she walked to the kitchen but the smell didn’t diminish, in fact, it seemed to be staying just as strong wherever she went…

With an awful sinking feeling she looked down at the hall floorboards and saw a horrifyingly regular brown smear making it’s way in single footprints down the hall.

“What the hell?” She shouted into the silence. It hadn’t smelt in the hallway, had it? She crossed her right leg over her left knee and hastily removed the stinking shoe. Carefully, watching where she stepped, she padded back down her hallway, retracing her shitty steps to place her shoe outside the flat. When she reached the door she, for the first time in her life, genuinely could not believe her eyes. Not believing ones eyes was a thing she had read about before and not really believed was a thing; if something was in front of you then you knew it was there, you couldn’t not believe what you could see. But stood there in the hall carrying her favourite patent leather ballet pump she really couldn’t believe that she was looking at an enormous, very squashed dog turd lying squarely in the middle of her welcome mat.
“What the fuck?” She questioned the shit as it lollopped on the brown hessian. “Where the fuck have you come from?”

Just then there was the sound of a dog barking from somewhere down the hall. “Why?” She said instinctively, dropping the shoe and moving as quickly as the shit strewn hallway would allow towards the kitchen, where, sitting up on one of her pristine kitchen counters was a dog.

“Of course there’s a dog.” She said out loud, but not to the offending dog, talking to herself just seemed to be something she was developing now that she was a crazy person who lived in Bath. “Why wouldn’t there be a dog?”

She and the dog eyed each other warily. The dog barked again.

“But why are you here, though?” She asked it. “Did you open the door?”

‘Fucking hell, Emma,” she immediately thought scolded, “of course it didn’t open the door.’

‘It might be a burglars scout dog? Or the sentry dog?’

‘And it leaves a poo on the door mat as a warning?’

‘Like the wet bandits?’

“Stop thinking about Home Alone.” She said, and the dog cocked its head to one side suspiciously. “Ok, so on the plus side I now know where the turd has come from, but on the minus side I now have a turd AND a dog to deal with.”

The smell of the poo from the hallway was becoming really quite bothersome so Emma decided to deal with that before anything else, just in case the dog got skittish and went running, thus, dragging the poop through more of her new, and more importantly security deposited, flat.

She made her way back down the hall, the dog barking again as she left the kitchen, and was just bent over the hall mat to lift the mess and the messy shoe and take them down to the bins when the door came flying open, hitting her hard on to the top of the head, barrelling the mat, shoe and shit into her jumper and knocking her backwards onto the floor.

“Elliot!” Shouted the man now coming forcefully through the door, “Oh!” He shouted, upon catching sight of the flailing Emma lying prone on the floor. Emma scrabbled to flick the offending welcome mat, which was actually very far from welcoming at the moment, off herself and sent it and gobbits of stinking dog mousse at the stranger.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry,” said the man, getting to grips with the scene in front of him and coming alive to act, “Are you ok?” He started to offer a hand to help Emma up and then seemed to notice the smell and the crap and think better of it.

“Not really.” Said Emma, honestly. “Have you lost a dog?”

Right on cue the dog, Elliot - Emma assumed, came barrelling down the hall and barked happily at the man standing in Emma’s hallway.

“Elliot!” The man cried, “There you are!” He turned to Emma, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know how he got in here.”

“I might have left my door open,” Emma admitted, pulling herself up to sitting and wondering whether or not to rub her sore head or wait until she was absolutely sure she wasn’t going to be rubbing dog mess into her hair. “I came home to find… him? Her? Here.”

“Him.” Said the man. “God, I’m so sorry. I assume, um, this is his…?” He gesticulated lamely at the smell and dog deposit and Emma stared at him agape. Who on the planet would need to ask that question?

“Well, yes, it’s his.” She said, managing to refrain from adding, “I haven’t been shitting in my own hallway this afternoon.”

“Well I am so sorry. I’m so sorry. My name’s Jack, I live upstairs. With Elliot. When he’s not here. I am so sorry. I don’t really know what to do.” He looked at Emma helplessly.

“Me neither.” She replied from her crumpled position against the wall, and she really truly didn’t.

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