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Mr Scrubbly couldn’t find his glasses. He looked and looked and looked, and kept on looking but still couldn’t find them. He looked on the table by the side of his bed, and they weren’t there. He looked under the bed, and they weren’t there either. He even asked Mrs Grubbly if she could see them on his face.
“Am I wearing my spectacles?” he asked. Mrs Grubbly examined each of his eyes very closely with a serious look on own her face. Then she laughed.
“Don’t be a silly old billy!” she laughed. “If they were on your face you could feel them with your hand,” she said. Mr Scrubbly felt his face and they weren’t there. Even though he knew that she was right, and he was a silly old billy, he didn’t want to let her win.
“Not necessarily,” he said mysteriously, and left it at that.
Mrs Grubbly thought he was the silliest old billy she had ever known, but didn’t say so. And then she thought it would be a good joke to say that Mr Scrubbly was making a spectacle of himself. She was about to say it when she stopped herself because his sensibilities might get hurt.
Mr Scrubbly began to think that Mrs Grubbly might getting up to her old tricks again, so he went upstairs to the bathroom secretly and looked into the mirror to make doubly sure he wasn’t wearing his glasses. He looked and looked, and even though it was hard to see without his glasses, he knew that they weren’t there. He was a silly old billy all right, but a silly old billy with hurt sensibilities.
Mr Scrubbly searched the house high and low and everywhere for his glasses. He searched the nooks and crannies, and all the cubby-holes, he searched in cracks and under things. It was a hard job with everything higgeldy-piggeldy, topsy-turvey and all over the place, and what with Mrs Grubbly’s bits and bobs and who-knows-what lying here and there, so you couldn’t see for all the stuff, especially without his glasses.
He put his hand right down the back of the sofa until his knuckles went white and his hand went red. He put it so far down that it hurt and swelled up. He put it down even further. And then, with one final shove, he put it down so far it got stuck and he couldn’t get it out it was so swollen. So swollen and stuck, he thought he might have to call the fire brigade. But he couldn’t reach the telephone and didn’t want Mrs Grubbly to know. He remembered all the embarrassment the last time it happened, when he thought he’d lost his very important Vice Chairman of Nether Ditchwood Elvis Presley Musical Appreciation Society badge. And what a to-do that had been with the siren making such a mighty racket so all the neighbours came out to see the big red fire engine with all its flashing lights.
And even when the firemen did come. After breaking down the front door, he had only just painted a month ago (would you believe?) with their axes, they told him the badge was pinned to his jacket lapel. To top it all they said the only way they could get his hand out was to chop up the sofa with their axes as well. Or chop off his hand at the wrist. After thinking for a minute or two Mr Scrubbly said there would be no more chopping round here today. And then they told him it was a joke. So one fireman telephoned for an ambulance. Mr Scrubbly told him to put a ten-pence piece in the box by the phone, if it was a local call, and a twenty-pence piece if it was further away. But none of the firemen had any change. Mr Scrubbly grumbled that they were supposed to be prepared for emergencies, and he would send a bill to the fire department, if they kindly wrote the address in clear letters on the notepad next to the telephone, which was specially put there for such occurrences.
When the ambulance came there was even more of a to-do with more sirens and flashing lights, so that the neighbours from the next street came to stare. The ambulance man told him the best thing would be to wait a couple of hours till the swelling went down, and then pull his hand out. Mr Grubbly got very red and cross because he would miss the six o’ clock news on the telly. The Prime Minister might be on, or even the Queen. With his bottom up in the air, facing the screen, it could easily cause a rumpus all over the village if anyone peeked through the window. Especially, Mr Slivvery the ratcatcher, He was the sort of nosey parker, who always peeked through windows to try and catch Mrs Grubbly in her voluminous knickers. Raising your bottom at the Queen was very disrespectful and probably unlawful. Even if it was only her face on the telly. Mr Grubbly shouted out loud that having his hand extracted from down the back of the sofa was what he paid his taxes for, and even said he was going to write a letter to the Queen on his typewriter as soon as his hand got better. Without mentioning the bit about his bottom, of course. But he couldn’t really, because the ‘Q’ wouldn’t function properly, ever since Mrs Grubbly spilt some thick, hot gravy down in the workings, which had congealed, and was now too stubborn to remove.
