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by Paperback 

Posted: 29 March 2004
Word Count: 3717
Summary: If anyone is still interested here's 'C'. It's another longer one, needs lots and lots of editing. The grammer is pretty rough and the ending awful. Any real help? If you hate it, please tell me why.

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.


An elderly couple who were out walking with their little ginger dog were the first people to spot Claudio in quite some time. For some reason, instead of visiting Claudio’s family or even the police, these old people came to me.
“We’ve seen you friend,” they said and what, with there being the two of them, they forced their way straight into my flat and sat down on my only sofa.
They seemed like perfectly pleasant people but my mind began to wander when they started to tell their tale. Like all old people, their detail was more important to them than the actual story. As I stood there, nodding my head and feigning interest, my legs began to ache and I couldn’t help but notice that their dog had only one eye. We both seemed to find it difficult not to stare.
Eventually, when I grew tired of what they were saying and I could take no more, I told them to go away. Claudio had been missing for seven years by then and although at first I’d made a good living off his memory, most of us had managed to forget that he had ever existed.

I’d been all over the news when Claudio had first disappeared. There was a warrant out for my arrest and the headline above the picture of my face said ‘PRIME SUSPECT’.
I suppose it was understandable really, but the allegations were soon retracted after the police had met me in person. They wrote down everything I said and kept me in handcuffs, but it was all for effect. They treat me really well, not like you see in the Hollywood films, and took particular interest in my withered arms. A serious doctor dressed in a white coat carried out a few simple, physical tests and confirmed what the investigating officer had said that he suspected.
When I asked why they were letting me go, they looked at me with sympathy and said that with arms like mine they had decided that I couldn’t have murdered a small child, never mind a fully-grown man and besides, there wasn’t even a body yet anyway.
After my release, and because I had nothing better to do, I just hung around the police station in the daytime and Claudio’s flat at night time. People eventually got used to me and, thinking I was something to do with Claudio’s case, started to talk to me. I liked the exposure and the bright television lights of the nations media.
Whenever the attractive television people or their uglier newspaper friends had wanted a comment on Claudio’s disappearance, they always came straight to me. They told me that I charged a fair rate and was of Significant Local Interest.
If there was ever a time when I didn’t have an answer to one of their questions I’d just make one up and once, when I was asked by a large, sweating woman from ‘The Times’ for a personal possession of Claudio’s, I just nipped inside my flat and gave her a bedside lamp that I’d bought myself on a whim.
“Here you go,” I cried. “He used to love this lamp, it let him see his picture books and handsome face at night-time.”
I tried to cry again as she hugged me to her bosom, but instead noises came out of my mouth that sounded more like laughter to me.
“There, there,” the writer lady said and gave me a big, brown, bag full of money. I smiled at her and said that she was very kind.
When I came to look in the bag later, I saw that some of the notes were crumpled and tatty. I was still pleased but thought I’d best be careful with them. I looked around my room for somewhere safe and then placed the notes behind a huge picture that Claudio had copied from a magazine. The drawing was that of a bear. He’d used pencil crayons for colour and black ink for the outline. It was so big it filled a whole wall.
“He’s quite the artist!” I said to myself. I was careful not to dirty it up as I hung it back on the wall.

After my visit from the couple with the peculiar dog, word soon got around that Claudio had been sighted and that I had some useful information. I was quite disappointed to discover however, that the press had forgotten about the story and that the police had closed the case.
“Lack of manpower,” was all they said when I approached them.
Claudio’s family though, they were still searching and for forty days in a row, a different member of Claudio’s family came to my flat and told me that they knew about the ginger dog sighting. Aunts, grandparents, sons, cousins, mums, brothers, fathers, uncles – they all visited at one point or another - begging me to tell them what I’d been told.
I never felt like getting involved and the thought of another adventure, especially after the last one, filled me with gloom. However, I hadn’t wanted to look uncaring and so, to avoid confrontation and argument, I would tap my ears and use elaborate hand and finger movements in an effort to portray the image of a deaf man. The older ones always fell for this and would immediately leave the flat. They were full of mimed apologies and quiet, embarrassed shuffles. It made me laugh and I would make sure I always thanked them in my made up sign language.
The younger ones though, they showed great initiative and soon found the pen and piece of paper that I kept next to my smart new telephone. They would write down what they had been told using my pen and pad and then ask me to do the same. Stumped, I fell back on Plan B and was quite surprised when so many of them went away thinking I was blind.
“I must be a natural performer,” I thought as I bumped from one piece of furniture to another.

