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Short Story: “A Wise Man”

A silly story, especially for Christmas. Working the early-turn Christmas Eve shift, Sergeant Rod just wants to finish at five, collect his daughter’s bizarre choice of present and go home. But his boss, the local drug lord and south London’s canine population have other ideas.
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dog

cheerful, majestic, beloved, graceful, happy, crazy and beautiful black Afghan hound dog or puppy is on the winter road in the woods at sunset alone portrait © Best dog photo / shutterstock.com

December 24, 2023 04:03 EDT
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Something to consider when reading/listening: Are you feeling Christmassy?

Chapter One

Sergeant Rod Garlick had just finished telling a young officer about the full horror of the past two weeks- the pressure from the superintendent, the injury to PC Franks, the six stabbings, two murders, and the double-figure cases of domestic GBH- when she asked him if he was “feeling Christmassy.” 

And you know what? In many ways, he was. In a sense, the prospect of tomorrow was hugely exciting. Not because of any overt desire to celebrate the birth of Christ, nor a newfound enthusiasm for chitchat with the in-laws, but because tomorrow was that most sacred of things: a day off. 

For two weeks Rod hadn’t stopped. But, provided there were no significant crimes in the next two hours, he would finally be free. He would pop to the artisan bakery to collect his daughter’s bizarre choice of Christmas present, return home, fold into his favourite armchair and drift comatosely through the next 48 hours before returning for the night shift on Boxing Day.

“Chloe,” he said, gratefully taking a mince pie from the young officer’s outstretched hand, “I’m as Christmassy as a red-nosed reindeer who’s been soaked in brandy and set on fire.”

Early turns were theoretically the best shifts to work. Arriving at 7 AM, you would deal with the wasters from the night before who would generally be found banging their heads against the cell walls and weeping; sounds Rod kept meaning to record so that he could play them back whenever he needed a laugh. But by midday, they’d usually have sobered up and would be heading home with a skip in their step, ready for another day spent tormenting their wives. 

After which, more often than not, you’d spend the rest of your time signing half-read forms and saying, “Rest assured I’ve got my best man on the case” until you finished at 5 and could put the shift, the job and any concern for the welfare of the public to the back of your mind.

The only downside was that if a serious incident took place shortly before your designated finish, you would be required to stick around to see it through. And Rod was convinced that the criminals were aware of this.

In his fourteen months as a sergeant, he had seen his 5 PM finish stolen from his grasp at the last minute by a supermarket armed robbery. A burglar falling from a seventh-floor window. And, as recently as last week, by an arsonist setting fire to a brandy-soaked reindeer. 

So Rod was unwilling to take anything for granted, even though the shift had been so quiet he was beginning to suspect that South London’s criminal element had decided they too were in need of a well-earned rest.

So far, the biggest crime report he’d received had been from Mrs Winterton, the old widow who lived six doors down from him on Levington Road, and to whom he’d made the mistake of giving his direct dial. He would get daily calls about cats attacking her cabbages, The News of the World tapping her phone and the postman withholding important letters. 

Today, she’d called him up to complain about the apparent theft of the tallest of her three life-size wise men, the most cherished feature of her front lawn nativity scene. Her strong suspicions pointed towards the new neighbors who’d moved in opposite. He told her to rest assured, he had his best man on the case. 

One of the many plus sides of the government’s repeated cuts to the police budget was the amount of crime that he and his colleagues could simply ignore. No longer did they have to leave the office to deal with trifling matters like bicycles being pinched or houses being burgled. Calling the police switchboard in the hope they would send someone out was like phoning a popular radio station with the hope of winning their huge cash prize. So Rod was perfectly happy for there to be minor crimes between now and 5 PM, as long as there were no major ones. 

The whole of SE31 could steal each other’s televisions until their hearts’ content. Rod would thank the radio operative for passing it on and ask her to assure the complainant that he had his best man on the case. And when 5 PM came, he and the sergeant replacing him would chuckle about the optimism of the day’s callers, and then he’d be on his way to the bakery. 

His daughter’s present meant that it was particularly important for Rod to finish at 5 PM so that he could get there before it shut. A celebrity TikToker or Instagrammer or something-or-other had made a limited number of brownies which she’d signed with icing and left at various bakeries around London. The brownies were entirely vegan and free from sugar, gluten and fat. This, for reasons unbeknown to Rod, meant you could price them up at £60 for four. Regardless, that was what his daughter wanted and he had managed to reserve a box at his local bakery. 

