The artful lodger

Thursday 3rd May 2012

MICK, mid-twenties, affable and self-contained, was going to be just right: went to bed early, got up early, worked long hours, lived on take-aways, kept himself to himself. I have a fondness for Irish accents. Building sites, he said; wore the cement-splattered boots and padded jacket of his trade.

He paid a week in advance and moved in – with two holdalls of clothes and a CD player.

This was in Stroud, some years ago. I’d had several short-term lodgers, generally successfully.

Mick was reserved, almost reticent. When the second week’s rent became due, he asked if I’d mind waiting a few days. That Sunday he headed for the launderette with his two holdalls…

“Been paid at last. I’ll go to the cash-point.”

…and never returned.

After checking the room the next day – finding only the CD player, a few cassettes, toothpaste and a couple of old shirts – I informed the police in case he’d been in accident, shrugged, and concluded he’d done a runner.

When a young woman telephoned ten days later, asking if I’d seen Mick, I was hoping she’d be able to provide some answers.

“Bastard,” she announced. “Dumped me and gone off with some my stuff.”

She came round, on a motorbike. We shared a beer. I showed her what he’d left behind.

“Nothing of mine here. Damn.”

We talked of her work in admin at a fire station; which school she’d attended; how she’d met Mick at a party; thought him dishy.

“But I mustn’t keep you, Marcus. Can I use your loo before I go?”

A bit odd: taking that large bag up to the bathroom with her, but you don’t like to say anything; nor do you quiz her on how long it’s taken her to… you know, do whatever she had to do.

The CD player was missing. I again told the police, who showed no interest. Nobody of that name was working at any local fire station.

For while, I entertained thoughts of an IRA sleeper, before deciding he probably spent all his money on gambling or alcohol. At least Mick didn’t nick anything of mine before quitting that shortest of short-term lodgings.







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