Authors: Tom Sharpe
'But, sir '
'I said out,' shouted Flint. 'I meant out. That thing you've just brought in is a human virus
of infective insanity. Get him out of here before he turns this station into a madhouse.'
'Well, I like that,' Wilt protested. 'I get dragged down here on a trumped-up charge...'
He was dragged out again while Flint went back to his office and sat abstractedly thinking
about Wilt. Visions of that damned doll still haunted his mind and he would never forget the
hours he had spent interrogating the little sod. And then there was Mrs Eva Wilt whose corpse he
had supposed to be buried under thirty tons of concrete while all the time the wretched woman was
drifting down the river on a motor cruiser. Together the Wilts had made him look an idiot and
there were jokes in the canteen about inflatable dolls. One of these days he would get his
revenge. Yes, one of these days... He turned back to the burglar with a new sense of purpose.
On the doorstep of his house in Willington Road Wilt sat staring up at the clouds and
meditating on love and life and the differing impressions he made on people. What had Flint
called him? An infective virus... a human virus of infective... The word recalled Wilt to his own
'Might get tetanus or something,' he muttered and fumbled in his pocket for the doorkey. Ten
minutes later, still wearing his jacket but without trousers and pants, Wilt was in the bathroom
soaking his manhood in a toothmug filled with warm water and Dettol when Eva came in.
'Have you any idea what time it is? It's ' She stopped and stared in horror at the
'Three o'clock,' said Wilt, trying to steer the conversation back to less controversial
matters, but Eva's interest in the time had vanished.
What on earth are doing with that thing?' she gasped. Wilt looked down at the toothmug.
'Well, now that you come to mention it, and despite all circum... circumstantial evidence to
the contrary, I am not... well, actually I am trying to disinfect myself. You see '
'Yes... well' said Wilt conscious that there was an element of ambiguity about the
explanation, 'the thing is...'
'In my toothmug,' shouted Eva. 'You stand there with your thingamajig in my toothmug and admit
you're disinfecting yourself? And who was the woman, or didn't you bother to ask her name?'
'It wasn't a woman. It was...'
'Don't tell me. I don't want to know. Mavis was right about you. She said you didn't just walk
home. She said you spent your evenings with some other woman.'
'It wasn't another woman. It was...'
'Don't lie to me. To think that after all these years of married life you have to resort to
whores and prostitutes...'
'It wasn't a whore in that sense,' said Wilt. 'I suppose you could say hips and haws but it's
spelt differently and...'
'That's right, try to wriggle out of it...'
'I'm not wriggling out of anything. I got caught in a rosebush...'
'Is that what they call themselves nowadays? Rosebushes?' Eva stopped and stared at Wilt with
'As far as I know they've always called themselves rosebushes,' said Wilt, unaware that Eva's
suspicions had hit a new low. 'I don't see what else you can call them.'
'Gays? Faggots? How about them for a start?'
'What?' shouted Wilt, but Eva was not to be stopped.
'I always knew there was something wrong with you, Henry Wilt,' she bawled, 'and now I know
what. And to think that you come back and use my toothmug to disinfect yourself. How low can you
'Listen,' said Wilt, suddenly conscious that his Muse was privy to Eva's appalling innuendos,
'I can prove it was a rose bush. Take a look if you don't believe me.'
But Eva didn't wait. 'Don't think you're spending another night in my house,' she shouted from
the passage. 'Never again! You can take yourself back to your boyfriend and...'
'I have had about as much as I can take from you,' yelled Wilt emerging in hot pursuit. He was
brought up short by the sight of Penelope standing wide-eyed in the passage.
'Oh, shit,' said Wilt and retreated to the bathroom again. Outside he could hear Penelope
sobbing and Eva hysterically pretending to calm her. A bedroom door opened and closed. Wilt sat
on the edge of the bath and cursed. Then he emptied the toothmug down the toilet, dried himself
distractedly on a towel and used the Elastoplast. Finally he squeezed toothpaste on to the
electric toothbrush and was busily brushing his teeth when the bedroom door opened again and Eva
rushed out. 'Henry Wilt, if you're using that toothbrush to...'
