There were various nods around the table. I dialled the answerphone and listened to the message.
“James, something awful has happened” said my wife at considerable volume, she sounded very upset.
The room went suddenly very still and the four businessmen were now looking at me with real concern on their faces, it was clear they could hear every word she was saying. They were braced for tragic news, as was I. We could all sense we were about to hear something awful.
“One of the builders has done a poo in our downstairs toilet. Call me.”
I shut off the call, but much, much too late. I suddenly felt very hot.
“Sorry about that. So gentlemen we were talking about the domestos er ………domestic markets” I said studying my papers.
After the meeting I rang her up and she told me how she’d arrived home and found “the item” unflushed and bold as brass in the downstairs toilet. She had confronted the builder who had denied the charge but she “could tell” he was lying.
“You’ll have to sort this out James. This is a man’s job”
“Evidently” I said putting the phone down.
You see we were very specific about the toilet arrangements during the extension. We wouldn’t be present during the day so certain trusts were being broken here. The rest of the house was pristine and to access the downstairs toilet meant traipsing wet muddy boots or soiled work clothes through the house, so, at great expense we had provided a porta-loo. A mobile chemical toilet for the builder’s exclusive “outside” use.
And they’d agreed to use it.
They had promised us.
And now this? After such promises finding a builder’s turd was as difficult to swallow as you’d imagine. But it got worse, the builder, the only one there that day, was the son of the boss, the man my wife had called for an emergency meeting at my house and the man who I would have to have this out with. I was pumped for this though, on the way home I kept telling myself that this was an outrage.
As I entered the house I found my wife standing at the end of the hall, close to the scene of the crime, pointing.
“Look” was all she said.
“Jesus, what you didn’t flush it?”
“I’m not going back in there and besides – it’s evidence”
“This situation just gets more and more disappointing. Was there a mess in the hall, how do you know it was the builder?”
“Well it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you was it?”
“No!” I said.
Just then the builder’s dad and overall project manager pulled up outside my house. I watched him take a deep breath. He got out of the car slowly, nothing in the training manual had prepared him for this day.
We exchanged solemn nods and I beckoned him towards ground zero.
“Look, my boy says he didn’t do it, I really don’t know what to say to you…..” he began
“I’m afraid that the proof is right here” I said, and opened the toilet door in a Poirot has solved the crime manner.
The lid was up and there it was.
We all looked.
It was massive.
Above it, on the cistern was the Saturday times magazine, Giles Coren’s face just visible. A good article. An article that I suddenly remembered I’d read that very morning. In fact I’d been quite engrossed in it and suddenly realised I was running late for work………
Oh no. The penny drops.
God this is awkward.
My mind starts to race, my wife is looking at me like she “can tell”. The project manager looks a bit sick. I close the door.
“Look,” I say “There’s no harm done, but please please let’s try to not let each other down again”
I have my eyes closed as I say this, as if I am a benevolent father figure who is willing to give an unruly child one last chance.
The innocent boy’s father nods gratefully at me and, head still bowed, he gets into his car and drives slowly, respectfully away.
I look at my wife and shrug, “You just can’t get the staff these days” I try, but the game is up. I am a kindle to her.
“You do know that you are going to hell for that, don’t you” she says.
“Yep,” is all I can say “I know”.