It was Claudio’s twelve-year-old niece who eventually caught me out. She was as sharp as a tack and with a tongue to match.
“You’re not a fucking blind man,” she said as soon as she entered my home. I placed my hands and fingers over her eyes and tried to mime that I thought she had a very pretty face. She punched me in the stomach.
“Get your fucking hands off me, you fucking pervert. Get the fuck away from me, you fucking cunt. I swear, if you don’t tell me what the fuck is going on, I’ll scream ‘rape’ so fucking loud, you’ll wish you were a fucking deaf man.”
I was shocked by her integrity and walked into a big piece of wooden furniture to try and make my point.
“No fucking way, Mister. No fucking way are you a blind man. You’ve got a television set and piles of fucking magazines.” She picked up one of my celebrity magazines and sent it flying across the room, straight at my face. It had a pop singer on the front and the corner caught my eye.
“They’re in Braille,” I said, panicking.
“Fuck you. I thought you were deaf?”
I didn’t know what to do. This little girl with the silver tongue and unhappy eyes had only been in my home for a couple of minutes and already she’d seen straight through me. I walked back towards her, got down on one of my knees and said,
“Aren’t you a pretty little thing? Such nice curly hair. I bet you break all the little boys hearts don’t you?”
She seemed to pause for a moment, as if I’d got through to her, and then pushed me hard on the shoulder. I lost my balance and fell on the floor.
“You’ll have to do a fuck load better than that Mister. Where’s my fucking Uncle?”
She stood over me and continued to curse and shout. I felt exposed lying there on the floor and closed my eyes so as not to look up her skirt. I had no idea what to do, so I just lay there and let her carry on screaming and shouting, hoping she’d get tired and wear herself out.

After an hour or so, I’d managed to get used to her foul language and had allowed myself to drift off into a light doze. During my sleep, I had some pretty eventful dreams and also some pretty useful thoughts. They both blended into one another so, most of the time, I didn’t know whether I was thinking or dreaming. It was confusing but allowed me to come up with a plan.
Waking up, I said,
“I think I’ve got something you’d like.”
Claudio’s niece stopped her shouting and looked at me suspiciously.
“Help me up,” I said and held out my weak, wrinkled arms. “I may have a present for you.”
The little girl did as I asked and did indeed help me to my feet.
“Thanks,” I said.
“Fuck you,” she replied.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’ve got a deal for you. If you stop shouting and leave me alone, I’ll give you a present.”
I was as surprised as anyone when she told me to continue.
“Go on,” she said.
I took this as an encouraging sign and continued.
“Well, as I said, if you leave me alone I’ll give you a gift. I happen to have quite a large amount of money in this house and if you shut up and leave me alone, I’ll give you half of it.”
“How much?” she asked.
I blew out of my mouth. She really was a bright spark.
“A hundred,” I said, before quickly adding,
“So you can have half. That makes fifty.” I was pleased with myself and thought I’d done a good job. “So what do you think?”
“Fuck you. Show me it.”
“Crikey,” I thought, as I led her over to Claudio’s drawing of the bear. “There’s no getting past this one.” “I hide it behind here,” I told her, as I removed the picture from the wall. “That way no-one will ever try to take it off me.”
The picture was at least three times as big as me but, by now, I’d made a lot of money out of Claudio’s disappearance and had managed to fill out the space behind it quite nicely. By using some brown paper and a strong, sticky, tape I had created a large bag like effect that covered the whole wall.
I placed Claudio’s picture on the floor and peeled off a small corner of the big, brown, bag. I plunged my hand into the bag, pulled out a fifty and handed it to her.
“Here you go,” I said, after I’d made sure I’d given her one of the tatty ones.
“That’s your half, little girl. Now what do you say?”
She looked at her note in disgust.
“Fuck you. You said you’d give me half.”
“I have. Half of one hundred is fifty. See? So I’ve given you a fifty!”
Her sad eyes looked straight at me and I realized that I’d have to be on my toes.
“I know what half of a hundred is, Mister. But then I also know that you’ve got more than a hundred in that big, brown bag of yours. So why don’t you bring it on over here and let me have a look at it?”
She’d caught me out. I didn’t know what else to do, I was confused and shaken. I went over to the wall and peeled off the rest of the brown paper.