And Rod absolutely needed to get them for her because this present was only her second preference. Her first, strongly encouraged by her mother and brother, had been a dog. And Rod would rather buy daily boxes of extortionate flavorless mush than let a canine into his home. He had always hated man’s best friend. But his antipathy had recently become personal after his top PC, Terry Franks, had been put out of action during a routine visit to a lovable local drug lord, where the dog had bitten him on the backside. 

And, as the phone on Rod’s desk started ringing, he got a clear idea of how Terry must have felt at the moment teeth pierced trouser. There were only two people who used that phone line. One was the harmless Mrs Winterton who had already made her daily call. And the other was the bane of Rod’s life, the cop-hating, criminal-hugging superintendent Cindy Formby-Sinclair. 

To his enormous relief, it was only Mrs Winterton, wondering how the case was progressing. “They’ve got a really horrible dog,” she said, “bigger than me it is. I’ve never liked them. I don’t know who would want one. The sort of people who own dogs are the sort of people who’d steal wise men. I’d have them all put down if it was up to me.” Rod agreed wholeheartedly and assured her that the minute he completed his putsch, he’d have every dog, and their owners, lined up against the wall. 

But as she rambled on about the many advantages of gassing, Rod heard the deadening pips that signaled another caller was on the line. The clock said 3:30 PM and there was still ample time for Superintendent Cindy to utterly destroy his plans for the evening. He cut Mrs Winterton off mid-tirade and wished his superintendent a very merry Christmas. 

“Seasons greeting to you too,” said the nasally voice on the other end.

To Rod’s mind, Superintendent Cindy Formby-Sinclair, like so many in the modern world, had been educated into idiocy. She’d graduated with a master’s in criminology and been parachuted in to tell coppers how to do their jobs, even though she wouldn’t know a criminal if he hit her in the face. And that’s factually true. One did hit her in the face once and, based on his socio-economic background, she said he should be treated first and foremost as a victim. 

It was her strongly held belief that Rod Garlick was utterly incompetent. And, Rod had to admit, out of all the views she held on policing, this was the one with which he had the most sympathy. Unlike her support for stitching gender pronouns into officers’ lapels, he could see perfectly well why she had come to this conclusion. Since becoming a sergeant, Rod had mislaid evidence, ordered the battering down of the wrong door and let his top cop get bitten on the arse by a dog. 

In his ten years as a PC, he served under six different sergeants and he thought each of them as incompetent as Cindy thought him. There was a point when he considered the position of sergeants as a species to fit somewhere between water-borne bacteria and land fungi in the evolutionary story. But, now a sergeant himself, Rod had learnt a valuable lesson. It wasn’t sergeants who were prehistoric pond life. It was superintendents. And the truth was that behind every sergeant-related cock-up was a sniveling superintendent who had been pressuring him to take a more holistic perspective on tackling the proliferation of criminalistic tendencies. 

Rod despised his superintendent with a passion far beyond anything he felt even for Bilal Sandhu, one of London’s most creative drug lords who was as slippery as he was prolific. 

Cindy asked Rod what he’d been up to today and he said he was fully engaged with tracking down the wise man snatcher who had ruined Christmas for poor old Mrs Winterton. 

“That’s awful,” said Cindy, without a hint of irony, because she didn’t do irony or sarcasm or jokes, “I would be devastated if anyone messed with our display. My partner and I have created an interfaith, gender-blind wonderland that celebrates the struggle of the native Americans against their white oppressors.”

“Oh yeah,” said Rod, “I think I saw that on offer in B&Q. Well, leave it with me, guv. I will have this decoration-pinching bastard locked up before you can say ‘colonialism”.”

“No,” she said, “I need you to go and see Bilal Sandhu.” 

“I can do, but I think it’s nicer if you drop off your own Christmas presents.” 

Cindy explained that the port of Dover had recently seized half a million pounds worth of heroin and sources suggested Bilal, with his family contacts in Afghanistan, was behind it. 

“And what benefit,” said Rod, “would be gained by him talking to me?”

“He might confess,” came the reply.

“Sorry, guv. Must be a bad line. It sounded like you said he might confess.”

Rod made the case that he was about as likely to get a confession out of Bilal Sandhu as he was to get a superintendent to sing the national anthem. But she was unmoved. She was adamant that he must go to Sandhu’s house and he must go there now. Rod was about to argue back and insist that the whole thing would be a colossal waste of time when it occurred to him that a colossal waste of time was exactly what he needed. He could pop to Sandhu’s, have a nice catch-up and, by the time he was back at the office, it would be time for him to go home. “Don’t worry, guv. I’m on the case.”

