Authors: Danny King
1: Second to last house on
2: Nocturnal visitors
3: Basement fears
PART 1: Like Father Like Son
4: The flicker of interest
PART 2: The Killing Moon
5: Opinion is divided
PART 3: The Black Spot
6: And then there was one
PART 4: Like Mother Like Daughter
7: Good night and God bless
Epilogue: Monsters in our
last house on the left
In any neighbourhood, in any town, there’ll be a scary old house. It’ll be
overgrown, run down, uncared for and forgotten. And more often than not it’ll
be occupied by a scary old man who will more or less fit this same description.
Time addled, weathered, blistered and peeling, this old man will shuffle around
the district keeping himself to himself, harvesting his neighbours’ skips and
thinning out Post Office queues whenever he wafts in to collect his pension.
also be blissfully ignorant of the fact that he’s the local oddball.
think of himself as quiet, unassuming, frugal and sage, a maverick to be sure,
but a wily one at that. And he’ll make the classic mistake of thinking that if
he minds his own business, everyone else will mind theirs.
took me a few months before I realised I was the scary old oddball in my
street. I’d always thought of myself simply as John: hard working,
conservative, thrifty and solitary, if occasionally ripe on hot days, but what
did that matter when I lived on my own? It was my house; I could smell how I
liked in it. Besides, I remembered reading somewhere that soap clogged up your
pheromone holes and it was them that got women hot under the petticoats, not Daz
and Old Spice and all that load of old poof’s water. Not that I went in for any
of that sort of nonsense any more either. My libido was like my old army sidearm,
in a box somewhere under a load of old crap and it hadn’t fired a shot in anger
since Aden. No, I was happy to potter about in my shadow, keep the world at
arm’s length and save a few pennies towards my dotage.
moved into this house in 1972. Back then it had been a smart two-bedroom end-terrace
bungalow with a side garage and front and rear gardens. It had cost me the princely
sum of three thousand pounds at the time, and despite the fact that I hadn’t
cut the lawn, cleaned out the guttering or wiped the windows since, I reckoned
it had probably kept its value.
course, I didn’t plan to end up this way, a lonely old buzzard whose sole
purpose in life seemed to be ridding the world of Oxtail soup, one tin at a
time. I mean who does? But life had simply got the better of me. When I was
young, and I mean waist high to a cricket, I’d dreamed of being a sailor, of seeing
the world and of exploring new lands, which is about as far away from how I’d
ended up as it’s possible to get. I guess I'd just been shipwrecked against a
different fate, that’s all. Most people are if you think about it.
as I say, because mine had been a gradual decent, rather than a spectacular
plummet, I was oblivious of the fact that my reputation was somewhat on a par
with the scrap metal merchant’s dog. That was until the neighbourhood kids
started taking an interest in me – a telltale sign of one’s standing in the
community if ever there was one. Of course, I didn’t understand why they’d
singled me out for their intrigues at first, but single me out they had. Spectres
knocked on my front door all hours, whispers emanated from the knotted jungle
that was my back garden and my milk was no longer left to be collected from my front
door step, but rather poured through my letter box in the small wee hours of
the morning. What wags they were.
four weeks of this nonsense I decided to take a long hard look in the mirror
and realised to my dismay that I was Thetford’s kooky old oddball.
I say, all neighbourhoods have at least one. In my day he was called Harold and
he lived in a cottage at the end of my road. He’d got on the wrong side of a German
shell in Ypres and looked a fearsome monster, with hooks for hands and a face
screwed on all wrong. Me and my pals were terrified of him and made up stories
of what fate befell any child who tumbled into his clutches. This inevitably
led to us venturing into his garden after dark to test our mettle and trample his
tomatoes. He used to roar at us as we scarpered away, over the wall and into
the night, and we took his roars to be the homicidal rages of frustration at
missing out on catching us to fill his pies with, when really he probably just
wanted us to bugger off and stop pissing in his watering can. Poor old Harold;
he’d gone through hell and back on the battlefield only to find it had followed
him home and into old age.
funny, I hadn’t thought of him in some fifty odd years. Not until the pranks
began in earnest on my own doorstep. And that was when I realised I was his reincarnation.
course, none of their parents would do anything about the little bleeders when
I tried complaining to them.