And then said he was sorry. So the ambulance man forgave him and put the plastic Sunday tablecloth, with the flowery border, over the telly screen to calm him, and asked if he would like an aspirin. Mr Grubbly didn’t want the telly turned off just in case somebody important said something important. But said he didn’t mind just listening to the sound for just that once. And then he said, no, he wouldn’t like an aspirin.
Mr Scrubbly didn’t want to cause a brouha like that again with all the racket of the sirens and flashing lights, let alone have his new front door chopped down, he decided to wait a couple of hours until the swelling went down. He reluctantly called out for Mrs Grubbly to make him a pot of tea.
“Lordy, lordy,” Mrs Grubbly tittered, “You’ve only gone and done it again! I’ll have to call the fireman’s bridge aid.” She was ambling cheerfully across to the telephone when Mr Scrubbly shouted out:
“No, don’t do that! Whatever you do.”
“Why on earth not?” smiled Mrs Grubbly, even though she really knew. “They can chop the door down again and telphone the ambulance, man. I like him. He reminds me of Mr Slivvery.”
Mr Scrubbly had to put on his thinking cap.
“No, don’t do that because I don’t want you to waste the ten-pence piece you’ll have to put in the box by the telephone, if it’s a local call, and twenty-pence if it’s outside the area.”
“I don’t mind if it’s an emergent testy,” Mrs Grubbly said, “Besides I’d like to see the ambulance man that looks like Mr Slivvery again.”
“We don’t want him round here with all his bandages and antiseptic,” Mr Grubbly protested. “Just be a petal, put the kettle on and make a nice pot of tea. I can hold the cup with my left hand, because I took the safety precaution of not putting that one down there.”
“All right,” said Mrs Grubbly, “but you can’t switch the telly on, just in case the Prime mysterious or the Queen comes on to say something important, and your bottom is facing the screen. Besides, your can’t reach the knob with hand down the back of the sofa. And that reminds me, can you fiddle about with your fingers to see if the knob to my old transistor radio is down there?”
Whe the swelling had gone down and Mr Scrubbly could pull his hand out, he hadn’t found his glasses, or Mrs Grubbly’s knob, but he did find the one and sixpence ha’penny in old money that he lost in 1965. And he also found a pink plastic comb with some teeth missing along with lots of fluff and hair and breadcrumbs. He put the fluff and the hair and the breadcrumbs back.
“Look at this,” he said to Mrs Grubbly. “I’ve found the one and sixpence ha’penny I thought was in the grey trousers you sent to the cleaners in 1965. To think I thought that the cleaning lady had nicked it.”
“What’s one and sixpence ha’penny when it’s at home?” Mrs Grubbly asked.
“Don’t you remember the old money before decimalisation?” he asked.
“Is that when they changed the railways?” Mrs Grubbly chuckled like strawberries with lashings of cream.
“Don’t you remember anything?” Mr Scrubbly asked.
“I don’t remember silly old billy things like dustbinisation,” Mrs Grubbly grinned.
“Not dustbinisation,” Mr Scrubbly said, “Decimalisation, when everything went metric.”
“I remember that,” Mrs Grubbly said, “Decrimblisiation,It was because of the emelectric, you couldn’t get a loaf of bread anywhere, and the telly and the lights wouldn’t work.”
“What are you going on about?” Mr Scrubbly asked. “I’m talking about metrication.”
“Meflication, Mellycation, Jellycation, I know you are, it’s when the tube trains went on strike in London, and you couldn’t get on the buses for the crowds. I heard it on my transistor radio. That was when it still had a knob so I could turn it on.”
“You’ve got a memory as bad as a sieve with holes in it,” Mr Scrubbly said. “And I mean big holes that come from constant overusage.”
“Well at least I can remember where I put things last night,” Mrs Grubbly said.
“What things?” Mr Scrubbly asked absent-mindedly. He was thinking he should go to the cleaners to apologise. He hadn’t been there ever since October the 22nd 1965 when the one and sixpence ha’penny had gone missing. He had used the other cleaners on the far side of Nether Ditchwood even though it was very inconvenient. Or was it October the 21st? He’d have to look at the receipt he kept in a shoe box on top of the wardrobe. He always knew it’d come in handy one day. And he was right.
Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming
Une fois. Encore.
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