10th March


They were passing the end of a particular street when he said, ‘See that old tenement? I went to view a flat in there once. Must be thirty years ago.’

‘When you were with Martha?’ she asked.

‘Yes. We’d been looking for a while, and it sounded promising, so we made an appointment to see it. Didn’t I ever tell you this?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘Everything else in the street is new,’ he said, ‘so it looks different, but that building hasn’t changed.’

They stood hand in hand on the corner while he talked.

‘After we rang the bell there was a silence, then this weird hissing noise behind the door. An old bloke let us in. He’d been spraying the place with air freshener, so much you could hardly breathe. The bloke was probably only about fifty, but he seemed old to us. Very neatly dressed, jacket and tie, but it was all wrong, kind of spivvy. The jacket was yellow corduroy, and the tie was a bow tie. And he had this music, cha-cha-cha stuff, going right through the flat, big speakers in every room. And instead of turning it down while he showed us round, he turned it up. We couldn’t hear a word he was saying.

‘Then he showed us the bedroom. It was all pastels and frilly curtains and a satin bedcover, and on the bed, I’m not kidding, there were dozens of teddy bears, ranks and ranks of them. And he didn’t explain, he didn’t apologise, he just said, with a kind of flourish, “And this is the bedroom.” And all we could see was teddy bears.’

‘I think you did tell me,’ she said. ‘I remember now.’

‘Well, we got out of there fast. It was like, where are the bodies buried? It was a nice flat, but we couldn’t have lived there, not after that. Funny what sticks in your mind. If
I’m ever in this part of town, it’s that flat and those teddy bears I think of.’

‘And are you?’ she said.


‘Ever in this part of town?’

He looked at her strangely. ‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t suppose I am, not often.’

Reader: Gerda Stevenson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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