Here's a Lancashire-based short story I wrote a while ago




Night fell wearily over 123, Balaclava Road, and in the shabby but warm sanctum of the living-room, Grandmother Jones had just puffed a fine head of smoke on her third pipeful of dark shag when without warning, she threw both legs in the air and shrieked: " There's some bigger gruntin' at front door!"

Mother rushed in from the kitchen and through the eye-smarting black haze discerned the dim, ghostly outline of granny bent double in the corner, with a pinny over her head. Advancing with minatory glare, she squawked: "You've been at that cookin' sherry again!"

From under the protective mantle of her pinny, Granny screeched: "Ah tell thi' it's comin' from't front door - it's makin' a noise like a boggart  wi' constipation!”

Mother paused to listen and sighed...So far, in her alcoholic ravings, granny had seen Stephenson's Rocket in the bathroom, mistaken the vicar for Julian Clary and been frightened half out of her wits by three black-and-white striped giant snails - which had turned out to be her humbugs on the mantelpiece.

"I'll have you put in a home' muttered mother." It's folks like you as makes folks like me like folks like you! If you don't... " But there she stopped. Her vocal chords ceased twanging abruptly and her condemnatory finger froze in mid air as if gripped by some unseen vice. For from the other side of the peeling green-and-white front door, the most unearthly deep-throated grunting noises ruptured the quiet of the night and sent a million tiny ice-cubes trickling down mother's spine...

 With a noise like a fractured steam-pipe, Granny dived under the hearthrug and recited the Lord's Prayer as her heart leapt about inside her like a demented frog.

As The Thing on the Front Doorstep waxed louder and louder in its guttural obscenities, it seemed to the two stricken women as if the cosy terraced house had suddenly become transformed into some dark primeval cave with unseen menace hovering on the threshold.

Suddenly, the Thing made its move. Slowly and stiffly, the letterbox creaked open and two knobbly fingers curled round the flap. From the blackness without, a fleshy bulbous protuberance, flushed red and coarsely veined, slid through the open gap.

"Have mercy on us!” cried Grandmother. "What in God's name is it?"

In a blur of action, mother sprang from the hearth and with one mighty cat leap landed at the front door and slammed the letterbox flap hard on to the intruding object.

...They say father invented six new swear-words that night...and his nose never really regained its normal size again. Mind you, it was his own fault for forgetting his front door key.

 Clutching his throbbing proboscis, he lurched into the house threatening ugly reprisals. Both granny and mother berated him for scaring them silly and accused him of being intoxicated.

Granny waggled a bony finger under the visibly-swelling excrescence and screeched:" There were no call for thee to go frikkenin an owd woman out of her yed. When I heard that gruntin' noise, ah thowt as Owd Nick himself 'ad come fer me!"

 Father looked a trifle puzzled, then slowly a crooked smile of realisation broke on his face and he said: "That gruntin' noise weren't me - it were Francis..."

Mother rolled her sleeves up ready for action. "Francis?  Don't tell me tha's brought one o' thi' boozin' pals from't Letters home wi thee. If he's been sick all over me begonias, I'll drop-kick him over't gasworks, so help me..."

'Nay, steady lass," pleaded Father. But Mother strode grimfaced towards the door, flung it open and shouted into the darkness: "Listen here Francis, or whatever thi name is - tak thi hook home. Tha'll get no supper here, as sure as I'm…"  But for the second time that night, mother's words died on her lips as a flash of white came hurtling out of the darkness, bowled her legs from under her and burst headlong into the living room.

For the next few minutes, confusion reigned supreme and the air was filled with screams, grunts and unrepeatable imprecations as Father chased Francis in giddy circles round the living room table on which Grandmother was performing an ungeriatric-like Can Can and rolling her eyes like the wheels of an express train.

Mother lay as rigid and immobile as a Hindu mystic - her jaw agape and her mind unable to comprehend the things her eyes were seeing.

Suddenly, the mad merry-go-round ended as, in one desperate flying rugby tackle, father cornered Francis at the back of the sofa. rolled him on his back and sat on his vast white belly. Sweaty but triumphant, father turned to mother who was helping granny to descend from her lofty perch and said proudly, nodding at Francis: "Theer -what dosta think of him..?"

Like someone floating back to consciousness after coming of anaesthesia, mother, with a sickly smile, stared in disbelief and in a shaky incredulous voice warbled: "Is it…is it, a PIG..?”

Father laughed. "Well it's not Father Blooming Christmas. Of course it's a pig. .And, by Gow, there's some jackbit on this mon”, he said, pressing a knuckle into the fleshy porker's loin. And as if by way of explanation, he added: "I've called him Francis...Francis Bacon. Do you get it?"

Mother got it all right and in a daze, she asked: "But where did tha get it from?"

"I won it in a raffle" said Father proudly. "T'Young Farmers were having a fund-raising do at Letters and Francis here were't first prize. Eee, I were proper chuffed -I've never won owt in a raffle before.  Not even a pig. Anyroad love - he's thine now... I'm giving it thee' fer a birthday present"

To put it mildly, mother erupted. "You barmy beggar!” she yelled. "What would I want with a ruddy pig about t'house when I've already got thee - tha eats like one, dresses like one and when't winds in't wrong direction, tha even smells like one:"

Father pouted and looked hurt. "I thought it'd be a surprise", he ventured meekly.

"Aye, it were a surprise alright" said Mother. "It's took ten years off my life and by't look of thi' mother, we'll be talking ter’t Prudential mon in a day or two.."

"Don't talk like'll upset t'pig" said father.

Mother ignited again. "Listen here cloth-head, I'll give you five seconds to take that walking tub o' lard back to wheer you got it from or I'll crack you both oo'er th'head. wi' this” she growled, brandishing a large poker and sounding as though she meant it.

"But love" wailed father, retreating through the front door with the pig straining at the leash, "What if they don't want him back?"

"Then you can ask 'em to give you both a sty for the night - you'll be good company for one another" she shouted and slammed the door on his feeble protestations.

Father never came home that night. Constable Wainwright found him at daybreak at the bottom of a ditch.

It was the loud snores that led him to discover father and Francis side by side snuggled together like the Babes in the Wood. Father explained the situation - how, by the time he'd got back to the pub, it had been closed and that he had decided the prospect of sleeping with the pig was infinitely more favourable than facing Mother armed with a poker.

 P.C. Wainwright accepted the story, saying it would "make  a good 'un for the Police Gazette."

"But that still leaves t'problem of't pig" moaned father.  "Whatever am I going to do with him?" P.C. Wainwright pushed back his helmet, scratched his head, then said:  "Don't worry, I can find good use for young Master Francis here..."

 Father trooped off home and after apologetic explanations and a change of clothing, mother decided the matter was closed.

Never again at 123,Balaclava Roadwas the subject of father's raffle prize mentioned....except for a passing remark a few days after the incident, at breakfast time.

"Y'know" said father wistfully. "Ah reckon yon pig took to me - an I must admit, I'd a soft spot for him in th'end. I wonder what yon bobby did wi' him...?

Mother lingered for a moment, pondering whether or not to divulge the story behind Francis's fate... But as father happily tucked into his rashers of crispy bacon, she decided wisely that he might find the truth hard to swallow.

And with a slow wink at granny, she said casually; "Ah dare say he found a good home…"