Denis was excited. He had gone from
nothing to everything. His face formed a fixed grin as he drove.
It had been a long day but he
showed no trace of tiredness.
The morning had started as badly as usual. He had crawled out of
bed at quarter to six, shivered, pulled on his clothes and got in
the car. He arrived at the factory a few minutes before six
thirty and fetched the bucket to begin mopping out the toilets.
When you need the money you will take any job you can get and
Denis needed the money.
At eight he drove to an office block, emptied the bins, vacuumed
the carpet, wiped the desks, cleaned the toilets and left for the
pub a bit before nine. In the pub it was toilets, floors and
tables in the public bar, carpet and table polishing in the
lounge bar and the same for the restaurant. Wash all windows
inside and finish just before eleven. At eleven he was at the
Diner cleaning the toilets, tables and floor. At twelve he was
in another office, cleaning round people who didn't notice he was
At two o'clock he finally go a break and had a ten minute doze in
the car, then it was time to eat. He opened the bag that held his
lunch and found that his milk bottle was empty, though he
remembered filling it before he went to bed. This had happened
before. He checked the sandwiches. The cheese was missing and had
been replaced with a thick coating of mustard. One of Karen's
Denis was hungry so he scraped off as much of the mustard as he
could and ate the bread. With the food gone he was thirsty. He
checked his pockets and found one pound and nineteen pence in
small change, so he decided to treat himself at a nearby shop.
The only drinks were carbonated crap and the cheapest was one
pound twenty so he went wild and bought a lottery ticket instead,
ignoring the sneer of the girl when he paid her the pound in
By two thirty he was back at the factory. The toilets were worse
than in the morning. Another pub at three thirty, toilets and
tables. Then George arrived as he was finishing.
"I need you to do an extra," George said. "A bastard let me down.
Office block on Grange Road. You should be finished by nine."
Denis sighed. George gave him a hard stare. "If you don't want
the work, just fuck off. You're replaceable. Are you
"No," Denis said, "but I need to get something to eat and I left
my money at home."
"I don't do subs," George said. "I'm not a fucking bank. Pay day
is tomorrow." George, such a caring employer, turned and walked
At six Denis was in the office block cleaning the toilets,
polishing the floors and wiping the desks. He helped himself to a
drink from the water cooler to try to quell his grumbling belly.
Poor old Denis was feeling hard done by when it happened. He was
polishing the floor in the entrance hall and feeling envious of
the security guard sitting behind a desk eating a pie with a mug
of tea by his hand and a small television keeping his attention.
The lottery numbers came up on the screen and Denis paused in his
cleaning and looked. He pulled out his lottery ticket and looked
again. His hand began to shake. The numbers were off the screen
before he could check them one more.
Denis didn't jump for joy or scream in happiness. He showed no
feeling of excitement, just disbelief. He put the ticket away
carefully and got back to work. By the time he finished at nine
o'clock he was feeling a bit shaky.
Denis kept his phone in the car because the battery wouldn't hold
a charge so it had to be plugged into the cigarette lighter to
make a call. He phoned the number on the ticket and a cheery
voice asked him to read out the numbers followed by the
identification number on the ticket and tell her where he
purchased it. It was confirmed. Denis was the big winner on a
rollover week. Then his excitement begin to grow.
On the journey home he drove with extra care and very steadily.
The way his luck had been running for the last two years had
taught him to expect disasters. He could visualize having the
winning ticket in his pocket and suddenly being involved in a car
crash. He would be in a coma for six months. The ticket would be
lost. He could see something like that happening. But it didn't.
The house was empty. Denis made himself a sandwich and a cup of
tea and smiled at the extravagance of his celebration. Then he
fell asleep in front of the television.
He didn't hear his wife come in, but became aware of voices and
of Karen's little lilting laugh that had attracted his attention
the first time they met.
"Ah," Karen said, "what have we here? Oh, it is a toilet cleaner
sleeping on my clean armchair. You are supposed to wash and
change before you go near the furniture."
Richard Tarpon was with her. "He looks like shit," Richard said.
Karen's laugh tinkled again.
"Would you like a nightcap?" she asked.
"No thanks, I shall leave you two alone, I'm sure you have things
She smiled at him, "Indeed we have. I'll see you out."
They left the room. Denis heard her giggle, then some whispering
followed by another giggle. Karen returned a moment later and
went directly to the drinks cabinet to pour herself a gin and
Denis was awake and anticipating the look on her face when he
told her the news. Their relationship had been going through a
difficult time since his redundancy two years before. He was sure
that the money would help them rebuild and be happy again.
Pleasure was rising in bubbles from inside him. He stood and
moved towards her.
"I have something to tell you." He grinned at her.
"You smell. Don't come any closer." She stepped away from him.
