Bird Bath Blues

Alan sank lower into the chair, his subconscious forcing him to slouch like a teenager, weighted down by guilt. The news report continued “…hoping the perpetrator could return the stolen item as it was a gift from the lady’s late husband” and his wife tutted and nodded her head towards the television as if to say “how abhorrent- what a complete bastard.” He shuddered involuntarily as he looked at her- she could never know what he had done, and he decided that as soon as she fell asleep he would rectify his lapse in judgement. He unfolded his lank form from the sofa and stretched in a way he hoped looked natural.

“I am soooo tired, I might go to bed” he said, feigning a yawn. He could see from her face that she wasn’t buying the performance

“It’s only eight o’clock” she replied “are you feeling okay”

He felt a bit stupid and sat down, mumbling something about having a long day. He had actually spent the day worrying and panicking that today would be one of the rare days that Sally opened the shed- her tendency to wear immaculate 1950’s retro dresses and “unusual” expensive shoes at all times meant that venturing into the garden when not high summer was something she only did when she really had to- which always seemed to be when Alan was hiding something. Birthday gifts, a large borrowed collection of oriental pornography or even- as today- an improbably massive ornate bird bath (which he had just found out was a final gift to a widow from her dearly departed husband) were never as safe in the shed as Alan would like, fortunately today was not one of those days.

Alan’s father had always told him that alcohol reveals the inner workings of a person- if someone is a nasty or violent drunk, deep down they are a nasty person who dreams of violence. This made sense to Alan as his father, when drunk, was happy until something he didn’t like or couldn’t control happened and made him sulk off in silence- essentially his adult life in microcosm.

Alan when drunk would do stupid things to impress and entertain people, which was essentially all he lived for. Normally this was tempered by his fear of getting in trouble, of letting Sally down or upsetting someone but he had been drunk enough to drag the bird bath along the road for a cheap laugh before hiding it in the shed and it had been preying on his mind for the past three days. It was 1am by the time Sally was asleep enough that he could creep out of bed, pull a tracksuit on over his naked body and sneak down to the shed to retrieve it- it was a lot heavier, a lot louder than he remembered but to those with a guilty conscience everything is loud at 1am. He clunked it up the path and froze as the back gate creaked. Rooted to the spot he peered up at his bedroom window, dreading Sally’s face peering down at him. After a few minutes he relaxed as much as he could and continued.

He got maybe a quarter of a mile before people came towards him and he had to duck into an alley as quickly as a man lugging a large stone weight can, and his heart was in his mouth as a group of boys in their late teens walked past shouting and pushing one another. He dreaded being noticed, he dreaded Sally being disappointed in him, at his parents calling him an idiot again. He quietly waited as they went into the distance then noticed the back pocket of his trousers had caught on a screw protruding from the wall. He fondled the elasticated waist and jiggled the pocket until he thought it was off before confidently stepping forward to an unsettling ripping sound and a breeze on the buttocks- a quick pat with his hands revealed that he now had an open flap the size of his bottom in his jeans. Cursing his luck, he dragged the now hated object onwards.

As he slowly made progress, his buttocks chilling in the March air, he hoped that he was going to find the right house- he knew he had passed it on the way home, and knew he had been dragging it when he reached the shops that he had just arrived at so it should be one of the houses on the left, twenty or so to go. He was tiring and had been out of the house for nearly ninety minutes doing a trip that would take him under fifteen on a normal day- if nobody ever found out, he thought, it would all be worth it.

So intently was Alan staring into gardens that he only realised there was a police car cruising towards him at the same moment he found the correct property- there was a telltale circle of dead grass that matched the bird bath in size right in the centre of the lawn and marks where it had been scraped unceremoniously away 72 hours prior. Adrenaline pumped through him as soon as he saw the police car and so, spurred into action by the approaching vehicle, he attempted to lift and throw the thing over the privet. He knew as soon as the bird bath was over waist level that he was making a serious error, so in a bid to stop himself from dropping it onto the hard pavement he attempted to salvage the move and throw it through the hedge into the garden- at least it would be in the right property even if it wasn’t where it should be. He lost his balance instantly, pulled off of his feet by the large stone weight he was holding and Alan fell helplessly into the hedge, his hands seemingly unable to release the bird bath which carried him forwards and pinned him to the ground by his fingers, leaving his exposed buttocks protruding from the hedge like a novelty bicycle holder pointing directly at the road. A flash of blue light, the sound of car doors opening, the barely suppressed snorts of laughter, the flash of a camera and Alan knew in his heart that his parents were right all along- he was an idiot.

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