“I’ve had it with the likes of you, really now,” the little woman who had so unexpectedly returned home early exhaled, “There now, that should keep you put and well out of trouble for as long as I’ll have you, Mister. Aren’t you a bit old to be doing what you’re doing?”
He felt her eyes looking him up and down. Kept his own firmly closed. She was trying to figure out his age and wondering how a short man with two crooked legs, one almost five inches shorter than the other, could work in his line of business. She’d emptied all his pockets so surely could tell that he was rather good at what he was doing.
“Polio’s made me one of the best in this trade funnily enough. People don’t like looking at me dragging myself along on my two crooked legs. They prefer to look away so they don’t have to think about how they would cope if anything bad happened to them or their kids. The ones that do look remember seeing me about so well that they think I’m the last person who could have done all those jobs. Nothing wrong with my arms though, I tell ya. I’ve a mother of a right hook if I get into a tight spot.”
She giggled in response to him making a fist to flex the muscles in his right arm and wincing at the plastic clothesline cutting deep into his flesh. She’d tied him up really well.
“Didn’t do you much good here your right hook. Your hearing must be on its way out at your age or else you’d have heard me coming up behind you with this wok. Your head put a right dint into it, am going to have to buy a new one. What age are you? Round about sixty-five? Do you even realise that I’m pretty much shouting so you can hear me?”
“What?” He made eye contact with her for the first time. She held it and noticed the mischievous glint. They both burst out laughing. Couldn’t stop until they were both coughing and wheezing.
He recovered first and said, “We can buy more than 100 woks in as many sizes and materials as they come with all the dosh you’ve taken out of my pockets, my dear old girl.”
The wooden handle broke off as the battered kitchen utensil made contact with his right hip bone. She waved it around close to his face. “We? Don’t you come over all familiar with me now! We! The cheek of you. Told you I’ve had enough of the likes of you. That’s the tenth year in a row that I’ve had my flat broken into once every single month. Are you and your pals working this area on a repeat schedule?”
“Just me, Rosie, no pals. Took you that length of time to catch me. I’ve started coming here the month after your Eddie passed away. Eddie and me were pals in college. Stayed in touch all these years. He sent me a letter a few weeks before he died, put his spare key to your flat in it and asked me to keep an eye on you. I’m no burglar, my dear. Who do you think fixed your tap when it was dripping and replaced the carpet where you’d spilled the red wine you were drinking all alone to try and kill the sadness? Did you think it was the Good Lord himself did it or some pixie?”
“Jasus, you must be George so. How come we’ve never met in all these years? Eddie only mentioned you towards the end. Said George will be there when I’m gone. I thought he was fantasizing with the fevers.”
“I didn’t want my best pal’s wife not want to look at me with my crooked legs, so I never showed up at the wedding. It’s the people looking away and not wanting to see me that hurt the most. Although right now, it’s that clothesline you tied around me that hurts even more.”
Rosie took the scissors to it and they both had fits of laughter and coughs and wheezes. This growing old thing was going to be so much less frightening and a lot of fun actually from here on.
(c) Ash N. Finn, 2013