The Sign

“I was ever so proud of the new sign I had just bought. A metal plate with a hole to accommodate a screw at each corner and bearing the following in stark black capitals:”NO SALESMEN, NO BEGGARS, NO RELIGIOUS BODIES.” Yes, it might be brusque to the point of rudeness, but I considered my time at home to be my own. I screwed the plate into position, just beside the door at shoulder height – where nobody could miss it. It seemed that my days of being woken at all hours by assorted ne’er do wells and do-gooders were coming to an end.

“The very next day I was woken up by an insistent ringing of the doorbell. All my friends know I work nights at this time of year so I knew there was either some emergency (I don’t trust telephones and wouldn’t dream of having one of those evil things in my house – if there’s a problem at work or with my parents then one of my neighbours is put to the inconvenience of taking a call – they said it was alright for me to give out their number – and preferably taking a message for me or coming and waking me up) or that somebody was rudely ignoring the sign. Bleary eyed, I trundled down the stairs and opened the door. A forty year old creature stood before me. It was wearing a crumpled, brown suit and holding a worn looking brief case. It held out an ID card. It was a salesman!

“I glared and pointed at the sign. “That’s why I’m here,” it said, “It appears that somebody has unscrewed what is undoubtedly a very fine sign and replaced it face down. Kids these days!” It shrugged at me, trying to give the impression that this was something that happened regularly and I was the victim of a growing sign-turning epidemic. “I have the solution to your problem. Pete’s Patented imPregnable Paste! Guaranteed to keep any two surfaces bonded together until one crumbles away. Only five pound a tin.” It knelt down and opened the case and started rattling off some awful sales pitch which I tuned out; I’d seen the screw driver sticking out of his back pocket as he knelt down and recognised the car that he’d obviously driven as one that can be seen perpetually in the car park outside the shop where I bought the sign, and it might have been my imagination, but it looked like there was a uniform for the store hanging in the passenger window. Admiring the cleverness, if nothing else, I interrupted, retreated indoors to pickup some cash and bought a tin – there was no way that sign was going to be moved again this side of eternity.

“Having replaced the sign I returned to my bed and slept soundly. Soundly that is until I was woken again by the doorbell. I crawled out of bed and down the stairs and opened the door expecting the worst. A filthy beggar was standing there. I pointed at the sign and saw the hideous mess the “glue” had made of the wall – it was as if concentrated acid rain had eaten away at the brick leaving a ragged impression where the sign had been. The sign lay face down on the ground. Before the beggar could start what was obviously going to be a drunken and long-winded appeal I told him to hold on a minute. I rummaged through my cupboards, found several tins of food, and a can opener, and a fork. I took these downstairs, grabbing my last five pound note and gave away the lot. Anything for a quiet day’s sleep. I was desperate. The tramp went away with a huge smile on its face as I screwed the sign back into the wall above the crumbly bit. I returned to bed thinking that maybe charity wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

“No sooner had my head hit the pillow than the door bell rang again. By this time I wasn’t thinking straight and grabbed my grandfather’s old service revolver in the hope that I could use it to scare away anybody who shouldn’t be there. I opened the door and pointed straight away to the sign with the gun. Miraculously it was still attached to the wall and facing the right way. “Fuck your sign!” said one of the two conservatively dressed young men holding Bibles and Watchtower magazines. He grabbed the gun, I swear I didn’t know it was loaded, and shot his partner point blank through the head before turning the gun on himself.”


“No further questions, Your Honour.”


(from the glory days (8th October 2004)