It Takes One To Know One

Submitted into Contest #88 in response to: Write a cautionary fable about someone who always lies.... view prompt

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Fiction Funny

The trouble with Davey was that we couldn’t help liking him. We dreaded him coming in to use our public access laptops, and we braced ourselves against his screeches, demanding or plaintive, across the room, when he wanted – or more to the point demanded – our attention. Which often, in practise meant MY attention, and he had a way of doing it that, though I tried not to let it show, grated on me like the proverbial fingers on a glass window pane. My name is Polly, and he had a habit of preceding it with a shriek of EEEHHH, that was more suited to some borderline offensive stereotype of an elderly Geordie lady in a sitcom than a young lad, then extending it into a near clone at the end. You’d have to hear it to really get the flavour of that EEEEEHHPOLLEEEH! Still, unlike some, though mercifully few, of our clients, he was almost always, in his way, polite, and grateful, and on the odd occasions when he did become impatient or whiny, he followed it up the next day, or even the same day, with positively lachrymose and apparently sincere apologies.

You may think I’m being cynical by inserting the adjective apparently when it comes to his sincere apologies. But, well, I have to come out and say it, we hardly believed a word of what he said. Because Davey was a fantasist. And to this day I’m not really sure whether he was a good one or a bad one, and that’s just relating to his skill, not passing any moral judgement.

He didn’t look like one – but I suppose that’s a silly statement. After all, fantasists don’t have the letter “F” emblazoned in scarlet and sewn onto their clothing or tattooed onto their skin. He was of average height, had hair that was already thinning a bit though he was only in his 20s, and that just missed being ginger – not that I have anything against ginger hair! He wore spectacles which he claimed had frames that has cost him over £200, but that was amongst the least of his fantasies. Apart from anything else, we doubted if he could have afforded them, even if he did (or so he told us) have an uncle who owned a yacht (or sometimes a fleet of luxury cars).

There was sometimes some grain of truth in what he said. For instance, we knew from someone who went to the same pub as one Davey frequented, that he was a competent enough darts player, as local darts league players go. But in Davey’s World he had played against all the world’s top ranking players and beaten them. He had a background in the military, or so he told us. Now we actually knew, rather than strongly suspected, that these tales simply couldn’t be so. He had used our phone in the hub to make phone calls where he had no choice but to give his real age, and he was quite simply too young to have been in Iraq or wherever. He once seemed to realise himself he had overstepped the mark when he referred to the Falklands War, and hurriedly corrected himself, keeping his options open by saying both, “Oh, that wasn’t what I meant, “ and “I meant my Dad, not me.”

Now I hope I’m not coming over as holier-than-thou here. If you were to ask me if I’d always told the absolute truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth about everything, then of course my answer would be no. I’ve evaded and exaggerated and I expect most people on the planet have.

For the most part, though, we went along with it and let it drift over our heads, and maybe occasionally said something mildly sarcastic or raised an eyebrow and let him get on with it. It could even be quite amusing on occasion, though not every occasion!

I think in many situations in life there comes a time when things are – well, ratcheted up. When you realise that matters have changed, and the whole business has become more serious and more urgent.

Davey wasn’t a very good speller, and quite often asked us (and as I was most frequently the sole volunteer, most often ME!) how to spell things. It didn’t bother me, unless I were really busy doing something else or seeing to someone else. But one day it went well beyond the norm. He was asking for the spelling of a word every few seconds, and there seemed to be some kind of pattern to them. Patient, Welfare, Medication, Refer, Opinion.

I know this doesn’t reflect well on me, but what most agitated me wasn’t, as such, that I realised he was forging a letter in his doctor’s name to send to the DWP in order to obtain a benefit though of course that was all wrong, but that he made little attempt to even hide it. When he wasn’t happy with a draft he’d done, he didn’t even put it in the shredder, but just tore it into four pieces and put it in the bin.

Should I have looked after we closed that night? Well, anyway, I did. He had managed to incorporate the letterhead of the clinic, too! But just one cursory glance at the letter screamed out forgery. Look, I don’t want to come over as some kind of grammar snob here, but though the spelling was more or less okay (and even then there was some irregularity in the their/there business) the punctuation was appalling. He didn’t pay any heed to the correct use of capital letters, even in people’s names, and as to apostrophes – there were some, but not in the right places.

