Sylvester had never been keen on the pub roof. His ape-like figure meant that he constantly had to keep his knees bent whenever he was on the ground level of the pub. But he was a man who did not quarrel, mainly because he wouldn’t know how to. He shuffled his bent body towards the knocking door and straightened as the roof suddenly gave him room to stand to his full height. He opened the door to a scruffy-haired boy of about 17. The boy smiled upon him as the door opened. Sylvester did not return the smile, instead his smile turned grim and lifeless as he opened the door, one teenager working here was enough for the ape.
“Can I help you?” Sylvester asked the boy, coldly.
“Yeah,” said Leddy cheerily, still smiling, almost idiotically by this time. “I’m your new cleaner.”
Sylvester stood in the doorway, thinking the matter over. He knew his mistress was always on edge whenever Sandy wasn’t doing as she was ordered to, and nothing more. Would it be wise to introduce another potential threat to her world? He also knew that even if this kid did get the job, things would have to be even more delicate than they already were, given the circumstances…
“Come in then.” he said, after much thinking.
“Hmm?” responded Leddy. He had yet again drifted away mentally, gazing at the wide world that lay behind the building.”
Leddy started to follow the ape into the pub, but stopped suddenly as Sylvester had to bend downward once more. As he led Leddy to the kitchen, Leddy surveyed the innards of where Sandy was so reluctant to work. The place was even more worn-out and devoid of life than the outside. Where huge to small sections of the walls from the outside were missing bricks, the interior told a worse story. On the inside, not only were the bricks missing, letting cold shots of air blasting through like bullets from a gun, but they were cracked like a crazy paving patio gone horribly wrong.
Grotty, cream paint made a desperate attempt to give the walls some sense of character, but it failed miserably. The roof hung low, with grimy miniature chandelier-like lights that shone dully, and damp patches that circled various spots on the ceiling.
The chairs and tables were no better either. As he made his way past them, Leddy could just make out several small creatures, some long like a cigarette and some round like a button, scurry along and eat away at the furniture. The chairs were once adorned with many romantic carvings on the back of them, some showing birds with their wings spread majestically, some displaying flowers blossoming with grandeur, and some boasting trees soaring into the sky, with squirrels racing all over them.
Now, those visions had faded away with the years, and in their place, cobwebs where long-passed on spiders had spun their cobwebs through the carvings, told their own story.
Leddy noticed the bar as he walked on, or at least it looked like a bar. No stools gave it any homely feel, and only half the shelves at the back had bottles on them, some of them half empty. The contents of the bottles didn’t look too tantalising either. Leddy knew that some alcohol, when left awhile, can age to result in a precious taste. But from the look of those liquids, Leddy decided that one sip from any of those bottles would result in his liver violently ejaculating from his innards and go around the world warning all other livers of that evil person who treats his liver to wrongly.
In the middle of the vast rows of shelves stood a door, snugly fitted within them. As Leddy was lead towards the tiny entrance, he could see the shelves gradually bend as they ran along beneath the bottles. This was in no small part due to the little people not only eating away at the wood from within, but also managing to find their way into the bottles from below. The slow escaping of the alcohol into the wood not only provided it with another reason to rot so well, but it also got the little people very merry and even more willing to eat away as much as they could.
“Are you ever getting me past this bloody room?” asked Leddy angrily.
Oh, I do apologize; I was just doing my thing.
“Well do it less, I’m only here to help out my Sandy!”
She’s not exactly your Sandy, now is she?
“It’s still more of a relationship than you and your misses have!”
Oh please, let’s not go into that. How about we get ba-
“You still haven’t got over that fact she left you to narrate museum guides, have you?”
That was half a decade ago, of course I’m over it!
“Are you sure?”
Look, do you want to get on with the story or don’t you?
“Okay, but I just don’t want your private life getting in the way.”
A-hem; Sylvester took Leddy through the bar and into the kitchen, almost as decadent as the pub, but with slightly more life in it, in the form of hissing stoves and bubbling food. There was a tad more colour as well, the walls seemingly painted in a variety of splattered green, brown, yellow, and red. It never occurred to Leddy that these were failed foods that had been decided would look better sprawling on the walls rather than in a bin.
Cupboards and shelves were scattered all over, each filled with various foodstuffs and cutlery. Along the ceiling, pots and pans hung from a thin wire, and the room itself was filled with thick layers of all manner of sweet and sour smells, some emanating from the stoves, others emanating from unknown territories.
The most arresting sight however was a little dark figure busying itself stirring a large pot of thick, brown stew on one of the stoves. Other stoves, hissing away, had their own large pot of mysterious substances that bubbled away ominously.
The small body only just managed to be tall enough to look over the pot to inspect its contents. When the little blackened person turned round to Leddy and Sylvester, Leddy saw that the body was older than the stoves. Its face looked as though it had shed its wrinkles and entered a new stage of aging.
