Can you see me now?
“And now on BBC 1 it’s over to television studios in Birmingham for another lively debate with ‘Madigan’. Today’s programme contains a frank discussion about the devastating effects of haemorrhoids, that some viewers may find distressing.”
Casy switched off the TV and plugged in the vacuum cleaner. He liked housework. It helped relieve the stress and boredom of being stuck in at home all day. Usually, he ‘d give the living room a quick going over and then work his way through the hall into the bedroom. And then when he was all done, he’d reward himself with a large bowl of Hi Bran and grab another quick squint at the wonderful world of daytime TV.
But today, Casy was struggling. The vacuum cleaner felt heavy in his arms and he could barely push it through the shag pile in the bedroom. He hadn’t been sleeping well lately and the restless nights were beginning to take their toll. A couple of pints and a swift half would usually send him off like a baby, but now nothing seemed to work. He turned off the cleaner and slumped down on the bed.
‘Aye, that’s right. Go to sleep now ya bampot.’
He forced himself up and went into the bathroom, and running a deep bath, he stripped off and slipped into the warm water. For a while, he just lay there and let his mind empty. All the fuss and the fury of the last four months seemed to melt away in the water. He had attempted to rid the flat of all sensory reminders of his ex, but it had been no easy task. The charity shops had been very grateful and the supermarket was falling over itself to supply him with any number of cleaners, scourers, sprays and deodorizers, but somehow her memory still lingered. He had contemplated redecorating but then concluded that any residue was probably in his mind. No disinfectant could get to that. After his bath, he had a quick shave and brushed his teeth. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. Despite the warm flush from the hot water, he looked old today. The lines on his face cut deeper than usual and his eyes appeared hollow and lifeless. He got dressed and went in search of some more Hi Bran.
After breakfast, he went out to replenish his cigarette supply and buy a paper. Duke Street was abuzz with activity, and feeling a little disorientated, he tried to focus on getting to the shop and back as quickly as possible. But on the way, he bumped into Big Shaz, the local lunatic. Shaz was what you’d call a compulsive liar, Not only had this enabled him to stay on the brew for over 10 years but it had left him with no wife, no family and no friends, except Casy, of course.
‘Of all the fucking people,’ Casy muttered as Shaz approached. Shaz greeted him with a gob and immediately started on about some job goin’ at the abattoir. Shaz was a manic bastard at the best of times but today he seemed out of control. He was probably off on one already and Casy couldn’t handle it. He just nodded and pretended to be listening. But as soon as Shaz was gone, all Casy could remember was something about cutting throats and chainsaws, and the sound of Shaz’z jaw clicking. When he got back to the flat, he shut the door and put the security chain on.
It was getting close to lunchtime, so he opened a tin of beans and put the kettle on. When it was ready, he settled down in front of the TV for the first of the day’s adventures in Antipodean soapland. After Brad and Ken had finally declared their unrequited love for each other and the Barbie competition winners had been announced, Casy hit the remote and checked out the form on Channel Four Racing. And just as he was contemplating a small wager on Bananarama in the 3.30 at Haydock, the door bell went.
‘Who the hell is that? not bloody Shaz, please’ he thought.
He wasn’t expecting anyone. It couldn’t be Sheryl because she was in Tenerife with her new fella, and it definitely wasn’t the Pools man because he comes on a Friday night. He thought about ignoring it but then it sounded again, this time with more urgency.
‘Oh for Christ sake,’ he sighed and got up to answer it.
In the doorway, there was a small frail looking man in his fifties. He was carrying an oversized holdall that made him look even smaller. At first, Casy just stood there and stared at him. Finally, he cleared his throat and said, ‘What do you want?’
The wee man put his holdall down and reached into his donkey jacket pocket. Casy pulled back slightly, expecting the worst.
‘Please let me introduce myself. My name is Bob Mac Mullen, I am in the security business.’ He held out what appeared to be a business card. Casy had a quick look. It was one of those cheap deals you get out of machines at petrol stations and post offices. It read,
Robert D. MacMullen
I –Spy Home Securities
“for all your home security needs”
Casy tried not to smile. ‘I’m no interested, whatever it is.’
The man hesitated and then continued his sales pitch. ‘Do you know that the number of burglaries in this area alone has increased by forty five percent in the last three –sorry two, I mean three months. That’s right on your doorstep. Even as I speak, somebody’s house in the East End is getting done over.’ There was a hint of panic in his voice and Casy couldn’t tell if the man was paranoid or poverty stricken. Whatever it was, he began to feel sorry for him.
‘I’m afraid I don’t need any alarms or security bolts for my windows, I’ve got them already.’ he lied.
‘Oh no Mr eh-’ the man paused and waited for Casy to fill in the gap but Casy said nothing. The man continued. ‘I’m not selling alarms or anything expensive like that.’
