Cracking Up

    "It's nothing," she told herself. "It's not there, just my imagination."

    She switched the tv on, turning the sound up a higher than usual and sat resolutely in her chair, fixing her eyes on the screen. The packet of biscuits, she realized, was still in her hand and she put it down, crunching the free biscuit. Despite the volume level and despite a great effort on her part, the gameshow on the tv failed to capture her full attention. She sat rigidly in her chair and her hands clutched the armrests. Another muffled sound came from above and she flinched, staring desperately into the eyes of the gameshow host as if he could somehow save her. Then, the upstairs toilet flushed.

    Ghosts didn't use the toilet. No more did burglars. Well, she supposed burglars might, but surely not while the householder was sitting watching tv downstairs. Angelica discovered she was cross. Whoever was it, coming into her house without saying a word and scaring her so? Wandering about as if they owned the place and using the bathroom without so much as asking or even saying hello!

    On rubbery legs she stood and walked out of the sitting room to stand at the bottom of the stairs. She held on to the stair-post and the gameshow music, so trite and ordinary, gave her strength.

    No sounds now. Everything was quiet. But she hadn't imagined it. Someone was there, maybe still in the bathroom. The gameshow music reminded her of something. Hadn't she seen a show where people had tricks played on them like this? They'd be going about their ordinary business and something inexplicable would happen, shocking and unpredictable. The poor person would be getting filmed the whole time by hidden cameras, their reactions broadcast to the nation.

    "But who'd do that to me?" she asked the stair-post. "No, that's not it. No one would pick me, why would they? And how would they get into my house to put all the cameras up!"

    There was a splashing from the upstairs bathroom, water running into the sink, and Angelica jumped, her heart banging unpleasantly in her chest. She froze, her two hands gripping the stair-post like a life-raft, staring up the stairs.

    The bathroom door opened, brushing against the carpet outside and then footsteps on the landing, coming down on the squeaky board Angelica was always meaning to fix. Her heart thumped and her stomach rolled but Angelica couldn't move, just stood holding on as a pair of shoes appeared. They were brown, sensible shoes, attached to a pair of stout ankles in beige tights. They came slowly down, stepping quite heavily. The hem of a blue skirt was revealed, then a wide brown belt and a beige cardigan that bulged over the woman's large breasts. The woman's face, square and formidable came into view, framed by a stiff cap of graying hair. She came down the stairs and passed Angelica without a word, side-stepping and disappearing again into the sitting room. Angelica heard the tv switch off and a soft creak from her chair.

    "Well!" Angelica said to herself in shock, after a moment in which her head roared so much she swayed and thought she might have fainted. "Well! And she didn't say a thing! She barely looked at me! Who does she think she is! Who?"

    "She can't do it!" she told the stair-post. "She can't! Whoever heard of such rudeness?" The stair-post seemed to agree, struck dumb with astonishment.

    Trembling with fear and anger Angelica went into the sitting room, where the woman was once again sitting in her own favorite comfy chair. It was just too much, that's what it was. Too much! How dare she! Did she not know how to behave? The woman even had the packet of biscuits and was digging out another with her right hand while her left held an open book on her wide lap.

    "Excuse me!" Angelica said in a tone she hoped was frigidly polite, although her voice cracked and trembled. "Who are you and what do you think you're doing? I'm waring you, I'll call the police I will! Don't think I won't!"








The End

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