Marion put her key in the lock, ruefully thinking of Mickey Flanagan. She wasn’t sure whether she like the comedian or not, but she had been tickled by the ‘out out’ sketch that her daughter had shown her on YouTube. It was perfectly apt for this moment. She hadn’t meant to go ‘out out’, she had only popped out to take Phyllida, a couple of books and magazine articles, and then one thing had led to another. Phyllida could be a bad influence like that. They’d had a very lovely, spontaneous ‘ladies wot lunch’ kind of day. She’d felt slightly guilty at leaving the newly retired Michael at home all day on his own, but she had texted to say that she and Phyllida were going in to town, and it wasn’t as though he couldn’t look after himself. He’d probably just frittered the day away reading the paper and pottering around the garden.
She pushed the door open, and gave an involuntary gasp. Had there been an explosion? Had they been burgled? Both?…Oh! Was Michael alright? If there was a burglar, they might still be there. Should she call the police?
Some details began to emerge from the mess: there was a certain pattern to things, it wasn’t just that coats and shoes and hats and scarves had been scattered everywhere. Like some kind of magic-eye puzzle, she suddenly took in the form of a giant laid out on the hall floor. Had Michael gone potty? She’d only been out for a day – what was the rest of his retirement going to be like?
She picked her way gingerly through the detritus to the living room. For some reason the door was closed. The door to the living room was never closed. Curiouser and curiouser. She tried to push the door open carefully, but something seemed to be behind it; she pushed more forcefully and whatever was behind the door moved, grudgingly, out of the way. If she’d thought the hall was a scene of devastation, the living room was a set from some disaster movie, one which involved an aeroplane, a radioactive monster, an erupting volcano and a hurricane. Thankfully, the tidal wave seemed to have been omitted.
The order emerged from the chaos and she realised that whilst all the books were scattered around, they were also the outer fortifications of a blanket fort. All the toys in the box that they kept for the grandchildren were scattered around, although various stuffed toys were set up for a tea party, and the cars had been neatly parked up. She came into the room and looking round the door she found that Michael was fast asleep on the sofa with a book spread-eagled on his chest. Archie and Amelia were snuggled up into him, angelic (if slightly dribbly) in repose.
Marion left them to it and went to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.
“Oh my God!”
Later, after the children had gone home, Marion helped Michael put everything to rights, and she heard the whole story. Not particularly coherently, to be sure, but all the essential details were there and she could piece it back together. Shortly after Marion had gone to Phyllida’s, their daughter had arrived in a bit of flap: an emergency, she’d hoped Mum would look after the grandchildren for a couple of hours, but… No, no, Michael had assured his daughter, Mum’s only popped out, she’ll be back soon, I can cope until she gets back. Except of course she’d gone out out and things had got out of hand. The twins…well, if it wasn’t one it was the other – and frequently it was both. They’d run rings around their grandfather, and being new to this game – some unexpected babysitting – he’d let them. Hopefully lesson learned for next time, although Marion wasn’t hopeful.
“But why didn’t you ring or text me or something when I said that Phyllida and I were going into town?”
“Well at that point I thought that Judith was only leaving them here for a couple of hours, and I didn’t want to disturb you. How was I to know that they’d end up here all day? Anyway, we coped.”
“Coped! Have you seen the state of the house? And I still don’t know why the kitchen looks like a bomb hit it if you only made them beans on toast for lunch.”
Michael, seeing the hole, wisely decided to keep quiet and stop digging. Marion thought that Mickey Flanagan was playing nearby soon. Perhaps she should get some tickets and go with Phyllida – they could have a laugh about Michael’s misadventure over pre-drinks.
© David Jesson, 2018
NB: If you’d like to see Mickey Flanagan in action, you can find the YouTube video that Judith probably showed Marion here. I don’t know what the rest of his stuff is like, but this set conforms to the norms we try to maintain here at FCBF.