My emotions were all over the place. I was angry, yes. Did he really think I was so stupid that I wouldn’t realise something like that was going on? And he hadn’t even put it in the shredder! I’ll admit that something about that, about the blatant nature of it all, stuck in my gut. Okay, I might well have had my suspicions anyway, but I had the truth right there before my eyes. At the same time, though, I was worried sick. This was getting into entirely different territory. These weren’t just the grandiose fantasies of a young man leading a tedious life who wanted to make himself look important, but basically did no harm, to himself or anyone else. This could get him into big, serious, grown-up trouble. The kind of trouble that led to a summons, and to a court appearance, and possibly even to a prison sentence. And annoying as he could be at times, I didn’t want that for him!

The thing is, I’ve always tended to avoid confrontation. Oh, I like to think that if someone said something really offensive, I’d call them out, and that if anyone were being cruel to a child or an animal, there’s no way I’d let them get away with it. But then (maybe!) a kind of righteous anger would come to my aid.

Davey, though, was someone who had (almost) always been pleasant to me, and we made a point of respecting people’s privacy when they used the laptops, though of course we wouldn’t stand for anything “inappropriate” being accessed. Theoretically that wasn’t supposed to be possible, but I suppose there are always ways round it.

Oh, why couldn’t he have just put the wretched thing in the shredder and made me have my suspicions, but no proof?

The next morning I made some feeble halfway house attempt at bringing up the matter, though I hadn’t preserved the evidence, it had gone in the Recycling Bin, and that was the day they were collected. I can’t even remember exactly what I said, but I’m pretty sure it was along the lines of, “About that letter yesterday, when you asked me to help with the spellings …..”

You’d think being almost if not quite ginger he’d have blushed, but he didn’t at all, he just said something along the lines of it being an exercise he had at college. Well, of course I didn’t believe a word of it, but how could I prove it? So I merely muttered “Right, then ….”

But he probably did suspect something himself, and went easy on asking me about spellings that day, though he did treat us all to tales about the racehorses he owned.

The trouble was, there was nobody I could really turn to. Normally I would have confided in the Centre Manager, my dear friend and mentor Jerry. But he was still recuperating after being seriously ill, and though we tended to forget it, or prefer not to think about it, he most definitely wasn’t a young man anymore, and though, thank Goodness, he was on the mend, he was still worryingly frail. I was on very friendly terms with quite a few other users of the Centre, but supposed that Arnold, who had enough problems of his own, wouldn’t thank me for offloading something on him, and that Marvin might well go the other way and create a scene. There was something between him and Davey anyway. It wasn’t exactly bad blood, or at least (I was pretty sure) not dating back to any old feud or the like, but there was most definitely needle, and there had already been some sarcastic comments that had led to me intervening and changing the subject.

If I’d imagined that Davey might have learnt his lesson by my somewhat oblique reference to his letter-forging, for all he passed it off as an exercise, I was to be proven wrong. A few days later he was at it again, asking for spellings by the dozen. This time I was pretty sure the letter was supposed to come from Amazon, and I couldn’t even quite work out what it was about and didn’t want to know.

I did what I generally did, and let things drift. There was at least the distraction of having a new visitor to the Centre – a man called Pat, who was very tall, and very gruff in his ways, and he apparently went back a long way with Marvin. Pat was always an absolute gentleman with me, and very polite, but I had the distinct feeling that he wasn’t someone to mess with, and not just because of his height and his gruff voice.

By the time of his third of fourth visit, he was becoming more talkative, and almost, but not quite, counted as a regular. Anyway, while he was waiting for someone to finish using the photocopier, while I could have sworn they were copying War and Peace in A4, it went on for so long, he decided that he “belonged” enough to have a chat. Our Hub was the kind of place where people came who used to be something. He told me that he used to be in the police, and was hoping to return, though he’d had time off for what he referred to as issues, and I didn’t push him any further on that. “You must be looking forward to it,” I said, and it wasn’t just small talk.

“Oh, you bet I am, Polly. I love it, and though you’re not supposed to blow your own trumpet, I’m good at it. I’m positively raring to get someone banged to rights again!” Though I wasn’t really sure I liked that phrase, it was hard to be immune to his enthusiasm, as he went on to tell me about his work, and that he was a member of the Fraud Squad. “I can spot a forgery from the other side of the room with my eyes shut,” he said, “And that’s the professional stuff, not some amateur chancer.”

Davey might not have blushed, but he certainly paled. He made his excuses and left quickly that day. Pat wasn’t long after him, though I hurriedly reminded myself he was still not back on duty, so though it had given him the shock of his life, he should think himself lucky.

I turned back to the room to see that Marvin was smiling and shaking his head. “He’s nearly as bad as Davey, I swear,” he said. “He’s no more worked for the Fraud Squad than I’m the King of England. The last job I heard of him doing, he was delivering pizzas!”

April 06, 2021 07:35

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