Leddy’s first impression was that she had given up on wrinkles and had resorted to fixing craters on her face. It certainly didn’t work. And her voice didn’t suit her either. As Leddy was too busy analysing what exactly it was that was upon her face, her shrill and cackling voice gave him a start;
“’Who’s this little scruffy bugger then?”
“It’s our new cleaner, Doris.” answered Sylvester, tentatively, fearing that the little woman would explode at any given chance.
“’Him?! New cleaner? Codswallop! I know a cleaner when I see one and he don’t look like he’s cleaned a bloody pan in his life, let alone an entire restaurant!”
Leddy hadn’t expected Sandy’s employers to be quite so aggressive and even he was slightly taken aback, particularly by the angry and dominating voice that came from that little figure. Doris suddenly clutched her shaggy and flea-bitten robes around her and shuffled her tiny person toward him. Sylvester quickly moved out of the way and Leddy couldn’t help but let loose a slight chuckle at the sight of both persons side by side, The Giant and The Midget. Doris picked up on this immediately.
“What are you laughing at sonny, hey?”
“Oh erm, nothing much. Just a joke I and your mate shared earlier.”
“Joke? What joke?” she squawked at Leddy. She then turned to Sylvester. “I don’t pay you to tell jokes!”
“I didn’t, I don’t!” Sylvester assured her quickly.
“Well, you wouldn’t have got it anyway sweetie,” Leddy said casually to Doris. “It was quite a tall joke.”
Sylvester went pale at this and Doris went bright red. She almost took off from the floor and nearly flew towards Leddy, like a vulture going in for its kill.
“I ain’t having this little monster in my kitchen!”
“Cleaner-less kitchen, if you’re sure you want me to leave.” Leddy added.
Doris began to simmer down, as she knew that her skills were more suited to cooking rather than cleaning, and no-one would say otherwise. No-one, except for the previous cleaner, who had a fine talent for voicing his opinion, but not all talents get appreciated, as he found out. One day he decided to let his employer know what he thought of her cooking skills, and only Doris, Sylvester, and the bottom of the river know what has become of him.
Doris, after much thought, finally turned to Leddy with an answer.
“Right, you can clean, but there are a few rules. You do not,” she pointed at a small door in the corner of the kitchen, “right, you do not, go through that door. We’ve already got one person working down there and that’s quite enough! And if anyone comes to the restaurant and through that door, you do not ask any questions. You do not ask what they’re doing; you do not ask why they are doing it!”
Leddy nodded his head, agreeing.
“Okay then. Sylvester, go in the bar and count the stock.”
“Can you come help me with that?” he asked pathetically, “It all looks the same to me and I lose count.”
“Bloody hell, fine!” she flung her arms in the air as she dragged Sylvester along with her. “And you, get cleaning!”
The two of them left Leddy alone in the kitchen. Not bothering to care about the whole cleaning thing, but taking great interest in the small door, Leddy edged towards it. There was no handle on the door, but it was open, just ajar. Behind the door Leddy could hear the sound of water being splashed and the sound of cutlery clashing against each other.
He pushed the door forward, took one step and instantly fell down a small flight of steps. He landed with a resounding thump on his front that seemed to echo all through this strange new world that he had entered. He picked himself up slowly and brushed himself down, for the floor was covered in dust, as were the walls. Cobwebs hung low from varying corners and the roof was so low Leddy could barely stand up straight.
Before him stretched a corridor that seemed to stretch forever in the dark, but he could still hear those noises. Tentatively, he made his way along the narrow passage. The only light he had was the one coming from the kitchen behind him, but the further he walked along, the dimmer that light got. As he walked, he continuously placed his foot onto ground where there wasn’t any at all, as every five steps or so, there was yet another small flight of steps that seemed to take him down further and further into the bowels of the earth.
He injured himself again when he failed to notice that the corridor turned a corner and so he walked straight into the wall in front of him.
“Douff!” he shouted.
That made the splashing noises stop dead for a few seconds, then they started up again, only this time faster and more urgent than before. Leddy followed the corner round, and at last saw a small light at what seemed to be the end of the corridor. He began to run towards it, though slowed down immediately, fearing if there were any more steps to fall down. He could just make out the back of someone engaged in the act of washing up various cups and plates and other forms of cutlery.
Leddy stepped forth into a pint-sized square room, with an old gaslight hanging from the ceiling, a broken sink at one end, and a small shelf on the left side. Stepped forth is perhaps too fine a term, as Leddy just had to fall down one last small flight of steps that led into the room. Once again, he fell flat on his face and in the light he could see a face looking down on him from her place at the sink.
“Leddy!” exclaimed the face.
“Sandy!” exclaimed Leddy.