A True Story

A fragile young man is plagued by pranksters and fears that he might end up in jail.

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A True Story

(Wherein we encounter Mr. Grudge Galmount).

Forget wood. He wanted to be a carpenter of words. So he persevered and wondered if he was writing the longest suicide note in history.

He was jolted in his mind to St. Valentine’s Day, nineteen ninety-six:

“Morning time blinding sun

Terrible letter has come,

I should be on the run,

The things it says I’ve done."

He—at this point Grudge Galmount, twenty-five years old and entirely fucked up—snook out of his rodent-infested bedsit, gamely took the hallway, with alacrity mounted the stairs, and entered into the cesspit of a bathroom to wash his hair in the cracked sink. The entire toilet was a hideous assemblage of other peoples’ odours, nail-clippings, clumps of hair, and much, much worse. Grudge ignored the whole rancid lot and managed to clean his tresses to a passable degree.

On his way back down to the rathole (as his brother had recently christened the flat) he espied—what’s this!—a letter addressed to him, sitting propped against the communal telephone by the front door. Grudge was surprised, as this was the first letter with his name on it to arrive at the dwelling house throughout his ten-month tenure. With great eagerness, he snatched the missive and brought it back to his room. Once inside on the rickety bed he ripped it open and saw that it bore the letterhead of the country’s police force. Young Galmount was aghast and more so when he quickly read on:

Dear Mr. Galmount,

it began and told Grudge that the police had received his name from several reliable sources as a main player in the pushing of illegal narcotics in the north Bludgeon area. To discuss this further, he was asked to report, forthwith, to the local police station.

What in God’s name does this mean? Grudge wondered. He began to panic. Fear, in all its painful shakiness, gripped his being. The first thing he had to do was look for some decent clothes.

Twenty minutes later, what a figure he cut—pale and woebegone—scarpering down the East Circular Road on his way to the police.

Here, cherished reader, let me to cut to the chase.

Following a hasty and increasingly embarrassing trip to the cop-shop, Grudge discovered that the letter was a forgery and had been concocted by certain malicious colleagues of his from the coffin factory where he worked. These jokers had got some official police notepaper from someone who actually worked for the Ducks and Geese, and they thought it would be a right lark to fake a letter and frighten that undisciplined loner/loser Grudge Galmount. How they hated the way he took his tea breaks alone to read pretentious novels, and they truly despised his constant use of big words when something smaller would do. These so-called workmates also took great glee in watching Galmount’s battles with the factory’s personnel unit over lateness, sick leave and a generally poor work output (Grudge argued that he was dead tired making coffins). His co-workers to a man eagerly looked forward to the day when the aloof Grudge would be given the bullet from the factory and forced to vanish to his rotten flat (they all knew about the rathole) and watch his life dissolve from his freezing bed.

At the station the officer, a sergeant, to whom he’d first presented the letter had quickly deduced that it came from somebody Grudge knew, quite possibly some co-workers. The boy in blue had seen similar pranks before.

Grudge was asked for names. He obliged, and Joe Corr, the line manager in Pine Orders, received a call from a stern-voiced sarge. Corr ‘fessed up straightaway.

“Only jokin’, officer. I me repente. Mea culpa,” Joe whimpered.

The officer gave Corr a mild ticking-off down the phone, telling him not to be so foolish in future. Grudge however sensed that the police enjoyed the joke, and he saw a mix of pity and hate in their expressions as they watched him leave the station to face the day and return, forlornly, to his squalid quarters.

Looking back now—all these years later—it's clear that the plan to frighten our lost soul was a success that love-filled morning. Grudge thought that he had reached the nadir of his bedsit years and was about to be dragged through the criminal justice system, all the way up to doing actual time; for a crime, incidentally, of which he was blameless (in the matter of narcotics, Galmount was but a casual buyer and, like a woman having a Caesarean, he didn’t push at all).

He felt mightily relieved, though, walking home, contemplating a tin of peas for dinner.

© Brian Ahern 2011

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