It took us over two hours to count out all that money and some of the notes were that untidy, I wondered to myself if the newspaper lady had given me such a fine present after all. The little girl said we should make two piles of money, one with the nice crisp new notes and another with all the rest. It seemed to be about half and half – between the two types of notes – so I agreed.
Once we’d finished building up our two piles of money, I asked the girl which pile was mine.
“It all spends Mister, so stop fucking moaning and find me something to put it in. There,” she said, waiving her hands excitedly. “That’ll do.”
She was pointing to the satchel I had over my left shoulder. I enjoyed wearing it on a nighttime, when it’s pockets and spaces often seemed to come in handy, and I didn’t fancy giving it away. I looked down at the little girl, thought about things for a while and then took off my bag and passed it to her.
She snatched it straight off me, sat back down in-between the two unstable mountains of money, and began to stuff it with notes from the neat pile. She was taking all my neat money and leaving me with the stuff that was difficult to spend. As I stood there and watched, I quickly realised that I couldn’t let her get away with this and tried to formulate a plan.
The mountains of money were both much taller than her and I wondered if they would be heavy enough to crush her. I did a few, quick, calculations in my head and decided it was touch and go.
“Best not risk it,” I said aloud.
“Risk what, Mister?” asked Claudio’s niece.
“Oh nothing,” I replied.
She hadn’t even looked up from her job in hand. She was transfixed. I tried to think quickly what the best way of doing things would be. I looked again at the money, there was certainly enough to temporarily disable her, but then what? She’d still be in my flat. Maybe it would just knock her unconscious and then I could simply throw her out of the window and onto the rubbish bags below. They’d break her fall. But what if I missed the bags and she landed on the hard concrete. She’d be killed without a doubt and I didn’t fancy answering any more awkward questions from the police. Still, I had to take the risk; she was taking all my money. Who had ever heard of a grown man being robbed by a 12-year-old girl? I’d never live it down.
I made my mind up. I would take a small run up and then shoulder barge the two piles of money, which would then topple over and cover this little thief.
Just as I was building myself up to charge, I was interrupted by her telling me she was finished.
“Thanks Mister,” she said. “ I’ve finished.”
“What,” I said, as I spun around to see the little girl on her feet and heading for the door. I’d been too slow making my mind up.
“I’ve finished. I’ve got what I want. You can have the rest.” She pointed at the tatty pile of money that now stood on it’s own in the centre of my room.
“I’m going to go and buy myself some make up now. Goodbye!”
“Wait!” I shouted. “What about your uncle?”
“Shit” she said simply and closed my front door.

Claudio’s niece spent that night at my flat. We had come to a long and complex agreement that had required us to sign some forms, but we still didn’t trust each other.
To calm things down between the two of us, I’d agreed that Claudio’s niece could buy herself a small selection of perfumes and make-ups for the trip and that I would walk her to the store. She bought herself four different items that all looked pointless to me but they seemed to make her happy.
“I’m going to look so fucking pretty, Mister. Just you fucking wait and see,” she said as she skipped along. It made me realise that, in some ways, she was just like any other young girl.
She ran straight into my bathroom when we arrived home and locked the door. I hadn’t gone all day but thought it best not to rush her. Finally, after an hour she unlocked the door and presented herself to me.
“Ta-dah!” she sang. “How fricking good do I look, Mister?”
Although I’m no expert, I could tell that she hadn’t done a very good job of things. The colours were all wrong and she’d put far too much around her main features. She looked older, but not in a good way.
“Lovely,” I said. “You look just like a little, female clown.”
“Thanks,” she said and set off skipping again. She kept pausing and looking at her reflection in shiny objects that caught her eye. After ten minutes of this she started singing a song that I think she made up as she went along.
“Huh… Huh… Huh. I’m such a pretty motherfucker. I’m such a pretty fucking bitch. Huh… I’m such a pretty motherfucker. The prettiest bitch around. Yeah!”
I nodded my head and tapped my fingers but after a while it got repetitive. I couldn’t help wondering who had taught her to speak.
“OK. Time for bed,” I said.
She instantly stopped and walked over to the money in the middle of my floor.
“Night,” she said and then collapsed in a heap on the floor. I walked over and joined her. We were both asleep in seconds.

We had to make an early start. We awoke before sunrise with stiff backs from the floor. The little girls make-up had smudged in her sleep. It made her look like a hung over prostitute.
“You look like a whore,” I said as we both stood up and stretched. “You might want to wash that stuff off.”
“Do I have time to put some more on?”
“No,” I said.
“Right. Well it’s staying on, then.”
“Oh,” I said. It was fine by me.

