See that snowglobe of the Windsor Castle? That was the first one, I don’t know why I said it, it just came out. Jimmy explained his souvenir collection to Olivia. It started with Emma when he was a student. He had told her the snowglobe was exactly like one he had as a child, he had loved it and then it was lost in a house-move. It was all a lie; it just came out before he had time to think about what he was saying. Elaine gave him the snowglobe. That was how it started. Jimmy then showed Olivia a metal coaster with an engraving of a cockroach on it, part of a set, which he had stolen from Lynn. A picture frame in which Diane had never got round to replacing the awful fake watercolour of The Eifel Tower that came with it. She had willingly gifted it to Jimmy. A felt paw-print that was a heat-resistant mat on his dining table used to be Anne’s heat-resistant mat. They were all mundane things, and you would never suspect they meant anything until Jimmy told the full stories. And he loved telling the stories, especially the intimate details.
Olivia was disgusted, why did he have to re-count their sexual preferences? She’d been going out with Jimmy for three months. She thought of all the times she’d been here, not knowing she was sitting amongst the souvenirs of his sex life. She wondered what he would take from her, and what he would say about her. He hadn’t asked for anything so he must have stolen something. He would have done that already, it would be no use waiting until after they broke up, which was now plainly inevitable. What a horrid little man, he just wants sex and a memento, like a serial rapist. It’s not even about me, he never asks anything about me. Jimmy would never stay on any subject around family, he would not talk about his parents or siblings for long. He never expressed any likes or dislikes. He held back anything that could be part of a meaningful connection. Olivia had noticed none of these shortcomings until he told her about the souvenirs.
It was Tuesday, Jimmy went to The Whitlock pub to meet his friend Liam for happy hour. Where’s the lovely Olivia this evening? Jimmy told him she had gone to her sister’s house and would stay overnight. They sat near the window; fire engines roared by. They’ll be going to the council estate, chip-pan fire probably. Jimmy and Liam had a chuckle. Happy hour was from 6pm until 8, then they had one for the road at normal prices. Jimmy dropped Liam off and headed home. Fear set in as he got nearer, he turned the corner to face the billowing smoke. The fire engines were at his house, spraying water. All the windows were blown, Jimmy felt sick. He approached a policeman and told him it was his house. Once the situation was deemed under control, they took him to the station. The firemen had said it looked like arson as soon as they saw it. An even blaze signifies a liberal use of accelerants, probably petrol. They asked Jimmy about enemies, suspects, motives, and they got nothing. Jimmy said he was popular, everyone liked him, he enjoyed life.
Jimmy went to Liam ‘s house, his wife Mia answered the door. He asked them both to sit down before he would tell his amazing story. Liam served wine, Jimmy recounted the evening and added the police haven’t got a clue, they’re questioning Olivia now. Why would she do it? I’ve been the perfect gentlemen to her, I gave her a key to the front door. Mia agreed, little Olivia, the vegetarian, could not set fire to Jimmy’s house. It was more likely a burglar from the council estate who set the fire to cover his tracks. Liam said Jimmy would be the new Bobbit, like Wayne Bobbit, whose wife had cut off his penis and tossed it in a field. Jimmy told them it was just an internet myth; it had never happened. Mia backed him up, women don’t do violent things like men do. Olivia’s just like one of us, she couldn’t have done it, the police should be down on the council estate, knocking on doors.
Olivia ‘s interview was a formality, she said she was at her sister’s house at 7pm, the constable confirmed that the alarm was raised at 8:40pm. Both constables looked at the diminutive Olivia in her summer dress. When they offered her a coffee she said, no milk please, I’m vegan. They decided she could not be the arsonist. Olivia nodded at the inspector on her way out, silly sod with his beetroot nose, he want’s to lay off the sauce.
After the interview, Olivia went back to her sister’s house. She told her about the interview. Michelle pointed out that Olivia had come to her house after 9pm, she was unusually late. Olivia exclaimed oh shit! I told them the wrong time; I was supposed to be here at 7 but I was late watching that movie on the telly. Michelle agreed that it was a silly mistake and if the police asked, she would say Olivia was there at 7pm.
26 July 2021
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