'Once and for all,' yelled Wilt with a mouthful of foam, 'I am sick and tired of your vile
insinuations. I have had a long and tiring day and '
'I can believe that,' bawled Eva.
'For your information I am simply brushing my teeth prior to climbing into bed and if you
think I am doing anything else...' He was interrupted by the toothbrush. The end jumped off and
fell into the washbasin.
'Now what are you doing?' Eva demanded.
'Trying to get the brush out of the plughole,' said Wilt, an explanation that led to further
recriminations, a brief and uneven encounter at the top of the stairs and finally a disgruntled
Wilt being shoved out through the kitchen door with a sleeping-bag and told to spend the rest of
the night in the summer-house.
'I won't have you perverting the minds of the wee ones,' Eva shouted through the door, 'and
tomorrow I'm seeing a lawyer.'
'As if I bloody care,' Wilt shouted back and wove down the garden to the summerhouse. For a
while he stumbled about in the darkness trying to find the zip in the sleeping-bag. It didn't
appear to have one. Wilt sat down on the floor and got his feet into the thing and was just
wriggling his way down it when a sound from behind the summerhouse startled him into silence.
Someone was making his way through the orchard from the field beyond. Wilt sat still in the
darkness and listened. There could be no doubt about it. There was a rustle of grass, and a twig
broke. Silence again. Wilt peered over the edge of the window and as he did so the lights in the
house went out. Eva had gone to bed again. The sound of someone walking cautiously through the
orchard began once more. In the summer-house Wilt's imagination was toying with burglars and what
he would do if someone tried to break into the house, when he saw close outside the window a dark
figure. It was joined by a second. Wilt crouched lower in the summerhouse and cursed Eva for
leaving him without his trousers and...
But a moment later his fears had gone. The two figures were moving confidently across the lawn
and one of them had spoken in German. It was Irmgard's voice that reached Wilt and reassured him.
And as the figures disappeared round the side of the house Wilt wriggled down into the
sleeping-bag with the relatively comfortable thought that at least his Muse had been spared that
insight into English family life which Eva's denunciations would have revealed. On the other
hand, what was Irmgard doing out at this time of night and who was the other person? A wave of
self-pitying jealousy swept over Wilt before being dislodged by more practical considerations.
The summer-house floor was hard, he had no pillow and the night had suddenly become extremely
chilly. He was damned if he was going to spend the rest of it outside. And anyway the keys to the
front door were still in his jacket pocket. Wilt climbed out of the sleeping-bag and fumbled for
his shoes. Then dragging the sleeping-bag behind him he made his way across the lawn and round to
the front door. Once inside he took off his shoes and crossed the hall to the sitting-room and
ten minutes later was fast asleep on the sofa.
When he awoke Eva was banging things about in the kitchen while the quads, evidently gathered
round the breakfast table, were discussing the events of the night. Wilt stared at the curtains
and listened to the muffled questions of his daughters and Eva's evasive answers. As usual she
was garnishing downright lies with mawkish sentimentality.
'Your father wasn't very well last night, darling,' he heard her say. 'He had the collywobbles
in his tummy that's all and when he gets like that he says things... Yes, I know mumsy said
things too, Hennypenny. I was... What did you say, Samantha?... I said that?... Well he can't
have had it in the toothmug because tummies won't go in little things like that... Tummies,
darling... You can't get collywobbles anywhere else... Where did you learn that word,
Samantha?... No he didn't and if you go to playgroup and tell Miss Oates that Daddy had
Wilt buried his head under the cushions to shut out the conversation. The bloody woman was
doing it again, lying through her teeth to four damned girls who spent so much of their time
trying to deceive one another they could spot a lie a mile off. And harping on about Miss Oates
was calculated to make them compete to see who could be the first to tell the old bag and
twenty-five other toddlers that daddy spent the night with his penis in a toothmug. By the time
that story had been disseminated through the neighbourhood it would be common knowledge that the
notorious Mr Wilt was some sort of toothmug fetishist.