When Claudio had first disappeared, the police had told the newspapers that they had searched a radius of 300 square miles and had come up with no signs of him. They were either lying or hadn’t looked very hard.
Although it actually took us a lot longer to locate Claudio than I thought it would, four months in all, we knew that we were definitely on the right tracks after only a couple of days. The heavy tracks of a bear and the lighter footsteps of a good-looking man were a sure sign of that – it just always seemed that we were half a day behind.
During our time in the forest we became a real little team, Claudio’s niece and myself. She would do the hunting and the cleaning whilst I did the tracking and cooking. It was a form of domestic bliss in a way that neither of us would ever want to end.

When we finally caught up with him, it was Claudio himself who put things into perspective for the two of us. We found him in a clearing with a bear that was wearing a smart red cape.
“It will be many years before you may legally marry one another,” Claudio said. He was standing on a felled tree stump and presuming things, as though it were some kind of political soapbox.
“Until that time, society will shun you, you will be hounded from your home and you my friend,” he said, motioning to me, “will be lucky to avoid the mobs and a spell in prison.”
The bear grunted as Claudio’s niece and I held hands and nodded our heads. We hadn’t thought of things like that at all.
“Take my situation as an example. What do people at home think has happened to me? Do they ever stop to think that I might have made a lifestyle choice? That I may actually want to spend my time with this lovable beast?”
Claudio ruffled the bears’ chin and straightened out its cape.
“Do they know what a real choice actually is? Do they ever contemplate that I may have actually wanted this? This blessed life of mine. Do they know how happy I am, here in the woods with only my bear as a companion?”
Claudio paused. He was looking at me as though he wanted an answer.
“Well,” I said, thinking for an answer. “To be honest Claudio, I think everyone’s sort of forgotten about you. It’s just easier for them that way.”
Claudio looked hurt. He made a funny noise with his tongue and the bear lay down on the ground. Claudio stared roughly in my direction and then climbed aboard the bear’s back as though it were a regular, everyday horse.
“Well then,” he said, once he’d got himself comfortable. “That’s fine by me. No one will ever know of my affection for freedom, but I have made a choice here. Sure, it may be a choice that our society refuses to recognise, but now that I have tasted liberation I can never go back. I have broken the rules and it has fulfilled my arousal. I feel all the freer for admitting it and I hope that on your return to town, you two dare say the same.”
Claudio’s niece looked at her feet for a while. I could tell she was trying to work everything out – her hands were sweating. I must admit, Claudio was saying some pretty confusing things, but it wasn’t as if we’d touched each other or anything like that. Finally she said,
“Goodbye, Uncle Claudio.”
Claudio stared at us for a while. I think he was contemplating on whether or not to set the bear on us. Luckily, he seemed to change his mind and clicked his heels against the side of the bear. They set off at a canter. As they disappeared into the undergrowth, Claudio shouted,
“Tell them it’s a choice, my dear niece. A simple lifestyle choice that we are all free to make! Now, good luck to you both!”
As we stood there and watched Claudio disappear back into the freedom of the forest, I looked down at his little niece and decided that she probably wasn’t going to be worth all the trouble after all.

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Comments by other Members

Fearless at 07:27 on 29 March 2004  Report this post

Not sure if I can really help, but:

- some people may not like the themes, etc, but personally, chuckled like a mf
- when they tracked down Claudio, with caped bear, I got to thinking that maybe he decided to be a (useless) superhero, e.g. BearMan, only it wasn't successful - not sure if that helps you with the ending (probably not)
- the little girl reminds me of a character from Chris Morris' 'Blue Jam', wo is a 6yo employed to clean up the remains of a murder as a 'cleaner', swearing her head off, then puncturing the agony of the scene with a polite request for orange squash

Sorry I am absolutely no help, but I liked it, and am now looking forward to 'd'.


dr_mandrill at 13:43 on 01 May 2004  Report this post
I want to write more praise, but I’m doing this on company time, and I need to use my break to go wash out my head wound in the toilets. Walked into a road sign on my way to work didn’t I? The sign was for Uttoxeter. Jesus, there’s blood matting in my hair and none of the callous bastards I work with have even noticed.

Um, anyway, good story write some more.

Dm, bruised and confused.

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