Elizabeth Wright
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The Mat

       Peter, my boss, stood looking at the tatty remnants of an old carpet that was laid in the shop doorway.
       “We really do need a new mat here,” he said. I had to agree. “It doesn’t give customers the best impression as they come in.”
       Pulling a tape measure from out of his pocket, he carefully checked the size of the old mat, jotted down the dimensions onto a scrap of paper and went off to the carpet shop down the road. Twenty minutes later he staggered back under the weight of a thick, bristling piece of matting that looked eminently suitable for its job.
       After the shop was shut we attempted to pull up the old mat from its recessed location; age and heavy use had made it brittle, bits snapped off and our forceful efforts shook out a thick cloud of black dust. A few sniffs of the polluted air and we both started coughing and sneezing. Eventually, having wiped tears from his eyes and dust off his face, Peter set about carefully trimming and laying the new piece. We stood back and admired his handiwork.
       “Look at that,” he said, with pride in his voice, “Customers will open the door and step onto a nice comfortable mat.” For a practical demonstration he grabbed the handle of the front door and pulled. It didn’t move. It appeared we had a problem. The new carpet was so thick it left no clearance for the door to pass over the top.
       Disappointed, Peter pulled it up, muttered something about having to see what he could do to make it fit, rolled it up and dumped it in the already overflowing stock room.This meant, as we came in the back door, we had to squeeze around this scratchy, heavy mat, which had a nasty habit of falling on anyone trying to get by. The bits of the old one were rescued from the rubbish skip and grudgingly relaid.
       After a few days of struggling to get in the back door and collecting numerous little scratch marks on my arms and legs, I said, “I’m fed up with this can’t you put it somewhere else?” The next day it was gone. I didn’t know what Peter had done with it, until I nipped into the staff toilet.
       Because storage space at this shop was at a premium, every nook and cranny had been stuffed full of stock, and that included the tiny, narrow washroom. In there was the toilet and a wash hand basin with a small wall cabinet hung above. On one side of the toilet were stashed a number of folded-up rotary garden airers; on the top of the low-level cistern were loosely packed bundles of kitchen rolls. Filling out the other side stood the tightly rolled up mat. The resultant limited space between the airers and the mat made practical use of the toilet by any female almost impossible. As I carefully backed in to park my bottom on the seat, the mat’s scratchy bristles left a few more marks on my arm.
       “Peter, this is no good,” I said afterwards as I slapped on a couple of sticking plaster, “I cannot use the loo without being attacked by that bloody mat. You’ll have to move it.”
       Next day, he said, “I’ve moved it,” but didn’t have time to say where, as the shop filled up with customers.
       At coffee time, as I waited for the kettle to boil, I opened the washroom door. Peter had indeed moved the mat; rolled up tightly into a tube, held together with a thick piece of cord, it was now balanced perilously in an upright position on top of the sinking packets of kitchen rolls.
       “Why on earth did you put that thing up there?”
       “Well, there’s nowhere else we can put it.”
       So, for a few days it didn’t seem to cause any problems. Until the time I went to work, and the previous night’s vindaloo dinner started a fight of volcanic proportions with my stomach. I had to make a quick dash to the loo.
       As I sank gratefully onto the toilet seat, I suddenly became aware that movement was going on behind me. The kitchen rolls were no longer being so supportive to the carpet above them. They creaked and groaned as they began to sink, my stomach gurgled and moaned as I sat, trapped. Nature had to run its course.
       The toilet had its own problem; having been rather badly fitted, it had a tendency to move a little when sat upon, which hadn’t bothered us before; but this time, it started to tilt forward a couple of centimetres, disturbing the equilibrium of the balancing kitchen rolls and the mat above. As I turned my head to try and see what was going on, the mat toppled over, falling up against the side wall.
       Still parting company with the dodgy dinner, and unable to move off the toilet, I began to realise this situation could have a messy outcome; the mat tilted even further over, the top end making ominous scratching sounds as it slowly began to slide along the wall. The bottom end was still sinking into the soft tissue of the kitchen rolls. I was in the firing line whichever end detached first.
       With a sudden ‘whoosh’ that got me catapulting off the toilet seat, the carpet
changed course, slid forward and ended up perilously balanced against the little cabinet. My stomach went into overdrive, forcing me into a swift return to the toilet, where I was now forced to sit with my head bent well over to one side, because the repositioned carpet had bagged most of the spare space beside me. Then, as more kitchen rolls collapsed, the top end, still following the pull of gravity, slowly continued on its downward slide.
       The puny plastic toilet roll holder, instantly shattered as the heavy, hairy carpet belted it in passing. The single toilet roll was thrown into the corner of the washroom, right out of my, now desperate and needy, reach. The mat then fell on top of it. From my crouched position on the toilet seat, I tried to kick the hairy bundle out of the way. When I finally succeeded, I discovered that a steam roller couldn’t have done a better job at flattening the peach-coloured tissue.
       By using the pole from one of the rotary airers stacked up on the other side, I was able to knock the pathetic remains of the toilet roll along the floor, until was near enough for me to grab, and use.
       Having washed my hands and splashed old water over my flushed face, I bent down and dragged the chunk of carpet out of the washroom.
       “Where have you been?” enquired Peter.
       “Sorting out that damn carpet,” I replied.
       I didn’t tell him it now had a new home. I’d dumped it on top of his office desk.

A sample chapter from ‘Two up, one down,’ the sequel to ‘from Fancy Pants to getting There.



© Elizabeth Wright