When the builder told me he'd found a body under my, our, kitchen, I told him flat out to fuck right off. I thought he was having me on and when he insisted it was there and I could see he meant it, I certainly didn't want anyone else to find out. So I told him just to put it right back where he'd found it, preferably with eight inches of concrete on top.
But he wouldn't deal with it so I had to go and look at the bloody thing. And I suppose it was a little unfair of me to ask that of Ryzard. He's a bloody good builder but rather superstitious in a religious way. He won't work on Sundays or even the occasional Holy Thursday. And he won't eat Hobnobs during Lent although he rather makes up for that by having three spoons of sugar in his tea rather than the standard two.
He was from somewhere in Eastern Europe where they still take these things seriously, Lent - as well as the number of sugars in a cup of tea. He was an enormous man, hewn, so I joked to him from the remains of the Iron Curtain. But instead of laughing he looked rather sad and put a giant hand on my shoulder, shook his head and just said 'Gno'. He had that kind of accent in which every sentence, or even word sometimes, seems to start with a G.
And he had that rather melancholy look on his face this day too. 'Glook, glet meshow,' he said, leading the way into what was going one day to be a dining room with slate floors and recessed ceiling lights. He pointed to where his workmen had dug out trenches for the foundations. 'Glook,' he insisted.
So I glooked.
And there it was, lying in the greyish clay soil, a small jumble of bones curled round itself into a ball. I picked up a trowel to have a poke but one of Ryzard's great hands folded round mine like an oven glove. 'Gno touch,' he said, rather firmly. 'Is bad gluck.'
'Look, Ryzard,' I said waving the trowel around. 'This is my house, and those, by the same token, are my bones.
He whistled between his teeth, 'Okay. Gyou daboss.'
So I knelt down and poked around. The bones were old and yellowed. I didn't know how they came to be so well preserved. I had at first thought that they were the bones of a child but on closer inspection I noticed that the skull was the wrong shape and that there was a tail.
Everyone was crowding round to get a good view so I pointed with the trowel. 'Look,' I said. 'There's a tail. These are the bones of a monkey.'
'Mongkey,' said Ryzard looking puzzled and even getting his 'g' in the wrong place.
'You know,' I said. 'A monkey. A simian, an ape.'
Ryzard shook his head head and pulled a face. 'Gno. I no gno mungkey.'
'Mon-key,' I said, rather deliberately. Then I pretended to peel a banana. He still looked puzzled so, forsaking any dignity, I bent my knees, curled my arms and hands up round to my armpits, made a moue and said, 'Oook!'
A look of delight spread across the faces of the builders. It started with Ryzard and tore round the room like a lit fuse, 'Ah!' they said in unison, 'Mong-key!' And promptly fell about laughing, pointing at me, with great tears of mirth rolling down their faces, 'Mong-key!'
I'd had enough of this. 'Look,' I said, 'Just pour some concrete over the damn thing and get back to work.' But any control I had was broken. I stomped out but it was a good ten minutes before I could hear that the laughter had stopped.