Mental Health Stories #5

“What is it Grandpa?”
“My number’s come up.”
“Oh…..I’m so sorry……I thought you were as fit as a flea for you age and glad to be alive.”
“No. No, Sally. I mean my lottery numbers have come up. I’m rich, rich, rich!”
“Well, Richard is a good stout English name, but I’ll still call you grandpa.”

* * *

Six weeks later, Grandpa had done what most lottery winners do. He’d gone back to work, bought more lottery tickets and lost 90% of his cash to golden-tongued financial leeches. But the few thousand he wisely kept hidden in the allotment shed still enabled him to purchase some new mud flaps for the car, replace his yellowing underpants with silk state-of-the-fart thongs and treat the whole family to a day out in Scarborough.

The sun shone rather shiftily on the agreed day, but grandpa was optimistic as he admired his new mud flaps and waited for the others to join him. The car was always parked outside so it had a cream and black songbird finish, no wing mirrors and a windscreen wallpapered in parking tickets.

“That daft lad’s still pretending to be a policeman” murmured Grandpa to himself, as he raked the windows clear.
“They’re lovely mud flaps grandpa” said Sally. “Why did you choose orange, though?”
“Why, to match the edges of the wheel arches of course.”
“Now. Where have grandma and the others got to?”
“They’re coming now.”
“Hey! None of your internet porn filth here if you don’t mind young lady.”

Eventually grandma, Dad, Toby and the dog appeared. Mum was going to relax with a long thin neighbour who shared her interests in Russian literature, phallic symbology and four-poster beds. Even so, it was a bit of a squeeze in the 1961 Fiat 500 and Grandma didn’t look too happy in the middle rear seat, her face filling the mirror like a pie in an eggcup, eyes of stone fixed on grandpa’s hairy neck.

“Hello playmates!” chortled grandpa.
“Let’s burn rubber, grandpa” said Toby
“Hey! None of your internet porn filth here young man.”

The eyes of stone turned obsidian.

Blistering sunshine quickly turned the car into an oven as they creaked down the street towards the motorway, poisonous deodorant fumes rapidly giving way to armpit ambiance, while Rufus the dog raced around like a dervish in a wall of death show, bouncing off the dashboard, rear window and armrests at the rate of one revolution every two seconds.

“Can’t someone control that dog?” barked grandpa.
“Did you know DOG is GOD in reverse” said Sally.
“And vice versa” said grandma, looking older than her ninety-two years, eyes still fixed on the hairy red neck.
“Nice to see you……” cackled grandpa, looking in the mirror.

Suddenly his false teeth were in the open glove compartment. The car had hit a minefield of sleeping policemen, rumble strips, chicanes and bottomless potholes.

“My Lord! Hold on tight. We’ve hit some turbulence.”
“Didn’t you see the signs grandpa?”
“No, sorry love. I need a telescope on one eye and a microscope on the other to see normally these days.”
“Isn’t that dangerous?”
“No not really. That’s why the roads are fitted with these Braille systems so we older drivers can tell when things are unsafe by all the bumps and shakes.”
“Ooooh. That’s clever.”

Because Rufus had run about a hundred miles by now and was beginning to tire, his judgement was a little faulty. One leg hit the open window and, with a parting grin, he was swept out of the car and into oblivion.

“Stop the car, grandpa!” shrieked Sally.
“Too late, we’re on the motorway now” said Dad.
“I’ll miss him” sobbed Sally.
“Well, the following cars haven’t’” announced Toby, with the forensic interest of a boy at the insect-torturing stage of development.
“All’s well that ends well” said grandma.

Thirty minutes after setting off they hit the twenty-five mile traffic jam approaching Scarborough. This was a difficult time for Grandpa because the ten m.p.h. rate of progress was a good deal faster than his usual pace on the open road. The sun beat down like a Martian death ray and his usual bonhomie slowly gave way to a mumbling delirium.

“No, no! Not the cooler again…… I’ll talk you bastards…… You’ve broken me at last….”
“The heat’s got to him” said Dad.
“He thinks he’s back in the war” said Sally.
“No, he had flat feet and a lots of silk stockings for sale in those days. I think he’s remembering when he was shop steward in the frozen pea factory.”
“He needs some air anyhow.”
“Come on grandpa! Park in the lay-by.”
“What?….oh…..yes….er…….just a minute.”

From the safety of the lay-by they ate a three course meal, urinated in the undergrowth and listened to grandpa playing his trumpet..

“That little road over there looks clear antway” said grandpa.
“But that’s the cycle path, grandpa.”
“Rubbish! You’ve been filling your head with all that internet porn filth, young man.”
“Although” he added “Shagtube and those weird bandage sites with whips and tassels can be quite useful for research purposes.”
“Oh, yes. I always make sure of my theory, before I apply it” said Grandpa, winking at the mirror.

The obsidian eyes bulged with menace.

“I’ve got a strange ringing sound in my ears” complained grandpa.
“Its the the twenty cyclists behind, trying to get past” said Toby.
“Bang, crash!”
“Lord Sugar! What was that?”
The purple-faced guy with the mountain bike decided to overtake across the roof.”
“I’m going to try second gear in a minute.”
“That was reverse, grandpa.”
“Well, it seems to have slowed them down a bit. I hope they’re all right in the middle of that mountain of twisted metal. Young fools ought to be more careful.”