He was just cursing Eva for her stupidity and himself for having drunk too much beer when the
further consequences of too much beer made themselves felt. He needed a pee and badly. Wilt
clambered out of the sleeping-bag. In the hall Eva could be heard hustling the quads into their
coats. Wilt waited until the front door had closed behind them and then hobbled across the hall
to the downstairs toilet. It was only then that the full magnitude of his predicament became
apparent. Wilt stared down at a large and extremely tenacious piece of sticking-plaster.
'Damn,' said Wilt. 'I must have been drunker than I thought. When the hell did I put that on?'
There was a gap in his memory. He sat down on the toilet and wondered how on earth to get the
bloody thing off without doing himself any more injury. From past experience of sticking-plaster
he knew the best method was to wrench the stuff off with one jerk. It didn't seem advisable
'Might pull the whole bloody lot off,' he muttered. The safest thing would be to find a pair
of scissors. Wilt emerged cautiously from the toilet and peered over the banisters. Just so long
as he didn't meet Irmgard coming down from the flat in the attic. Considering the hour she had
got back it was extremely unlikely. She was probably still in bed with some beastly boyfriend.
Wilt went upstairs and into the bedroom. Eva kept some nail-scissors in the dressing table. He
found them and was sitting on the edge of the bed when Eva returned. She headed upstairs,
hesitated a moment on the landing and then entered the bedroom.
'I thought I'd find you here,' she said crossing the room to the curtains. 'I knew the moment
my back was turned you'd sneak into the house. Well don't think you can worm your way out of this
one because you can't. I've made up my mind.'
'What mind?' said Wilt.
'That's right. Insult me,' said Eva, pulling the curtains back and flooding the room with
'I am not insulting you,' snarled Wilt, 'I am merely asking a question. Since I can't get it
into your empty head that I am not a raving arse-bandit '
'Language, language,' said Eva.
'Yes, language. It's a means of communication, not just a series of moos, coos and bleats the
way you use it.'
But Eva was no longer listening. Her attention was riveted on the scissors 'That's right. Cut
the horrid thing off,' she squawked and promptly burst into tears. 'To think that you had to go
'Shut up,' yelled Wilt. 'Here I am in imminent danger of bursting and you have to start
howling like a banshee. If you had used your bloody head instead of a perverted imagination last
night I wouldn't have been in this predicament.
'What predicament?' asked Eva between sobs.
'This,' shouted Wilt waving his agonized organ.
Eva glanced at it curiously. 'What did you do that for?' she asked.
'To stop the damned thing from bleeding. I have told you repeatedly that I caught it on a
rosebush but you had to jump to idiotic conclusions. Now I can't get this bloody sticking-plaster
off and I've got a gallon of beer backed up behind it.'
'You really meant it about the rose bush then?'
'Of course I did. I spend my life telling the truth and nothing but the truth and nobody ever
believes me. For the last time I was having a pee next to a rosebush and I got snagged in the
fucking thing. That is the simple truth, unembroidered, ungarnished and unexaggerated.'
'And you want the sticking-plaster off?'
'What the hell have I been saying for the last five minutes? I not only want it off. I need it
off before I burst.'
'That's easy,' said Eva. 'All you've got to do...'
Twenty-five minutes later Wilt hobbled through the door of the Accident Centre at the Ipford
Hospital, pale, pained and horribly embarrassed. He made his way to the desk and looked into the
unsympathetic and obviously unimaginative eyes of the admissions clerk.
'I'd like to see a doctor,' he said with some difficulty.
'Have you broken something?' asked the woman.
'Sort of,' said Wilt, conscious that his conversation was being monitored by a dozen other
patients with more obvious but less distressing injuries.
'What do you mean, sort of?'
Wilt eyed the woman and tried to convey wordlessly that his was a condition that required
discretion. The woman was clearly extraordinarily obtuse.
'If it's not a break, cut or wound requiring immediate attention, or a case of poisoning you
should consult your own doctor.' Wilt considered these options and decided that 'wound requiring
immediate attention' fitted the bill.
'Wound,' he said.
'Where?' asked the woman picking up a ballpen and a pad of forms.