Below we have another brilliant story by Sally-Anne Wilkinson based on the recent title, ‘The Angry Beaver’.
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THE ANGRY BEAVER
‘Pam! Look at this!’
Weaving through boxes and tarnished brasses, she sees Tony in the shadows of the pub cellar, holding what looks like a stuffed animal. It’s flea-bitten and stiff, with waxy fur and flat, staring eyes.
‘I’ve found The Angry Beaver.’
‘I told you it’s a stupid name for a pub.’
‘Look,’ he says, waving it near her face, ‘it’s fantastic. It’s like it’s alive.’
She grimaces, stepping away.
‘Come on, show it some love. You wouldn’t want to make it angry.’
‘Angry? It’s not angry, it’s scary.’
Tony raises his eyebrows. ‘A beaver? Scary? How many horror films have you seen with mad, stalking beavers?’
Pam thinks carefully. ‘None.’
Placing the animal back in its box, he saunters over, to wrap his arms around her waist – which isn’t as slender as it used to be.
‘Come on,’ he says, ‘it’s quirky.’
She shakes her head.
‘It’ll look great in the bar.’ He kisses her neck. ‘We’d be mad not to keep it. It’s good juju.’
‘Yeah. Y’know – good karma, cosmic forces, vibes, aura… Far out, man.’ He signals peace with his fingers.
Pam rolls her eyes.
‘C’mon Pam. It can watch over us. What with the new business, and all.’
‘How can that protect us?’
‘It’s in its nature. Beavers are loyal.’
‘They mate for life.’
‘And if someone tries to destroy the colony, they fight to the death. They are the coolest of animals.’
She winds her arms around his neck. ‘You’re making all this up, aren’t you?’
‘I might be.’
In the end, it’s not worth the argument.
A few hours before the doors open to the first customers of the day, Pam sits in her dressing gown, sipping coffee and eating toast at the bar.
You’ve put a lot of hard work in here, haven’t you, Pam? Tony and you, you make a good team.
Throwing a tea-towel over the beaver’s head, she returns to reading the paper.
Business takes off quicker than either of them expect, and they employ a couple of staff. Jenny’s your average teenager: skinny jeans, slouchy tops, sneakers, pony-tail. But Maria’s something else. Gleaming red lips, a ripe cleavage, black hair coiled in a dense hive, heels that cause vertigo. Tony’s mesmerised, and even Pam admits that the samba rhythm of Maria’s hips is hypnotic.
But she isn’t worried. Tony has an eye for the ladies, and he enjoys the odd flirtation, but he never touches. Never.
Anyway, thinks Pam, as she fondly gives her husband the once over, watching his jeans snake their way off his backside, who’d want him with that beer gut?
The dreams start a month later.
Pam’s in the bath, surrounded by bubbles you only get in Hollywood rom-coms. Softly, the light flickers like candles on a church altar. Her hair, though short and flecked with grey in real life, is blonde, piled on her head in curls. She clutches a champagne flute in her hand, and at the other end of the bath sits the beaver. He’s smoking a cigar; wearing spectacles. His own champagne glass rests on the bath.
‘You know what you need to do, Pam,’ he says.
Tony and Maria are serving behind the bar. As he passes a pint to the customer, he mutters something close into Maria’s ear. She throws her head back; laughs; caresses the pendant nesting in her neckline. Tony’s eyes follow the movement of her hand, then turn towards Pam, who’s polishing glasses at the dishwasher.
As his gaze meets hers, his smile is as clear as a cloudless day.
She’s stranded in the desert. The hot air bears in around her, as invisible cicadas chant oppressively. Ahead, she sees the beaver approaching on a horse. He stops, fully attired in leather waistcoat, chaps and a wide-brimmed hat. Jammed between his teeth is a cigarillo, his eyes narrowed against drifting smoke. She looks behind, attempting to follow the line of his vision. There is nothing but rocks and sand.
‘You know what you need to do, Pam.’
The smell of last night’s beer is thick in the air. It’s always the way before the doors open for the day’s business. Pam is kneeling on the floor doing a last minute check of soft drinks and mixers.
Proper little goldmine you have here, Pam. Tony and you, you make a good team.
With barely a glance, she removes the cloth from the beaver’s head.
The beaver wears a trilby, a raincoat and a pair of dark glasses. He’s standing in the shadows. Accents of King Oliver wind their way from the bars in the backstreets. She’s kitted out in a tight sequined dress; smoking a cigarette in a long holder. Under her arm is a newspaper; the date at the top, February 14th 1929. He passes her what looks like a violin case.
Today, his teeth are less charming; more like a snarl.
‘You know what you need to do, Pam,’ he says.
In the last week of May, the letter comes. Business is booming and it’s hard for Pam to get away, especially with the bank holiday market.
Tony rubs her neck. ‘Don’t worry. You go. You only have one Mum.’
He turns to Maria. ‘We can cope, can’t we, Mare?’
‘Of course, Pam. We’ll manage.’ Maria squeezes Tony’s shoulder with a carefully manicured hand. ‘You don’t need to worry about us.’
After receiving the letter this morning, Pam had taken a long look at herself in the mirror: the coarseness of her cropped auburn hair, the plumpness of her cheeks.
Now, she shoots Maria a toothy smile, and puts her own long-nailed hand on top of the barmaid’s. Her nose twitches slightly as she inhales the scent of heavy perfume. Behind the bar, she catches sight of the beaver. Light reflects in the blankness of its eyes.
‘Oh, my dear,’ she says, ‘I’m not worried. Not in the slightest.’