Stopping at the first set of 32 traffic lights in Scarborough, the family breathed in the familiar seaside scent of road works. They’d read about this new ‘intelligent’ road management system in the ‘Sunday Morning Spurt’. Apparently, each set of lights delayed the traffic by five minutes and after four minutes a camouflaged traffic warden emerged from the bushes writing parking tickets.

“The lights are on green, grandpa! And that man with the black uniform, red spidery armband and a geranium on his head is coming across.”
“Don’t be daft, Toby. Everyone knows that cars don’t move any quicker on green than they do on red. Only amber gets people weaving.”
“It’s amber now! And he’s almost here!”
“Oh! …..Well….er….which is it….maybe if I….better check the mirror…er…still plenty of time to scratch my arse……..1932, that was a good year…. “
“We’re off. We’re off” grandpa laughed.
“It might be something to do with the irate truck driver behind pushing us down the street at 60 m.p.h” said Dad.
“It’s the best way to save petrol” remarked grandpa, tapping the side of his nose.

The obsidian eyes had an eerie glow.

“Well, here we are at last.”
“Let’s start on the sandwiches.”
“Good idea, Sally. We’ve got chicken, ham, tomato, cheese, Marmite, egg, black pudding, kangaroo and jam. All mixed together, actually.”
“What about the cakes and pies?”
“Drinks and nibbles?”
“Wipes and pipes?”
“Flasks and tarts?.”
“Litter and titter?”
“It’s all here. No need to rush. We’ve got all day.”
“But it’s five p.m. Now.”

They’d parked on a dingy side street to save the new 50p a microsecond car park charges recently introduced by the town council, but there was still plenty to see. A normal looking bloke with clean jeans, polo shirt and white trainers came ambling down the path with a plastic shopping bag.

“Well, I’ll be damned. Can you see that?”

The others just gaped, their jaws dropping, mouths opening, food spilling and anuses involuntarily rasping. Heads were cranked around 180 degrees in one instinctive, united movement, following the man’s progress with vital concentration, the feeding frenzy momentarily suspended by sheer shock.

“Ha ha ha”
“Would you believe it?”
“A man with a plastic bag in town.”
“There was another one near the traffic lights, grandpa.”
“Was there? You should have said Sally. We could have all looked.”

The street was getting busier now, as people made their way up from the seafront. A large party of overweight, spotty youths in toddlers’ clothing meandered around, their tattoos and piercings mingling like Medieval armies while their tongues darting out at flies.

“It’s hard to tell the difference between normal people and those that are a bit slow” said Grandpa, diplomatically.
“Yes. I think those are the ones who’ve come thousands of miles for IVF treatment on the NHS”
“A grand idea! It’s every idiot’s human right to have five kids on benefits. No wonder the EC have insisted on it.”
“Hear, here.”
“Hurrah for us.”
“We’re nice people, we are.”
“They call it ‘I.Q. Challenged syndrome’ now grandpa” said Toby.
“Oh. We just used to call them thick bastards when I was at school. But of course we know better these days.”
“In the olden times people used to think intelligence was inherited through genetics.”
“Ha ha. Well, Toby, the I.Q challenged people are having twice as many children as any other group, so it’s lucky for us those old ideas are totally wrong.”
“Yes. In three generations the UK would be overrun with morons otherwise.”
“Ha ha ha.”

The obsidian eyes sparked and flashed with venom.

“Hey! Look at that weird guy.”
Oh, yes. I think it’s it’s that long lost Japanese soldier. You know, the one that’s been occasionally spotted living in the overgrown South Cliff gardens. He’s been there since 1941 waiting for orders.”
“He doesn’t look too happy.”
“No, his armoured car’s got a ticket or two by the look of it.”
“Hey! Look at the size of that.”
“I’ve told you before young man. No more of your internet porno filth.”
“No grandpa. I mean the the size of that black limo coming down the street.”
“It’s Annie Lummox and Bonehead!” cried Toby.
“Is it true that they were secretly married last week?”
“Yes” said Dad. “They’ve decided to arrange the Second Coming biologically.”
“And Simon’s going to be the baby’s manager.” added Sally.

The sun was going down behind the Gothic gables now and the family were getting restless.

“Shall we go for a walk grandpa?”
“No, Sally, there isn’t really enough time I’m afraid. But I’m sure we’ve all enjoyed our day out anyway. We’d better make a start. But before that, I wanna tell you a story…..”
“No, no, no thanks…..”
“It was in 1790 when Monty and Churchill and I were sailing in ‘The Beagle’….”

The obsidian eyes lit up. The hands were white and cold.

“Can you hear me mother?” laughed grandpa, looking in the mirror.

* * *

At a quarter to midnight the car finally rattled into life, but stalled as soon as grandpa let the handbrake off

“That’s funny. I wonder if we threw too much rubbish out of the windows. The car can’t get over it. I’ll have to dig the front wheels out”

Levering himself out, grandpa slowly straightened up and then assumed his beloved 1960’s trade union posture; thumbs behind his braces, head shaking, each knee lifted up to his chin as he circled the car with clicking tongue and large boots.


Unexpectedly, a primordial scream erupted from the car. The engine was gunned, the clutch dropped and………


Grandpa lay under the car, only his khaki shorts, varicose veins and ankle suspenders visible, as Dad rushed to his assistance.

“Why did you do it grandma?” sobbed Sally.
“Yes, why?” said Toby with cheerful interest.
“It was…..”
“It was a mercy killing.”

* * *

Later, at the police station, Toby asked Dad what grandpa’s last words were.

“This car needs under-sealing.” said Dad.


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