Monday, November 19, 2007


Like most people I hate losing keys. A month or so back, I reached into my pocket and took out my keyring, shuffled through the shed padlock key and the house back door key and the side-gate padlock key and the key to the suitcase I no longer own and realised my front door key wasn't on the ring any more.

I did what I hope everyone does in the circumstances. I shuffled through the whole lot of them again as if it would return from thin air like a playing card in a street magician's trick. (I even checked behind my ear, in case it was there like the big round pennies that my headmaster, Mr. Downer, would make appear from time to time, but there were neither pennies nor keys).

"Locked out!"

The last time it happened around here a couple of years back, I knew that Herself was probably sitting waiting for me to show up at my father's place as we had initially planned that morning and on that occasion I had managed to unilaterally change our plans and make my own way home while at the same time have both no credit and no doorkeys, so I was sorely stuck. I had to brave the clutches of the ever-partying girl lodger next door and ring her doorbell to ask if I could use her phone.

There was no reply. I rang it a few times more. Water was spilling down the insides of the waste pipe from the bathroom, so I figured she was home, but indisposed. I went back to sitting disconsolately on the step.

Twenty minutes later she appeared, breezing out on a date, mini-skirted and war-painted and the lot, waving a handbag at me as she hopped into the car she drove sober or drunk.

"Was that you? You should have come in. I was only in the shower," she grinned, wickedly.

The car shot away from the driveway into the early evening. I never did get to use her phone.

Fast forwarding to the couple of weeks ago, when I looked at my keyring for the third time and couldn't see the doorkey I sent a text message to Herself, bemoaning my condition. It received a beep-beeping reply that read:

"I'll be late."

So I was left to my own devices to figure out a strategy for house-breaking. I could climb over the side gate and use the back door key. But as I measured the height of the wall, the width of my belly and the length of my legs, I thought it would be less uncomfortable to be stuck on a doorstep than stuck half-way over a wooden gate with the local gurriers flinging jeers and crabapples at me for fun.

I could break the side window of the livingroom and crawl through. But the prospect of listening to Herself giving out about the broken glass and the look and shaky security of the plywood I would inevitably have to put in its place wasn't a pleasant one.

So, in the end, I went to the shop, bought a chocolate bar for my tea and two unwinning scratch cards (so, I expected my luck would be good, that day???) and killed time until Herself arrived home, tired and unsympathetic, from work.

The key, it turned out, had been left on the hall table. How it got on the hall table was that the Son of Herself had left his keys at home and asked Herself to leave a key for him under a stone. She took the key from my keyring with my sleep-mumbling consent and I never saw it nor remembered it nor thought any more about it. Though, it might as well have disappered by magic for all the astonishment I felt on not seeing it in my hand as I stood on the doorstep.

The boss went on holiday last week and left his key to the safe. His boss wanted nothing to do with it, so myself and D devised a plan to hide the key in her desk drawer in the plastic box in which she keeps her reading glasses. Some records needed to be put in the safe, so I asked her for the key, which she duly handed over. I put the records in place, locked up and...

Well, from there the story became a bit vague. Two days later, D asked me for the key to the safe.

"You have it," I said.
"No, I don't." she said. "You never gave it back to me since the other day."

Oh crap.

I poked about on the desk. The very last time I remembered it with any clarity was lying it on the papers on the desk. Then I took it and...

"Oh I gave it back to you."
"No you didn't."

Oh bugger.

It was near closing time, so she watched me scrabble about a bit as she switched off her computer and put on her coat.

"It will probably turn up," she said.

I walked for my bus, wracking my tired, distracted brain for an image of what I'd done with the key. I remembered D saying that if I was ever looking for it, to look in the plastic glasses case. Sure, that must be where it was! I thought no more about it until the next day.

In the morning, a row erupted.

"You have it!"
"Are you in your dotage? You never gave it back to me!"
"I'm one-hundred percent sure you have it in your glasses case. Look!"
I tugged at the glasses case and peered inside. It was uncomfortably empty.

At dinner, a tiny chink of light appeared. I'd been putting the records in the safe, I recalled, then I turned to give the key back to D, but she wasn't there. So, I said I'd give it to her later and in the meantime, I put it in...

"My shirt pocket..!"

My shirt pocket, in common with the rest of the shirt, was at home. (It was a few days later, after all). I texted the sonambulant, Son of Herself. He rang me back.

"Look in the laundry basket, the washing machine, on the lawn under the clothes line, in the pile of ironing, in the cat..."

It was in the rubber seal of the washing machine, right up against the glass. Son of Herself didn't find it, but I did later, retracing the laundry steps from the bedroom where I would have changed out of the hated work attire in the evening, to the appliance that Herself would have stuffed full in the morning as I still dozed in the room above. I put it immediately on my keyring beside my front door key. What could go wrong?

Keys and me. We're not a happy pairing.

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