Earth Minus Jeans... ( Lenny, Part 5 )
Do-it-yourself Taxidermy - Some important points to remember.
He is man's best friend.
He was your best friend. You did everything together and you went everywhere together. You played with sticks and balls, you jogged across the heath together on a Sunday morning with the wind in your hair and the wind in his fur. You sneaked half of your steak and kidney pie under the table for him whilst the wife wasn't looking, and in return he'd cock his leg and spray your snooty neighbour's garden gate.
Until that heart-breaking day when he peacefully breathed his last, curled up beside the open fire.
This is the point where you have to make a decision. Can you face the future without seeing those doleful, trusting eyes staring obediently up at you. Presumably not, if you are reading this passage. Therefore it is time to immortalise him through the artistic process of Taxidermy, and here are some golden rules to ensure this distressing but therapeutic time runs as smoothly as possible.
Rule 1 : Please make absolutely sure your dog is dead.
It would not be in-keeping with the love and trust of your twelve year relationship to skin him alive and stuff him full of clay and papier mache, when all the poor bastard was doing was taking a brief nap.
Check for a heartbeat.
Hold his favourite squeaky toy next to his ear and give it a jolly good squeeze.
Grab next door's Tabby and proffer it's struggling, scrabbling body as a sacrifice. A few feline bites and scratches are a small price to pay to ensure Lucky's stuffing is a comfortable and stress free experience.
Whinnying, growling and barking are also giveaway signs when you are wielding the knife, that he still has a few bottoms to sniff before he's ready to be stuck on your mantelpiece.
Rule 2: Make it clear to your wife from the outset where she stands in all this. It is natural for her at this stage to feel a little neglected and insecure about where your priorities lie.
Make sure she understands that if she throws the old " It's me or the stuffed dog! " ultimatum at you, you'll give her a hand with her packing as soon as you've finished the back legs and posterior.
Alternatively, placate her fears with assurances. When she pops her clogs, you'll have her stuffed as well.
Rule 3: Leave poor Muttley's balls til last, and please leave it to an expert.
Rule 4: In order to combat the initial smell, use....
I flung the magazine aside with a bemused shake of the head. Enough of all that thank you very much. Literary poison to the brain at any time, but when your head is already throbbing from the previous night's excesses, it's enough to bring about a haemorrhage.
And what of the previous night?
I nursed my head with my fingers and a large mug of black coffee. Here I was on my second day in a new job, sitting in the staff room at 8.45 with a hangover that would have had Oliver Reed mumbling "never again" to himself.
Did I really drink that much? I didn't think so... not enough to be feeling as bad as this, and yet my memory didn't really stretch beyond Lenny helping me out of my seat and out the pub door.
The rest was a blur. I couldn't remember going home, or how I'd managed to make it home. Hell, I couldn't even recall getting up this morning and coming in to work. It was leaving the pub last night, followed by a nothingness, followed by sitting here and leafing through Lenny's Taxidermy mag.
" Someone's looking fit and healthy this morning. "
Kevin flopped into the chair opposite me with his floppy hair and floppy face.
" Don't ask Kevin, just don't ask. " I fingered the coffee mug as if it was my life-support machine.
I sensed him examining me. " Another addition to the family, " he muttered. " Welcome to the house of fools."
" What? "
" Another one who didn't heed the advice on offer. "
Wait a minute, who is Kevin?
" Oh, you mean Carlos. Yeah he did warn me, but what could I do? "
" Carlos? " Kevin stared at me, " Who the hell is Carlos? "
Never mind 'who the hell is Carlos?' a voice screamed from inside my head, 'who the hell is Kevin?"
" You can't miss him, he's the one the size of the Empire State building. "
Still I was met with an expression as blank as that of Naomi Campbell attempting a conundrum on the latest reality TV programme Celebrity Supermodel Countdown.
Finally a look of recognition dawned on his face. " Oh right, you're talking about the other place of course. "
" What other place? "
" This Carlos character must have joined after I did. Must have had a heck of a lot more sense too. Throw some more names at me. "
" What names? "
" From the other place. "
" What other place?! "
Kevin smiled knowingly, but also with a trace of sympathy. " You poor bastard, you really have no idea what's happened to you. But that's okay, no different to what I went through or what anyone here went through. Come on, throw some more names at me. "
" Kevin, I have no idea what you're getting at. As a matter of fact, I have no idea who you are.... and no idea how I know your name is Kevin anyway!"
" Names from yesterday, " he pursued. " People you worked with yesterday. "
" Emma. "
" Nope. "
" Janet. "
" Nope. "
" Alan. "
" Alan? Assistant manager Alan? Ladies man Alan? "
" That's the one. "
Kevin brightened. " Oh yeah, I remember Alan alright. Blimey, is he still there? "
" Still here you mean. " Frankly I was ready to throw more than just a few names at this guy now. A couple of fists and a hand grenade were rapidly entering the equation.
" Well no, I'm afraid not. Here is here, there is what you think is here, but there is there unfortunately, do you see? "
Did I see? I was in joint last place with Stevie Wonder.
" No you don't, " Kevin concluded for himself. " You have no idea where you are. Just like the rest of us. "
" The rest of who? "
" Us. "
I rose to my feet with fists clenched. " Who is Us?! "
" There's really no need to get so agitated towards me, I'm talking about the rest of us who didn't read the manual. "
As if anticipating that I might grab his throat, shake him and shout " what manual? " at him, he quickly produced a black booklet and slid it across the table towards me. In big red warning letters on the cover, it read Earth Minus Jeans Equals Slacks.
" I think Kevin might be referring to Golden Rule Number 3, " a voice said from the doorway. Kevin suddenly lunged at the figure who had spoken, his right arm drawn back to throw a punch.
" Beltloops " said Lenny, instantly but calmly snapping a finger at him.
" Er, Lenny? "
" Yes Jack. "
" What exactly is going on here? " I asked, watching in astonishment as Kevin had jolted his offending fist back to his side, plodded over to the cupboard under the sink and retrieved a cloth. A cloth he was now using to polish Lenny's shoes whilst down on his knees.
" Plenty of time for explanations. Kevin! What time do I expect you to start work each morning? "
" Nine o'clock sir, " came the toneless reply from below. Sir?
" And what time is it now? "
" Don't know sir. "
" Nine o'clock and seventeen seconds....NO BREAD TONIGHT AND NO MILK! GET THAT WORTHLESS ARSE OF YOURS OUT TO THE SHOPFLOOR AND OUT OF MY SIGHT! "
Kevin obediently disappeared.
Lenny flashed me one of his leering, bespectacled grins. But this was not the Lenny I had been introduced to the previous day.
This was not the Lenny so effortlessly ridiculed behind his back by the likes of Alan and Carlos.
This was a Lenny in control, emanating an evil stench far greater than just his favourite lunchtime snack of pickled onions.
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