I hate waiting for people, and this guy is over an hour late.
An hour late.
It makes me wonder at what point you stop being late and start being dead. I know it’s morbid, and I know I’m a depressing b*stard, but there’s a certain point whenever I’m left waiting for somebody that I naturally assume they’re dead.
You see, I have that level of misguided self-importance: I am, in fact, telling myself that the only reason someone would no-show at a meeting with me is naturally because they’ve died.
Weirdly, I start to miss him….and I’ve only met him twice.
I even get a bit tearful, but that could be my abandonment issues: I need to be cuddled a lot, and told that everything’s going to be okay. Sadly, that level of intimate kindness from strangers just isn’t going to happen in a coffee shop. You can get in trouble for that sort of thing, and I’m not in the right mood to get arrested again. I don’t think my wife would be so quick to collect me, this time.
An hour, though: COME ON.
This guy better have died, because if he hasn’t and he’s kept me waiting for an hour, I may well kill him myself.
I’m only angry because I’m excited…and I’m excited because somebody has told me something absolutely incredible is going on not far from where I live, and I desperately want to know if it’s true.
I’m waiting on the proof, which – in this case – is going to come in the form of fifty pounds inside an envelope. You might be surprised to know that it’s the envelope I’m interested in.I’m looking out at the car park when he gets off the bus, spots me and starts waving the envelope over his head: he’s way over enthusiastic and he’s grinning right at me.
Suddenly, I’m conscious of the fact that I’m wearing a flowery shirt with a tie. A few seconds ago, I was just another customer, but now I’m a really obvious drug dealer with bright ginger hair in a coffee shop full of people who can see that I’m a bit tearful, a little frantic and might firmly believe that I’m sitting next to a massive blue donkey.
He’s STILL waving the envelope when he runs, out of breath, to the door of the shop.
Five seconds later, he’s at the table. I didn’t expect him to buy his own coffee, but simply running up to me and making a scene by slapping the envelope down on the table and going ‘TOLD YOU’ was not exactly a good start to the subtle chat I was hoping for.
I mutter: ‘Could you please sit down? People know me in here.’
I look at the envelope as he takes a seat.
It’s a plain white foolscap one with a few numbers scrawled on the front of it. The numbers mean nothing to me, so I turn the envelope over.
The word ‘PAYMENT’ is printed on the back in bold, stamped lettering. Underneath, in smaller print, is: ‘Thank you for contributing to The Fetish House. We value your discretion.’
I can’t believe it’s true.
I know it’s true because I was with the guy sitting opposite me when he first came back from the place, and because I know he doesn’t have the initiative to get a bespoke stamp made in the time constraints I placed upon him.
…but I still can’t believe it’s true.
I rip open the envelope, and take out one ten pound note and two twenties.
Then I slide the money back to him, pocket the envelope and lean back in my chair.
‘WHERE is the house? Exactly?’
‘I can’t tell you.’
‘Tell me roughly.’
‘Over near Birchington.’
‘Who runs it?’
‘Not sure. I’ve only ever met the old woman, and I think she just lets you in and then gives you the money at the end. I don’t think she’s actually in charge: I passed a big file server in the hall, and there’s no way she could set up all the tech stuff.’
‘Have you ever looked AROUND the rest of the house?’
‘No! You’re not allowed. You just go straight to the room, close the door and start. The cameras are on all the time: they rotate and stuff. After an hour, the alarm goes off and you’re done: you collect your money on the way out! Fifty SQUIDLINGS! Easiest money I’ve ever made.’
‘What was in the room, this time?’
‘Did you eat it?’
‘Yeah…right. I’m not STUPID.’
I take a deep breath.
‘You’re kind of stupid, dude. You’re going to a house every week and being paid to stand in a room for an hour without knowing why. I can’t imagine Stephen Fry getting caught out like that.’
‘He doesn’t need the money. Besides, I told you when I first did it: there’s nothing sexual going on.’
‘What did you do with the banana?’
‘Nothing, at first. I think they make it an hour so you get bored, though: I started messing around with it, eventually.’
‘Oh, just tossing it around, throwing it, catching it. You know: crap. I just sat in a corner at one point, scratching my knee.’
‘What was it last time, again? The thing?’
‘A table lamp.’
‘No. I switched it on and off a lot, though. They probably liked that.’
I scratch my head and squint at him. ‘You said it was a straw the first time: right?’
‘A drinking straw?’
‘Yeah: one of those twisty ones.’
I frown. ‘What the hell did you do with that for an hour?’
‘Blew through it, stretched it. I think I stuck it in the wall a few times. Look, it’s really bloody boring, but fifty pound an hour is mental: I know solicitors who don’t earn that.’
‘You know solicitors?’
‘Well, I know the one the police gave me.’
‘Yeah: I’m not sure that counts. You do realise that this is going to turn out to be a sexual thing, surely?’
‘People always think everything is about sex. How can THIS be in any way sexual?’
I can’t really answer him, but I’m picturing certain types of people all over the country, sitting at computer monitors or iPads and watching people messing around with fruit and plastic in tiny rooms with bare walls. I look over at the woman on the opposite table in the coffee shop: she has an iPad, but she also has all of her own teeth and doesn’t look the type. The type I have in mind is probably a guy in his mid fifties called Gus who still lives at home with him mum and has a collection of stuffed animals in the attic. In my head, Gus wears a string vest and socks, but nothing else. Gus loves Maltesers.
I am very disturbed by the image of Gus.
It makes me want to go home and wash a lot.
I thank my friend for his time, I buy him the coffee I promised him and give him a tenner for the information. I make all the usual promises about not using his name, not describing him, not writing the post for a week or so, etc.
When I get home, I look up ‘Fetish’ and ‘Fetish House Birchington’ on the internet. I don’t find anything.
Keep yours eyes open for those envelopes: I’m collecting them, and I want to know what the numbers on the front actually mean. Like Hurley from LOST, I have a feeling that the numbers might be…
The Fetish House was originally written in 2015 by Davey Stone. If you enjoyed The Fetish House, please consider following the blog. Thanks for reading The Fetish House!