Story by Emmjay
It was unlike Foodge to really tie one on. He has a reputation for being a Trotter’s Ale and lemonade kind of person. The reputation is well-earned.
This time, it would be fair to say, Foodge himself was well-oiled.
He rolled over without opening his eyes. Then he realised that a pair of ice cold feet was in contact with his own.
“Geezus, your feet are cold ! They’re sucking the life out of me”.
“What ?” said O’Hoo.
“Your feet ! They’re like blocks of bloody ice”, said Foodge.
“I don’t think so” said O’Hoo.
“They bloody ARE !” said Foodge.
“No, mate, there’s an alternative reality if you care to prise open your version of two cherries floating in a bowl of porridge”, said O’Hoo.
“I’ll give you a clue” said O’Hoo. “I’m over here and I’ve still got my boots on”.
“Oh no…..”. Foodge wasn’t sure whether he actually voiced this or whether Emmjay had put the message in a thought bubble. Foodge hoped he hadn’t actually said it.
“Good morning, Foodge” said a lilting voice, clearly pleased with herself.
A rush of something like a mix of terror and guilt coursed through Foodge’s brain.
“Good morning, Granny” said Foodge, keenly aware that there was going to be a lot of unexplainable material to put together to make sense of the previous evening’s events.
O’Hoo was in the happy position of being an innocent bystander – although standing he certainly wasn’t. He rolled out of the bed and already fully clothed in his service suit and shod with his regulation steelcaps, he made an unsteady trek towards the door and the bathroom down the hall, muttering something about breakfast. He closed the door with a ‘click’ that hung in the air like a fart that was released in the misbelief that the perpetrator was alone and the fart was silent. None out of two correct so far.
Foodge chanced a quick peek through an enraged eyelid. Granny was snuggling in with a sheet wrapped around what Foodge correctly guessed was the actual owner of the ice block feet.
The couple presented an awkward picture of self-satisfaction and apprehension.
“You were lovely last night, Foodge” said Granny.
“Was I ? ‘inquired Foodge, with a mix of incredulity and no idea what had happened after the long and inebriated recount of O’Hoo and V.O. Rouge’s disappearance. Foodge was desperately hoping that Granny was not going to elaborate. She was clearly waiting for some kind of reciprocal affirmation.
“You were lovely too” said Foodge, mustering a sheepish smile and a plausible impression of sincerity in the face of trenchant amnesia”.
“Would you like me to make you some breakfast ?” said Granny. Foodge nodded, despite this being a risky manoeuvre, given the delicate state of his consciousness.
“That would be lovely” said Foodge, finding a freshly minted and not yet overused compliment.
In the interest of discretion, Foodge closed his eyes again and Granny, draped in the sheet made her way to the shared bathroom, relieved to find that O’Hoo had already completed his ablutions and descended into the dining room.
Foodge was pretty sure he himself was naked, and had no recollection how he got that way or why. He felt around and the bedside table revealed a glass object similar in shape and weight to a mostly empty bottle of London Fog – the Pig’s Arms bathtub house gin. A clue, thought Foodge, master sleuth that he imagined himself to be.
While he was still in imagination mode, Foodge imagined a soft, but self-satisfied grin was tiptoeing across his boat race. And he imagined also that despite the epithet, Granny was a rather nurturing sort with soft hands and a surprisingly taught … Foodge hesitated …… body, he ventured to himself.
It’s not recorded whether Foodge actually had a clear idea about what the phrase “taught body” actually meant. He recalled a certain English teacher from his high school days, who, the more developed boys alleged, was a ‘real goer with a taught body’. Foodge had thought this referred to her profession and it never occurred to him that the other lads were more inclined to be describing her recreational interests.
Foodge wondered what O’Hoo knew that he himself didn’t remember. He opened one eye just enough to fix on the bedside table. He opened the drawer. There was a single book. It was about an inch and a half thick, red bound with a robust cover and a candle circumscribed by a circle in gold. Foodge opened the book. It appeared to be a bible published by the Gideons. There was writing on the frontice piece. It said “To Dear Foodge with love and best wishes from God”. The writing was curiously familiar. It reminded Foodge of the script he’s seen on scraps of paper transmitting delivery instructions from the kitchen to Manne.
At the foot of the bed Foodge’s brogues were neatly aligned with his argyle socks folded and inverted so all he had to do was insert his plates of meat and pull them up. On the chair by the window, his shirt was waiting, draped over the chesterfield’s ample arm. The coat was hung up.
The trousers were …… missing. “O’Hoo, the rat” though Foodge. The knock at the door was followed by the entrance of a radiant woman, perhaps just past her salad days, but clearly not over with the main course.
“I thought you might need these pressed” said Granny.
“Thank you, Ggg….. very much” Foodge corrected himself.
“You’re welcome, Darling Foodge” said Granny, pivoting on her heel and disappearing as suddenly as she had arrived.
Foodge showered and towelled himself up, not for the first time in the last 24 hours. He dressed and combed his still wet hair with his fingers, sighed deeply and descended the stairs into the hall next to the bar. The bar was quiet, save for Merv resurfacing the glassware with a fresh batch of his renowned home made bacteria. Foodge stepped into the bar.
“HEY !!! FOODGIE-boy!” roared the ambushing patrons, whopping and slapping Foodge on the back “Atta Boy !”
O’Hoo was sitting in one of the booths. He had the look of a man redolent with leaked information of a sensitive nature. O’Hoo looked at Foodge. He saw a famed sleuth joining the dots with the kind of fervour one might expect to precede violence. Not actual real violence. More like pantomime violence.
The piano player that the Pig’s Arms sometimes employed to jolly the place up and lend a kind of western barroom ambience was on stress leave, but if he had been there he would have either pulled up his sleeves and started playing a Scott Joplin rag. Or he would have fallen silent – the calm before the storm when somebody, for no fathomable reason would soon throw a chair across the bar and smash the mirror just after Merv had removed the rot gut corn liquor to a safer place under the counter.
Since the piano player was on stress leave, Emmjay chose to write the silent treatment.
Foodge strode slowly towards O’Hoo. There was a feint sound of
jingling spurs Emmjay erasing the spurs line. The formerly jovial patrons drew back – caution striking a brief victory over mayhem.
Foodge sat in O’Hoo’s booth. He motioned to Merv to pour them both a drink. Steel eyed, He never took his eyes off O’Hoo. A bead of sweat rolled off Merv’s nose. Merv sat two shot glasses on the table between Foodge and O’Hoo, next to O’Hoo’s pint of Trotter’s Ale.
“Make mine a Pimm’s number one Cup” said O’Hoo, dissolving into peels of laughter..
“Cut !” said Emmjay. “For fuck’s sake, HOO” said Emmjay, “Try to take this seriously”.
“Right” said O’Hoo taking a sip of his Trotter’s Ale and blasting it out both nostrils as he completely lost it.
Foodge could see that this was the start of a very long day coming.
Merv mopped up the spilt beer. A wave of unease rolled across the faces of the patrons.
“No, I’ll stay with this glass thanks, said Gez.