Tommy ain’done nothink I’m telling ya and you can’t proov nothink otherwise,
you fackin’ stirrin’ old
on, fack off away from my
, you faackin’
old scarecrow, you stink!”
like in my day. In my day had one of my neighbours come to the door with a
complaint about me, I would’ve felt the lick of my dad’s belt across my back
without so much as a right to reply. Oh yes, children learned to respect their
elders in my day and no mistake – except poor old Harold now that I come
to think of it. He’d complained to everyone but no one had taken the blindest
bit of notice of him. I guess at the end of the day no one likes an oddball,
young or old, because oddballs are always complaining about something, whether
it be kids in their vegetable patch or Catholics in the town planning office,
so why pander to ’em? Short shrift and the bristly end of a broom is all they
can appreciate this. I honestly can. In the cold light of day, after a period
of cold and careful reflection, I can genuinely see how I might not have listened
if I’d lived next door to myself either, but this didn’t make my neighbours’
indifference any easier to bear, especially when my bins started doing
handstands on the garden path the night before they were due to be collected. Little
got so bad that I even daydreamed about going to the law, but I quickly got
over that. Me and the authorities don’t make for good bed fellows, (I don’t
like those nosy parkers knowing my business – particularly those fish-eating
bastards down at the local town planning office), so I took the one course of
action left open to me and decided to do something about my pest problem
of the many benefits of living the way I do is you always have the materials
for any job, be it knocking together a chicken coop in the garden, repairing an
old vacuum cleaner from parts or building a guillotine in your basement,
whatever you like really, so I set about knocking nails into walls, rigging
wires on pulleys and fixing bolts to doors until I’d engineered a solution to
built a trap.
do,” I concluded to myself, admiring my handiwork as I freshened up with a post-toil
handkerchief bath. “Now all I need is a drop of bait.”
left a fiver in plain sight on the sitting room table for three nights running
but no one broke in to swipe it, so I figured a more obvious approach was
called for and dug out my dad’s old bowler hat.
dad had worn a billycock all his life and it was one of the few things I had to
remember him by. I’d never worn one myself, because the fashion had come and
gone by the time it had reached my head, so I’d simply stuck it in the back
bedroom and left it to gather dust for the last four decades. But finally, some
forty years to the day after it had last seen action, I reached it down from atop
the wardrobe, gave the brim a wipe with the back of my cuff and set it upon my
crown at a jaunty angle. And you know what, as I admired myself in the hallway
mirror, I have to say I looked a right pillock. Well they didn’t go out of
fashion for nothing, you know.
grabbed my coat, dug out my shopping basket and headed for Tesco’s.
had a fair idea of the hoodlums who were responsible for my torments and knew whereabouts
they liked to congregate too, so I sounded general quarters and set course to put
myself in their sights.
of the fringe benefits of being the town oddball is that you can get away with
dressing like one, so no one paid me or my fetching new headgear any heed –
not until I passed the little scummers bumming smokes in the alleyway by the
side of the supermarket. The stifled sniggers and hoots of derision that tumbled
from their direction told me they approved, so doffed my peak at a couple of confused
Tescolites and headed inside to see what treasures awaited me on the dented
was out and about a lot over the next few days, always in my bowler and always
in sight of my persecutors. They followed me around, giggled hysterically and
took to shaping McDonald bags on their heads to match my hat. They were very
excited by this latest development indeed, so I kept it up until they were
champing at the bit to knock it off my head and take it for a spin.
the groundwork had been laid, I set the hat on the front windowsill of my bungalow,
in plain view of the street (once you got past the overhanging hazel branches of
course) and settled in for a busy night.
“You get it yet?”
knocked it on the floor. Hang
on, hold the window open, I’m going in.”
, I ain’t no bottler!”
all a’ yous lot, shut it or
you’ll wake the old scarecrow up for
me, it’s Farny.”
leader of the pack climbed through the window and dropped into the gloom of my
front room. Barely able to contain his squeals of delight he grabbed my dad's
old hat and stuffed it back through the open window to his mates outside.
it! Here, grab it will ya!” he told them excitedly, clambering back up onto the
windowsill to make his escape. The boys outside giggled triumphantly and
started passing it from head to head when they noticed their leader had yet to
you coming or what?”
on. Look at this!” he said, spotting what else I'd left for them amongst the
few yards from the window, I’d pushed back a couple of my taller scrap heaps to
air a stretch of carpet. My poor old Axminster hadn’t seen the light of day
since 1982 and it didn’t get much of a respite now because I heaved my bait up
from the basement and set it down amongst the shadows. It would’ve been
difficult to make out what it was from the overgrown weeds of my front garden,
but once a person was inside, my front room’s newest feature stood out like a horrifyingly
a coffin!” Tommy told his mates .
came back their reply.
a coffin. Scarecrow’s got a
in his living room!”