“There was no lamb left, love,” said Frank, as he dumped his shopping bags on the kitchen floor.
“What do you mean?” said Rita, a small flutter of panic running through her.
“No lamb joints,” Frank said with a shrug. “No pork, either, as I thought that would be second best. All they had was chicken, and all the big ones had already gone. Supermarket was jam-packed.”
“But you went early. How could they run out of lamb and pork when you went first thing? You did go first thing, didn’t you? You didn’t sneak off somewhere else first?”
“Don’t be bloody daft, woman. Where would I go?” Frank said indignantly, hoping his wife wouldn’t catch onto the stale fag smell that clung to his clothes. If she did, she’d know for sure that he’d been indulging in forbidden nicotine when he should have been first in line for a joint of lamb.
Rita tutted and grumbled and rifled through the bags. She caught sight of the chicken and retrieved it, astonished.
“Is this it?” she said. “Is this supposed to be a full-grown chicken? Looks more like a spatchcock to me.”
“It is, apparently, a full-grown chicken. It’s all they had, like I said.”
Rita huffed. “You did get two then, at least?”
Frank’s blank face told her he hadn’t.
“This will never feed all of us, you daft apeth. Bloody hell. We better do extra spuds.”
The phone trilled in the hallway and Frank happily broke off from potato-peeling duties to answer it.
“Dad? It’s me.”
“You alright, Kyle?”
“I’ve broken down.”
“I told you that car wasn’t –”
“I know, Dad, but there’s no point getting into that now. RAC is on the way, should be an easy fix for them. Just wanted to let you know I might be a bit late.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “Okay. Keep us posted. We can’t wait all day for you.”
King Arthur awoke from his nap and felt his tummy rumble. He got up from his sunny perch on the living room windowsill, stretched indulgently, and went in search of sustenance.
The servants were in the kitchen, preparing some foul-smelling food items that he wasn’t remotely interested in. What he wanted was meat.
“Mew,” he said politely.
The servants ignored him.
“Mew,” he said once more, his voice a little louder and firmer.
Still, the servants kept their back to him. He jumped up on the kitchen counter beside them in an attempt to make himself seen.
“Mew,” he yelled.
“Cat wants feeding,” muttered Frank.
“In a minute, Arthur,” said Rita. “Mummy’s busy.”
King Arthur glared at the servants. They were become incredibly insolent, he thought. He needed to make a stand.
He eyed the items on the counter around him. There were several tall, shiny, ruby bottles glinting at him beneath the sunlight which streamed in through the kitchen window.
He nudged at one of them with his paw. It toppled over ever so easily and landed with a great crash on the floor.
“Arthur!” Rita’s voice was shrill and fierce, and King Arthur panicked as the woman turned to him with a paring knife in hand.
He bolted for the door, sending three more bottles of wine crashing to the ground in his haste.
Rita shouted herself hoarse, while King Arthur retreated to the spare bedroom with his stomach still rumbling.
“Typical,” said Rita. “Of all the days the oven decides to give up the ghost, it’s today.”
Frank sighed. “I’ll call an engineer.”
“We won’t get one out on a bank holiday Monday, will we?”
“Aye. You’re probably right.”
“What are we going to do? I’ve got this tiny chicken to cook.”
Frank shrugged. “I’ll go down the chippy later. I’m sure the kids’ll be happy with that.”
Frank beamed at his granddaughter as she rushed towards him and flung her arms around his legs.
Rita scowled at the child’s feet, which were dropping mud all over her carpet.
“Shoes, Amy!” she scolded.
Amy ignored her, and instead headed to the basket of toys that lay waiting for her in the corner. Grandma always had a stash of toys available, and from time to time there were new ones to be investigated.
“Take your shoes off first, Amy,” said Kate wearily. “Sorry, Mum. I’ll clean it up. She’s been hyper all morning.”
“You haven’t been feeding her chocolate for breakfast again, have you?” Rita asked with narrow eyes.
“Not on purpose. She got into the biscuit tin while I was in the shower. Pete didn’t bother to stop her. He’s hungover.”
Pete skulked into the room right on cue. The bags under his eyes and greenish hue of his skin indicated that he’d had more than one too many at the pub the previous night.
“Daddy’s got a very sore head,” Amy informed the room. “We’re not to shout, he says.”
Frank smiled. “Hey, Amy. We’re having fish and chips for lunch, how about that?”
“Yessss!” the child screeched. “I love fish and chips. Can I have salt and vinegar on mine, Grandad?”
Pete’s brain throbbed at the noise. Frank chuckled happily at his son-in-law’s misery.
The phone trilled in the hallway once more and Frank went to answer it.
“Dad? Bad news. Car’s knackered. Needs to be towed to the nearest garage.”
“Bloody hell, Kyle. I told you that car was a heap of shite and you bought it anyway. I knew it wouldn’t be reliable. How much is it going to cost you to fix?”
