Blood is so annoying.  Spill a tiny drop of it and, no matter how hard and long you wipe at it with a damp cloth, you can sometimes still see that scarlet stain–that red tinge.  And a slight nick can send drops of it over your crisp, white shirt; your nice new trousers; your socks.  Splashes can appear on the furniture; the walls; even the ceiling.  Those splashes and little specks can stay staring back at you–reminding you–for a long time.

Take this rug, for example: I’d spent many hours over many days shampooing this rug, and the stain was still there; until now–finally–I can look at that rug and it looks pristine.  I feel gratified; I’ve achieved something.  But it was hard work.  So, blood is annoying, but hard work can see you right, in the end.

My wife loved this rug; her mother gave it to us as a wedding present.  My wife used to say that it reminded her of our wedding day.  And it reminded her of her mother (not that she needed reminding of her, she was always only a phone call away).  Now, me–if I wanted to be reminded of her mother–I’d have chosen something more useful: like a front door mat–something I could wipe my muddy boots on; preferably one that didn’t have ‘Welcome’ written on it.  But my wife loved this rug, and it stayed there for a long time, in the front living room, by the front door.

Me, I didn’t like the rug: I didn’t like the pattern or the colour; I didn’t like the person who gave it to us.  But, because my wife loved the rug, I put in a lot of hard work to remove that nasty, red stain.

Surprisingly enough, it was all my wife’s fault that the stain got on there.  We were arguing–about her mother (who was off on a six month cruise, thank goodness)–and things got out of hand.  The next thing I know, I was standing in the living room, with the big axe in my hands (the one I use for chopping logs), and my wife was by the dining table staring–open mouthed–at the rug.  Well, her head was staring open mouth by the dining room table; the rest of her was on the rug by the front door.  And I remember thinking: ‘Deirdre, you’ve made a bit of a mess, there.’

Being the nice, tidy person that I am, I immediately fetched an old blanket and some large bin bags.  Later, I busied myself with buckets of warm soapy water and lots of cleaning cloths for the walls and ceiling.  At some point in the evening, I sat down with a cup of tea and thought about what I was going to do about the stain on the rug.  The next morning, I fetched some carpet shampoo.

That morning, I started sowing the seeds of my wife’s ‘disappearance’.  I didn’t say to anyone that she had gone, but, if anybody asked me how she was, I just said: ‘Oh, all right’ and tried to look tearful.  To be honest, I don’t think anybody even noticed, that first day.  It was in the days and weeks that followed, that my vague hints started to get through.

I kept it all vague and kept my manner very British stiff-upper-lip.  After several weeks, the only person I had fully confided in was the veterinary surgeon.  In a flood of tears, I told him that my wife had run off–with a merchant seaman–and I didn’t expect her to be coming back.

“Well,” he said, wiping my snot from the shoulder of his white coat and trying to untangle himself from my enveloping arms, “that’s shocking, but you need to look after yourself.  You need to get your life back on track.  You need to start eating–why, you look haggard!  But you also need to look after this little fellow…”

This little fellow‘ was our dog, Toby.  He was the reason why I was at the vets.  You see, following the incident with Deirdre, I needed to dispose of the evidence.  I didn’t think the back garden was a particularly good place (too many nosey neighbours), so I came up with–what I thought was–a neat idea, which would have the added bonus of saving on the cost of dog food for a few weeks.  Toby liked my idea, too–initially.

There was a problem–well, two problems actually: Toby didn’t want anything to do with the head; and he was putting on a lot of weight.  To be fair, there is only so much evidence that a small Jack Russell can dispose of.  So here I was at the vets, with an overweight dog.

“What have you been doing to him?  This dog is obese.  What are you feeding him?”

“Just meat,” I said.

“What exercise have you been giving him?”

“Well, I’ve not been out much recently, since–you know, but when I do go out, I take him for a walk round the park.”

“This dog needs less meat, and some fibre in his diet.  And you need to get out more, and give him regular exercise; at least three walks a day.  You can’t let this situation get you down: it’s bad for you and it’s damaging Toby: you’re killing him”

So the vet prescribed some (very expensive) roughage for Toby, and I agreed not to overfeed him, and to get out and take him for walks more often.  Which is why I found myself on the North Downs, with a carrier bag and a spade in my hands; Toby waddling behind me, wheezing and panting.  I disposed of the head, on the first trip, and after many long walks, Toby had burned off quite a few calories, and was starting to look like his old self: sleek and fit.

I really love that dog: I don’t know what I’d do without him.

During this time, I’d made a great effort to get the rug cleaned up.  After many hours work, I finally got there; the rug was clean.  I felt like I was getting my life back into some sort of order.  My health had improved (I was eating regularly and was going out more, socialising); Toby’s health was improving (he was back on normal tinned dog food). What could possibly go wrong?

One morning, there came a knock on the door.

I answered the door; it was Deirdre’s mother–looking sun-tanned.  And angry.

“Where’s Deirdre?” she said. “Why hasn’t she replied to any of my texts?  I’ve been back since yesterday evening, and she’s not even phoned me.”

“She’s not here, Mavis,” I said.  “She’s gone.  She’s left me.  Gone off with a merchant seaman.  His name’s Horatio, I think.”

“She’s gone?” she said.  “I don’t believe you.  She wouldn’t run off with anyone–how dare you say that!  As much as I think she could have done better than you, Alvin, she wouldn’t leave here.  It’s her home.  She loves this home.  Why, there’s her rug.  If she’d have gone, she’d have taken that rug–she loves that rug; I gave it to her.”  And with that, she slipped past me, into the living room.

“I swear, Mavis, she’s gone,” I said, as I closed the front door behind me. I turned, to see her standing on the rug–that rug, which I’d spent so many hours cleaning; that rug which looked pristine–looking down at the rug; staring at it.

“What’s this stain,” she said, “it looks like blood!”

And the next thing I know, I was stood in the living room, with the big axe in my hands; and being the nice, tidy person that I am, I immediately fetched an old blanket and some large bin bags; and–because blood is so annoying–some carpet shampoo.  And Toby started to whine when he saw what he had got to have to eat for tea.

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Peter Coomber was once stared at, on a bus, by Windy Miller - one of the stars of the 1960's t.v. programme Camberwick Green. He also loves making strange howling noises on his electric guitar, but hasn't quite mastered the 'putting fingers on the right bit of the fretboard and plucking the right string at the correct time' part of it yet. Pick up his latest book of short stories Painting by Numbers at

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