Cases and Places

Hettie smiled as she heard the splashing in the bath, and turned back towards her other ‘babies’. There were 23 cats and 4 dogs in her tiny terraced chalkstone cottage, as well as an assortment of gerbils and rabbits in cages along the walls, and two noisy parrots flying about at will. The carpets had long since rotted away under the constant flow of uric acid, and they had now been replaced with shovel loads of sawdust, brought weekly from the local carpenter’s workshop. She raked up the caked mass of urine, dung and vomit once a week, and bribed the dustbin men to take it away (against their better judgement) each Monday.

On Tuesday, she went shopping for ‘lights’ and other waste material from the butcher, continuously boiling this offal in a vast cauldron on her 1950’s Belling cooker. The combined smell of stewed lungs and stinking floorboards was overpowering to everyone but Hettie, and in a moderate breeze the reek could be detected 200 yards away. The fumes were now entering the next-door neighbours’ attics and condensing as a horrible sticky scum, so the Environmental Health Department and the Parish Council were attempting to take her to court. She ignored each summons when it arrived, putting it alongside the other unopened buff envelopes behind the broken carriage clock, on the white splattered mantelpiece……


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