WHO’S A PRETTY BOY by Pete Brammer
Number 26 Almond Grove, was the home of Emilie Tingle. The old back-to-back terrace house had been her home with husband Bruce, until his untimely death from lung cancer some sixteen years earlier. She always claimed his death was from the Atomic Bomb testing, on Christmas Island in the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately the Ministry of Defence and government chose to deny this and accept no responsibility. Compensation was never paid out, leaving her an extremely bitter woman.
Bruce and his comrades had been ordered to stand with their backs to the detonation of this new device. Then, with the only protection being a pair of sun glasses, orders were issued to turn around. High above them a massive grey mushroom cloud, the like they had never seen before, rose majestically into the sky.
A few weeks before his passing, Bruce brought home a cocker spaniel puppy, bought off a well known alcoholic in the ‘Linger Longer’ public house, at the end of the street. Knowing he hadn’t long to live, Bruce thought it would prove to be company for Emilie, and give her something to look after. Two weeks later Mr. Tingle sadly died in his sleep, a shadow of his former self. At first, Emilie had doubts about keeping ‘Jenny’ (named after Bruce’s favourite Aunt who lived down in Devon), but her husband had been correct. Jenny proved to be worth her weight in gold.
Now at sixteen years old, Jenny succumbed to kidney failure and was taken to the vet’s in a neighbour’s car. Emily knew in her heart, she would not be bringing the old girl home, and so it proved.
Barely a word was spoken on the journey home. The neighbour allowed her to be alone with her thoughts.
Almost a year later, the old lady happened to be passing a pet shop on the High Street. There, hanging on the wall in a large cage, was the most beautiful parrot she had ever seen. “I’ve got to have that.” she thought.
Entering the shop, she was met by a young man in a white coat. “Can I help you?” he enquired.
“Yes, I am interested in that parrot outside.”
“Oh, Mr Chips. Yes, he’s a fine specimen. Isn’t he?”
“Why is he called Mr Chips?”
The lad smiled. “Because he likes chips, Luv.”
“That’s a funny thing to feed as bird on.”
“Don’t tell me. Tell him. He plays holy war up if he doesn’t get them.” Bending forward he asked, “Are you interested in buying him?”
“Well actually, it’s a dog I really want. You see I’ve recently lost mine. I need a good house dog because we’ve been getting a number of burglaries lately.”
The lad smiled. “Look no further. Mr Chips is a clever bird. He will look after your house. He’s better than a guard dog. Yes, much cleverer.” Rubbing his chin, he continued, “He knows how to use the telephone and will warn you if anyone’s about.”
The old lady sighed. “Oh I don’t know.”
“Think about it. He doesn’t eat as much as a dog. You won’t have to take him for walks and you find me a dog that can use the phone.”
“How much is he?”
“To you darling, only forty quid.”
“Forty pounds? I don’t think I can afford that much.”
Eager to make the sale, he said. “As you’ve just lost your dog, make it thirty, and I’m giving him away.”
Emilie took another look at the bird. Then she nodded. “Go on then, I’ll take him.”
“You’ll not regret it, I promise.”
Later that afternoon, Mr Chips was delivered by the pet shop owner, on his way home.
A few days later Mrs Tingle was getting herself ready to go shopping and walked across to the cage. “Mummy’s going down to the shops. You look after the house Mr Chips.”
The old bird stuck his chest out. “Mummy going shopping. Mr Chip look after house … Mummy going shopping … Mr.Chips a good boy.”
Emilie smiled. “You are a clever boy. See you soon.”
“See Mr Chips soon … Mummy going shopping … Mr Chips a clever boy.”
It was ten minutes after Emilie had locked the door, when Mr Chips suddenly became aware of a noise coming from the kitchen window. Carefully he opened the cage door and slowly climbed out. A reflection in the mirror, showed a youth climbing through and dropping a bag to the floor.
Mr Chips then jumped down onto the settee, whilst carefully looking round to see if he’d been noticed. Slow and deliberately, he crept towards a telephone on a coffee table.
After searching through cupboards and drawers, the burglar made his way up stairs.
Mr Chips realised this was the time to make his move. Quickly, he picked up the receiver and dialled 9 … 9 … 9.
A voice asked on the other end of the line. “Emergency. Which service do you require?”
The bird took a nervous look towards the stairs, before answering …
“Who’s a pretty boy then?”