CH TWO 23
After a hectic night delivering trays of tomatoes to most of the London markets and loading up with peaches in the docks Scotty is ready for his bed. The children are at school, all except Janet who is on a coach with the rest of her English Literature set on the way to Stratford-Upon-Avon for a few days of culture. Dawn and Mavis are out somewhere so he hasn’t bothered to wash before pulling the covers up over his shoulder and falling into a deep sleep.
Next door at the Smith’s house the council repair men have finished their second tea break of the day and resumed work clearing away the debris from the recent ceiling collapse. This inevitably involves a good deal of noise, which wakes Scotty from his slumber. Sunshine is piercing the gap between the fibreglass curtains, dazzling his eyes as he blearily squints at the alarm clock and realises he has slept for less than an hour. He turns over, pulls the covers around him and does his best to get off again as the scraping of shovels on concrete from next door irritates him more and more.
He drags himself out of bed and tries his luck in the boys’ room which does not adjoin the Smiths’ but he can still hear every shovel full going into the buckets, every crash as the buckets are emptied into the skip, every cuss and shout from the workers as they go about their task. He gives up, takes a bath and gets dressed. Maybe a cup of tea and a sandwich will make him feel better. He opens the fridge to find it is almost empty. A dribble of milk just enough for his mug of tea, one triangle of Dairylea which he spreads over a toasted crust, the only bread in the house and the remains of a blancmange left over from yesterday’s tea. A fine repast indeed and it does nothing to lift his gloomy mood.
At least the newspaper is still there and he settles in his grubby chair by the fireside to read it. The noise from next door ceases as the workers break for their lunch and Scotty suddenly has an amusing idea. He giggles to himself as he puts his plan into action. He’ll teach them; waking him up like that with their racket.
Dawn and Mavis arrive laden down with bags of groceries. ‘You haven’t slept long,’ Dawn observes, it being only half past twelve, ‘aren’t you tired?’ Scotty explains about the workers next door. ‘Do you want something to eat?’ She offers, ‘there’s not much in the fridge so we’ve been to the supermarket.’ Scotty explains that he has had a lunch of sorts and he really wants to get some shut-eye before tonight. ‘You can pop round to my place if you like,’ offers Mavis, but he declines saying he would rather try his own bed again.
The women try to be quiet as Scotty goes back to bed, staying in the kitchen with the hall door closed. The workers start up again after their lunch but Scotty isn’t tired now. He is up in the communal loft tinkering about.
Mavis is hanging a load of laundry on the line when one of the workers calls over the fence. ‘So what happened here?’ He asks, ‘it’s a right mess.’ Mavis is always up for a bit of gossip and tells the man that Lawrence had been trying to knock the two rooms into one without putting in a supporting beam. The man asks if there is anyone still in the house but she says of course there isn’t. ‘Only we keep hearing these odd noises,’ he explains, ‘we can’t make out where they’re coming from. They don’t have a ghost do they?’ Mavis laughs at the suggestion but she is itching to know more. ‘I’ll come round if you want, maybe I can work out what the noise is.’
Jumping on the excuse to have a nosy round the Smith’s house Mavis tells her daughter what is happening then scurries down the front path and along to investigate the mysterious noises. The workmen take her arrival as excuse for another tea break and she tours the dusty rooms, stopping in each to ‘sense the vibrations’ before moving to the next. As she accepts a cup of tea from the men she explains that she is ‘a bit psychic’ and has detected ‘a presence’ in the house. As they stand in the kitchen sipping their tea a scraping noise can be heard coming from upstairs. They exchange glances, put their cups down and head off to see what is happening.
The noise ceases as they reach the top of the stairs then starts up again as they turn into the main bedroom. ‘It’s coming from the bathroom,’ says the older of the men, and they follow him into the small room, but the noise has stopped again. ‘What is it? Sounds like something scraping against a water pipe,’ says the younger man. ‘That’s probably what it is,’ agrees his colleague, ‘there’s vermin up in the attic. We’d better go up and investigate.’ The younger man steps out onto the landing, ‘I’m not going up there, you can go if you want.’
They are still debating the merits of searching the loft when an eerie voice moans from the front bedroom. Spooked’ they all three run downstairs and out the front door. ‘There is definitely something in that house,’ says the younger man, ‘and I’m not going back in.’ Gathering his composure, the older man laughs off the idea of the place being haunted. He stomps loudly up the stairs hoping to scare off anyone who may be indoors. There is nobody in any of the upstairs rooms but someone has written with lipstick on the bathroom mirror: ‘GET OUT OF MY HOUSE.’ Seconds after reading this, the brave worker joins his mate in the front garden, shuts the front door and says ‘we’re not going back in there, the place really is haunted.’
As they drive away to report their scary experience Scotty climbs back down from the communal loft, brushes dust from his clothes and saunters down to the kitchen for a snack. He acts shocked and intrigued as Mavis tells in great detail and much embroidered the events which have taken place at the Smith’s.
The cheese and pickle sandwich has gone down a treat and Scotty decides to have another attempt at sleep, seeing as the house next door is now as quiet as the grave. He drifts off with a smile on his face and doesn’t wake again until Robbie arrives home from school eager to tell him that he has scored a goal at football this afternoon. He wants his dad to come down to the garden so he can replay the victory and Scotty is happy to oblige.