Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Man Machine (part two)

I threw open the door, then reminded myself that I should really get it fixed to some hinges. There, standing on the porch, was my old friend and business partner Mister Samuel Pettigrew. I hadn’t seen him since our last business venture, a drive-through brothel, failed. It had always been touch and go.

“How are you, my good fellow?” I asked, as my wife thundered past on Slatterly.

“Well,” the chap said, wringing his hands. “I’ve got a problem with the old... erm... well... the old... euphemisms”.

“How ghastly!” I exclaimed “Does that mean that you can’t express anything directly?”

“You’ve hit the nail on the head.”

“Is your wife alright?”

“She’s not the most jovial of rabbits.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, it’s quite alright. The saw and bone man’s got me on a course of sugar pills and he says that it should clear up within the next few lines of dialogue.”

“How fascinating,” I said, marvelling at the precision of his prognosis. “So what brings you to my door?”

“Money troubles.”

“Oh, good heavens, we better continue this conversation in private.”

I closed the front door and frowned as I realised that my guest was on the other side. “Would you like to come in?” I asked, reopening the door. He nodded, and we agreed to speak inside the exposition parlour, over afternoon tea.


As we sat down in the exposition parlour I placed a slice of cake in front of my guest, and poured him some tea. Then Martha, the scullery maid, appeared with the cups and plates and I felt a tad premature in my service. Pettigrew was quite decent about the affair, lapping delicately from his puddle of tea as I asked him what, precisely, was the matter.

“I’m being hounded by His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.”

“Whatever for?”

“Certain... irregularities”.

“Oh, no, you seem to have relapsed. Shall I get you your pills?”

“No, I’m being purposefully evasive”.

“Right. Sorry. So why are you in trouble?”

“I got creative with my tax return. I may have said that I live in a two foot square hovel to avoid that dratted land tax.”


“Well, they’ve only gone and said that they want to inspect my property.”

Therein the problem lay. For Pettigrew’s estate was vast, enormous, almost obscenely large. Like an American. He had inherited a mansion from his father, with so many rooms that he had to constantly replace the army of manservants as they became lost in its labyrinthine corridors and corridor-y labyrinths. He didn’t clean his kitchen, he just moved the staff into a fresh one.

“Why don’t you just hide?” I offered. “They’ll never find you in the house.”

“But they’ll have seen the house.”

“True. And, I suppose, they could give your summons to court to the porter out front.”

“There’s only one thing for it. I shall have to fall on my sword.”

“Actually or euphemistically?”

“Euphemistically.” He snapped. “I shall hand myself over to the constabulary.”

“No” I insisted “there must be another way...”

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