It's not every day that you meet an estate agent in a cave who seems to know all about your ongoing attempts to track down your giant missing sandwich. In fact, if I'm honest, it had only happened to me twice before, although in one case he hadn't been a proper estate agent, just the man who put up the "For Sale" signs. So when this guy seemed to know all about my struggle, I was somewhere between flummoxed and flabbergasted.
And it wasn't just him; he took me to meet the rest of his people. There was a whole tribe of estate agents in a clearing in the jungle, living in a series of bamboo huts - by which I mean a picturesque village of affordable starter homes constructed from locally sourced sustainable materials and with easy access to shops and other nearby amenities. They all seemed to know about my adventures - the gentlemen estate agents, the lady estate agents, the little boy and girl estate agents. They had their own newsletter about me, they drew pictures and even acted out little dramas about my exploits.
"Tell us!" they cried. "Tell us all about your adventures in another dimension! Tell us what it was like when you were in that banjo band with the meerkats? Tell us what happened to that outboard motor that you bought in episode twenty-eight! Tell us your whole story, in detail, right from the very beginning!"
I really didn't know how to feel about this. I was all ready to jack it all in and go home, and yet here, in this wilderness, was a group of people who were actually interested in my doings. Admittedly, there was only and handful of them, they were weirdos and I had nothing but contempt for them, but an audience is an audience, right? So we sat around a camp fire and while they picked fleas off each other and tried to sell each other bungalows, I cast my mind back to the very beginning and started to unfold my tale.
"I moved the fridge yester-Wednesday," I told them sombrely, "and I found an old sandwich, all stinked up and loathsome. Ham and cheese, I think it may have been once upon a while. Normally I would hurl something like that onto the roof with all the other sludgy nonsense, but this one was different..."
I am in a dark cave high up on a cliff face, and someone has put their hand on my shoulder. What fresh doings can this be, I think to myself, and then a moment later someone speaks and my worst fears are confirmed.
"Lovely view from here, I think you'll agree," said the voice. "And, of course, it's so handy for the shops."
Oh heck, it was an estate agent. I don't recall whether I have mentioned this before - I have a feeling that it may have come up once or twice - but estate agents are easily the dullest people on the planet. If you were to be offered a choice between talking to an estate agent and ramming your head into a cement mixer and letting it spin you round and round and round, you would easily choose the cement mixer option, for though it would hurt like stink, leave you with a permanent ringing in your ears and possibly tie your spine into an interesting series of knots, it would nevertheless be preferable to listening to whatever it is that estate agents bang on about all the blinking time.
This one, I gather, was trying to sell me this cave. "Oh yes," the slimy git was saying, "it's not often that we get caves like this coming onto the market. And when they do, they tend to get snapped up straightaway. We had a hole in the ground come up a couple of months ago and we got four offers before we'd even put it on the website. Last year we had a cavern, now that was a really swanky place."
You can't argue with these people either. Here, I'll demonstrate: "It's cold, it's dark and it smells," I said.
"Yes, it does maintain a constant cool temperature," he said. "Very refreshing when you step inside from the baking jungle heat. And the mood lighting is an especially nice touch. As for the distinctive aroma, well you can thank the slime running down the walls for that."
"Look, I'm not interested," I protested. "I only came in here looking for my sandwich, and frankly - "
The estate agent suddenly clutched at my shoulder in feverish excitement. "Oh my gosh," he said. "You're him!"
I saw my sandwich! It was just a fleeting glimpse through the trees but I could recognise those damp strips of brown lettuce anywhere. I set off in hot pursuit, crashing though the undergrowth, barging past wet stringy dampers that lashed my face, ignoring the thorny jaggers that tore at my skin and not even bothering about all the squishy muckiness that I stepped in. I emerged from the trees at the foot of a cliff and looked up to see my sandwich climbing rapidly up the rocks in that special way that only sandwiches can.
Oh no, I can't climb! Not because I am a big scaredy wuss who is afraid of heights, you understand. No, it's a medical condition that makes it impossible for me to climb. My knees bend the wrong way, you see. Going upstairs is a nightmare, but boy, you should see me limbo. But then I suddenly remembered that fifteen years ago I had invested in a pair of stick-o-matic high altitude suction mitts, guaranteed to adhere to any surface. I had never had the opportunity to use them until now, so I slipped them on and started to climb, congratulating myself that the bargain price of £29.99 plus postage and packing had indeed been money well spent. I remember my friend Kevin laughing at me at the time. Well he's not laughing now, is he - for a number of reasons, not least because of the accident with the piano. It was his own fault for keeping his mouth open.
I paused to look upwards, in time to see my sandwich drag itself into an opening in the cliff face. I turned the dial on the suction mitts up to eleven and very soon I found myself entering a dark, smelly cave. I couldn't see a thing, but moments later I felt a hand on my shoulder.
I tromped happily through the jungle - tromp, tromp, trompity tromp - singing a cheery song to myself as I went. It was a song about a donkey called Trevor who enjoyed playing crown green bowls. I think it may have been based on a true story. Anyway, the reason that I was happy was that I had found directions to the bus station - I was going home and I didn't care anymore about my grotty old sandwich. There are more important things in life than old sandwiches, such as bumper cars, fancy wrought iron toast racks, adjustable spanners, ornamental fountains, certain board games and woolly jumpers. This is not an exhaustive list, you understand. The point is that there are times when you have to let go. There are plenty of times when you shouldn't let go, of course. When you are climbing a mountain, for example, or hanging off the undercarriage of a light aircraft. The trick is figuring out when to let go and when to cling on for dear life. And as I made my way home, I reckoned I would be perfectly content if I never saw my sandwich ever again.
Then I saw a flash of white through the trees up ahead. A glimpse of a tatty crust as some giant bread-based monstrosity languorously dragged its mighty bulk through the jungle. Could there yet be one more chance to salvage something from this grotty mess and achieve my goal?
The hieroglyphics on the water were beginning to fade away - pop, pop, pop they went as the bubbles burst and the figures gradually disappeared. I whipped out my notebook and pencil and rapidly began to jot them down. Scratch, scratch, scratch the end of my pencil went on the paper. This was really difficult. Then I flipped the pencil round and used the pointy end and things went a lot easier.
With a final glub-glub-glub, gurgle-gurgle-gurgle, the hieroglyphics disappeared from view. Actually, that last gurgle was my stomach because I hadn't had any breakfast that morning. In fact, I don't think I had had any breakfast since I'd left home all that time ago on this stupid errand to track down my sandwich. It really was time I went home - there were some Coco Pops in the cupboard and I needed to get back before the milk went off.
I studied the hieroglyphics. There was a road, a pyramid, a bird, a fish - actually, the fish was a real one that had been in the water and I had sketched by mistake - an eye, a man walking sideways and something that I couldn't quite make out at first. I turned my notebook sideways. Ah ha, it was a bus station! These must be instructions on how to get there. At last, I was going home!
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All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2022, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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