"Denis, you are repulsive. You come in smelling like that and
soil the furniture. I want to live in a nice house."
"It is a nice house."
"No thanks to you, when you're here it smells like a dirty
toilet. The thing that is wrong with this house is you."
Denis stared at her, his joy of the moment dispersing.
"Don't look all pathetic. I don't want a scene, I have come to a
decision. I want you to move out. I want a divorce." Denis
continued to stare. "Don't try and act surprised, even you must
have known this was coming. I have had all the necessary papers
drawn up. We officially separated yesterday. Don't try to argue,
I am not going to change my mind."
Karen put her drink on the coffee table and opened her briefcase.
"It is a simple document and all it needs now is your signature."
She passed Denis a piece of paper and he glanced at it. It was a
simple statement, Karen and Denis agreed to separate because
their marriage was irretrievably broken down. Denis had no claim
on Karen and she had no claim on him. It also stated that they
were both fully satisfied with the distribution of their communal
The paper already had Karen's signature, along with the
signatures of two witnesses. It was dated the previous day.
"It should be witnessed after I sign," Denis said.
"Don't be pathetic." Karen said. "Just sign there. Do it. Sign
now." She gave him a pen.
Denis was in a daze. He signed.
"Now sign here." She put another piece of paper inn front of him.
He didn't even try to read it, just signed. Another piece of
paper was put in front of him. He signed it, and the next and the
next. Finally she gave him a wedge of papers. "These are your
"So what happens next?" he asked.
"Your suitcases are on the landing. I packed all of your things.
You can leave now. I want my life back."
"Are we selling the house?"
"No, I am not."
"Well this division of communal property that we are both so
happy with, when do I get my share? I need to find somewhere to
"Your share is in your suitcases."
"I mean my half of the house."
"It is my house." Her face was expressionless.
"It's in joint names," Denis said.
"You signed your half over to me. It is my house. You have your
suitcases and their contents. You have your car. It is now time
for you to put your suitcases in your car and leave. We will not
need to see each other again."
Karen walked to the door and opened it. Richard Tarpon was in the
hall, she waved him in.
"I asked Richard to stay in case you became difficult. Now that
you've signed all of the papers I wouldn't want you to change
your mind and try to get them back. Goodbye, Denis."
Denis felt his whole body freeze. A thought went through his
head. "I didn't crash on the way home, I crashed at home."
"Could you put these in a safe place please, Richard, and bring
the suitcases down, I don't want Denis going upstairs
again."Richard smiled and went to the stairs.
Denis stood there, totally still and silent. "I suppose your
relationship is more than work," he said at last.
"Denis, you are a little prick and you have a little prick. Don't
talk, just leave."
"And Richard is a total prick and you are a total bitch. I shall
be glad to go. I need my papers." He moved towards the bureau.
"Your papers, driving license, birth certificate, passport and
all the other proof that you exist are in the suitcases. There is
nothing else of yours in the house. Goodbye Denis."
Richard returned carrying two suitcases. Denis took them from
him and left.
It was cold in the car so Denis passed an uncomfortable night and
was pleased to start work at six. The factory, the office, the
pub, the office, the pub. He still had no cash and therefore no
food. He had no feeling either other than a numb pain that filled
his whole being. He worked mechanically, more like an unthinking
machine than a human. He was postponing all thought, waiting for
When George came into the pub he gave Denis an envelope. He had
worked sixty eight hours the previous week, though that was not
shown on the payslip. There was nearly three hundred pounds in
the envelope, it he was being underpaid as usual, George was a
cheating bastard. Denis took the cash and stuffed it into his
"I need you to do the office block on Grange Street again,"
Denis shook his head slowly.
"Fine, you ungrateful little shit, I shall pay you off. You're
not indispensable." He pulled a wad of notes from his pocket and
counted out six twenties. "Your choice, take this and you're paid
off, or get your ass round to the office block and get to work."
Denis took the money.
"Don't be stupid, Denis. You need the work. Where are you going
to get another job, cause I promise you that if you let me down I
won't take you back."
Denis shrugged his indifference and noticed the expression change
on George's face. "I don't want to sack you, Denis."
The landlord walked past them to unlock the pub's front door.
Denis pushed the bucket and mop into the cupboard. "Bye, George,"
he said and he walked into the public bar.
"I'll see you tomorrow," George said. "And don't be late."
"You paid me off, George." Denis sat at the bar. The barmaid was
arranging bottles on a shelf, he asked for a pint of guinness and
a packet of crisps, he was hungry. George had followed him into
"You will be in tomorrow!" he said.
Denis shook his head.
"You can't just walk out on me with no notice, I rely on you. I
can't replace you just like that."
"You paid me off, George. I don't work for you any more."