Kyle groaned down the phone. “I dunno, Dad.”
“Well you better not come to me asking for a handout when you can’t afford to get it back on the road. You were more concerned with having a sodding Mercedes badge than you were with having a car that would get you from A to B. You could have had got a far newer car for the same price if you hadn’t have insisted on having a Merc. It’s always the same with you – more concerned with how you look than the practicalities of a situation. Are you listening? Kyle? Kyle!”
Kyle wasn’t listening. He’d already hung up.
Rita, Frank, Kate, and a very pitiful Pete were sat in the living room when they heard a yelp come from the floor above them. That was quickly followed by a rapid succession of thumps, a short pause, and window-shaking wail.
Kate was first on the scene to wrap her daughter in a comforting hug and poke gingerly at the child’s limbs, checking for injuries.
“What happened?” Rita asked.
Little Amy tried to explain through hysterical sobs. “Arthur… tripped… fell… bum…”
Kate translated. “The cat tripped you up? You slid down on your bum?”
Amy nodded and sniffled.
“Ah, she’ll be alright, then,” Frank said. “That’s what our arses are for, Amy love. To break our falls.”
“I might’ve known it’d be your stupid cat,” Kate said as she rubbed her daughter’s back. “He’s a menace, that thing. He’s tried to trip me up before, too.”
“Nonsense,” Rita said, squaring up to defend her pet. “He’s harmless, is Arthur. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. How anyone could call him a menace is beyond me.”
“That’s not what you said this morning when you screamed bloody murder at him for trashing the wine,” Frank pointed out.
Rita glared at him.
“What happened to the wine?” Pete said, suddenly more alert than he had been all morning.
“Cat knocked the bottles off the counter,” Rita explained. “They’re all smashed.”
Pete was worried. “But you’ve got some beers in, right?”
Rita shook her head.
“What about some ciders? Or a bottle of whiskey?”
“What’s the matter, Pete?” Frank said with a frown. “In need of a hair of the dog?”
“I might have some advocaat lying around,” Rita said. “Mind you, I bought it for Christmas about 3 years ago. Might be a bit lumpy.”
The phone trilled a third time and Frank knew who it would be. He stayed put in his armchair, leaving Rita to answer it.
“Mum? It’s Kyle.”
“How long will you be, love? We’re all starving.”
“I’m at the garage. Mechanic says he can fix my car, but it’ll take a week. They need to order some parts in. I was wondering if… um… well. If Dad could maybe pick me up?”
“He will, love.”
“Are you sure? I sort of hung up on him earlier.”
“Oh, I know. He won’t like it, but he will pick you up. See you in a bit, love.”
She hung up and called to her husband. “Frank? You need to go and fetch Kyle, and you can pick the fish and chips up on the way home.”
Frank seethed, but he did as he was told. At least he could have a fag on the way.
Kate and Rita watched as Amy quietly pushed a toy car round and around in circles on the rug.
“He’s not a menace, my cat,” Rita said quietly. She refused to let it drop.
Kate rolled her eyes. “I know. I was just worried about her. Sorry.”
The cat flap whooshed and clicked, and Rita heard the familiar pad of King Arthur’s feet on the kitchen floor.
“Speak of the devil and he will appear,” she said.
And he did. With a mouse clamped between his lips.
Kate yelped. The noise surprised Arthur and he dropped his victim on the carpet.
It was still alive.
Amy screamed as the poor mouse scurried towards her.
Rita panicked. “Arthur – get it! Take it outside.”
The mouse scuttled underneath the sofa amid screams and objections from the family. Arthur hurried after it, chased it back into open ground, and pounced.
The mouse squeaked its final squeaks between King Arthur’s jaws. Amy began to sob.
“Take it outside!” Rita shrieked, but Arthur wouldn’t. He had a point to make.
He spat the dead creature on the floor, glanced at his audience to be sure they were watching, and began to eat. He started with the head – that was his favourite part.
The carpet soon became stained with blood. Amy bawled, Kate quickly joined her, and Rita simply stood helpless, having usually left Frank to deal with such situations when they arose.
Pete bolted to the bathroom to vomit.
King Arthur was confident that his servants wouldn’t force him to hunt for his own food ever again.
The family sat on the floor in the hallway, having locked Arthur in the living room with the grisly remnants of mouse. Their tummies growled as they awaited Frank’s return.
All would be well when the fish and chips arrived. The day’s events would surely be forgotten and forgiven as soon as they had full bellies. There was a chance for the bank holiday to redeem itself yet.
The phone trilled. Rita answered.
“Rita? It’s me.”
“You’ve been ages,” Rita snapped. “Have you got Kyle?”
“I have, yes,” Frank said. “But we’ve a problem. My car’s broken down.”Follow Ellie Scott on WordPress.com