Fotheringale Hall, the ancient pile of the Rogerson-Stukeleys, is falling into ruin. It has one occupant, Reginald, aka Reggie, Rogerson-Stukeleys, the scion of a once rich and famous family. Reggie is lazy and filled with an inherited sense of entitlement.
His schooling was confusing: he had a distinguished title, but no money, whereas there were many plebeian boys, whose millionaire fathers he found contemptible for not being English aristocracy. Equally disdained were the offspring of ‘self-made’ British entrepreneurs. He was expelled, aged fifteen, after the threat of legal action from the owner of a chain of betting shops who objected to Reggie pissing in his son’s mouth.
When Reggie returned to Fotheringale Hall, his parents decided that he’d had enough of formal education: his inherited lineage and aura of entitlement would ensure his success in the world.
After the death of his parents, the years pass and the Hall falls into ever-greater ruin. Reggie, in his isolation (success in the world has eluded him), is uncertain what to do about the ever-increasing plague of rats. He knows they are taking advantage of his good nature but they are also God’s creatures – why shouldn’t they live in his house? He knows the answer: they eat any food he leaves about, shit everywhere and, at night, drive him demented with their incessant scurrying.
Lacking any other source of advice, he turns to his bible and finds what he wants in Exodus 22:2-3 – If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no blood guilt for him. Right, Reggie thinks, they’ve broken in so I can strike them. Death to them all!
After many hours of sleuthing, he finds an entry point to their lair – a small hole at the base of the newel post at the foot of the grand staircase. He takes up position sitting on the floor opposite the hole with his double-barrelled shotgun, loaded and breached, across his knees.
The hours pass. Nothing. At 3 a.m. a nose pokes out of the newel posthole. The noise of the shotgun is deafening. The newel post has gone. The first three treads of the stair are splinters. Using a powerful torch Reggie inspects the debris – there are no dead rats.
The next night he finds another hole – in a wall this time. There are no dead rats amidst the lath and rubble.
He persists. On another night, obsessed with vengeance, he continues, blasting holes in a ceiling.
The next night, another hole blasted in another wall.
He persists. On the following night, he fires the shotgun in the airing cupboard, beneath the water tank; there are no rats in the flood.
He finds a hole beside the gas range. There are no rats in the aftermath of the explosion – only remnants of Reggie.
Out of respect for the long history of the Rogerson-Stukeleys, the coroner returns a verdict of death by misadventure instead of death from innate stupidity.
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© Phil Cosker 2021
Phil Cosker has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. All rights reserved; no part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted by any mean, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.