‘Well, I know you are selling something. Whits it tae be, double glazing, insurance, roadside rescue, smoke alarms, two for one meal offers at harvester, drugs?’
The man giggled.
‘Oh no, I would like to introduce you to one of the cheapest and most effective home security devices on the market.’
‘A dug- have ye got a dug in that bag?’
‘The 180 degree spy-hole.’ Reaching down, he quickly unzipped his holdall and pulled out a small glass object that looked like a false eye. He handed Casy the device.
‘For only £3.00 you can protect your home against intrusion – day or night.’
‘Whit… ye mean like now?’ Casy quipped.
The man tried to ignore him.‘-and the purchase does include free installation.’
‘What does somebody come and fit it?’
‘Oh no, I can do that for you at point of sale.’ Casy glanced down at the bag, He was probably somebody just like him, he thought, some poor sod trying to earn an honest crust.
‘OK.- sold tae the sucker at the door.’
The man beamed and stepped inside the flat.
‘You have made the right decision Mr-?’
‘Call me Casy.’
‘Mr Casy – You can’t be too careful these days.’
He dropped the bag on the floor and removed a large drill. It was one of those industrial jobs builders use for heavy masonry work, probably nicked from a site.
‘My that’s a big one,’ Casy joked. ‘-are you sure it’s no going to damage ma door?’
‘Don’t you worry Mr Casy, I have all the correct attachments in my bag.’ Casy tried again to conceal a grin.
‘Would you like a cup of tea, Bob?’
‘That would be smashin’. Four sugars and plenty of milk, and could I bother you for a couple of biscuits – oh and a mains socket for ma drill?’
When Casy got to the kitchen, the drilling started. First it was quiet, just the odd wee spurt, but then it escalated into an all out assault on his skull. It was so loud he thought he was going to pass out. He did his best to make the tea, the murky brown liquid threatening to shake out of the mug. When he returned, the wee man was nearly through to the other side of the door. He was battling hard against the drill and his head and arms were shaking in time with the revolutions of the bit.
‘Ah think ma head might be blunt!’ he shouted.
Casy nodded and turned away, now able to laugh freely without fear of being heard. Finally, he made it through. He put the drill down and popped the glass eye into the new socket he had just gouged out of the door.
‘There we are.’ he said, proud as punch with beads of sweat trickling down his forehead.
‘Now sir, if I could have your help for just one minute.’
He took a sip of tea and a bite of a digestive, and then stepped out onto the close stairs.
‘Now if you could just shut the door.’
‘Shut the door, If you don’t mind.’
Casy closed the door and waited for the next instruction.
‘If you would like to have a look through your new spy-hole and tell me if you can see me.’
‘What was that?’
H-A-V-E A L-O-O-K T-H-R-O-U-GH! He mouthed the words with the precision and expertise of a deaf mute.
Casy stooped down to look through the aperture.
‘C-A-N- Y-O-U S-E-E M-E?’ The man was standing directly in front of the door.
‘Yes, I can.’ Casy chuckled. Through the lens, the man’s face resembled a badly deformed trout. The man stepped back and stood across the landing beside the door opposite.
‘C-A-N- Y-O-U S-E-E M-E, N-O-W?’
‘Yes, I can.’
Then, suddenly he jumped forward to the top of the stairs, adjacent to Casy’s door.
‘AND WHAT ABOUT NOW?’ His voice reverberated up and down the close.
He bobbed his head back and forth, and left to right.
‘YES,’ Casy shouted.
Finally, he disappeared completely.
‘And what about now?’
‘No, you are definitely not visible- wherever you are?’ Casy said with a hint of pantomime twang.
‘No I can’t see you now,’ he repeated, ‘are you still there?’
He opened the door. The man had crouched down right under the spy-hole.
‘Boo,’ he said, loudly.’ Casy jumped back with surprise.
‘Just a wee joke there,’ he smiled. ‘So do you think it was a good investment?’
‘Oh yes, I wouldn’t feel safe without one now.’
And so the man packed up his gear, finished off his tea and thanked Casy for his custom. Then he was off up the stairs in search of his next sale.
‘I can see you!’ Casy shouted after him, and he heard the man yelp with laughter. Later on, after he’d finally finished cleaning the bathroom, Casy had another look at his new low cost security device. And as he leaned in and squinted through the spyhole, he realised that there was no fish eye effect on his view outside. Raising his hand, he pushed his finger back and forth through the empty socket.
“The scamming bastard!” he cursed, and running through to the living room he searched the street below until he finally spotted Mc Mullen and his over-sized bag disappearing into the off licence on the corner.
“Home security my arse.” He shook his head in dismay, and wearily, he returned to the hall to dig out his tool box, buried beneath a pile of his ex’s belongings at the back of the hoover cupboard.