“Sarge,” said Chloe, coming in from the control room, “there’s reports of a huge dog running loose on Levington Road. Neighbors are terrified. We’ve got PC Biggs a few streets down.”

As he was getting his coat, Rod weighed up where a loose dog ranked in terms of crimes that can or can’t be ignored. The trouble with dogs, he thought, is that people aren’t aware of how big a threat they really are. That was why the biter had gone for Terry, a dog lover, and not him. What do you get for patting their head and asking, “Who’s a good boy, then”? You get a big bite on the arse, that’s what. Still, should one stray hound really be a police matter? 

“Sorry,” he said at last, “did you say Levington Road?”

Rod had been at the station for four years and this was the first time he’d ever heard his own street mentioned in relation to any sort of disturbance, other than from Mrs Winterton of course. 

He got in his car and radioed through to PC Biggs who told him, as he always did, that he was “code 4.” Biggs was a heavy-set man with two loves in his life: eating fattening food and talking in often-inaccurate police lingo. “Code 4” meant he was having lunch, and Rod told him to scrap his KFC and retrieve a DOG ASAP.

“IC2 or IC3?” asked PC Biggs, referring to the codes officers use to signal whether the suspect is black or white. 

“It’s a bloody dog,” said Rod, “and I think it’s brown.”

“I’ll be honest, sarge,” said Biggs, “I’ve always been a bit wary of DOGs.”

Rod put the car into gear and smiled. “Then you’re the right man for the job.”

Chapter Two

If someone were to go back three and a half billion years and present the early water-borne microbial lifeforms with a premonition of Bilal Sandhu, the microbes would probably shrug their shoulders, conclude that evolution wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and call the whole thing off. 

He was the sort of criminal who didn’t master his times tables until he was nineteen but had since managed to memorize the entirety of the European Convention on Human Rights. Every interaction was an infringement of some kind of article or amendment of the criminal’s charter. Even if you did get him banged to rights, he and his puffed-up lawyer would ensure the whole experience was so painful that you’d be begging them to let you drop the case without pursuing you for damages. 

On his way to ask the notorious heroin smuggler if he fancied handing himself in, Rod noticed the garishness of all the houses decked out in lights, Santa sleighs, reindeer and, in one case, what looked like George Washington dangling from a roof. The knowledge that Cindy Formby-Sinclair was an enthusiast for this sort of thing had done nothing to dampen his disdain for the people who would willingly deface their own homes. These people, Rod thought, must all be as humorless and uptight as his dear superintendent.

But, as he arrived at the house that heroin built, he discovered Bilal Sandhu had been captured by the same spirit of the season. Purple, blue and yellow strobe lights were flashing from every window. There were candy canes and snowmen, and a full-size nutcracker on either side of his porch. Rod paused to scoop up a small amount of fake snow, which he planned to send to the lab later. 

Bilal came to the door wearing an open dressing gown, with thick black curls surrounding his sweaty paunch like ants attacking a mound of sugar. His eyes were red and he did not look pleased with the interruption. By his side was the frothing little demon who had bitten PC Franks on the bottom. Rod fixed the horrible thing with a look that said he was not the sort of man who turns his back on a dog. 

“This is harassment,” said Bilal, “you can’t be here.”

“Just in the neighborhood and thought I’d send the superintendent’s seasonal greetings.”

“This is not good for my anxiety. This visit is very triggering and I will be informing my lawyer.”

“Look,” said Rod, “let’s cut to the chase. There’s reports of a big crime leading back to you. And I’m here to ask if you did it.”

“Yeah,” said Bilal, “I did.”

“Wonderful,” said Rod, who turned and walked down the path, away from the nutcrackers, past the candy canes, past the snowman and out of the gate. It was only when he reached his car that he felt the need to turn back. “Sorry, what did you just say?”


“Wait here,” said Rod as they pulled up outside Giselle’s Patisserie, “I need to get my daughter’s Christmas present before it shuts.”

“You can’t lock the doors,” said Bilal, “section 2, article 12. Risk of suffocation, asphyxiation, anxiety-induced pulmonary incidents.”

“Well come in then. But make sure you behave.”

“Section 2, article 14. I have the right to refuse any request outside the remit of the police officer’s…”

“Yes, fine, bloody hell,” said Rod. It was 4.30. If he got him back to the station now, he could possibly ask Chloe or someone else to pop out and get the brownies. And, if things progressed smoothly enough, there was still an outside chance he’d be done with Bilal and his awful lawyer by 8 or 9 and he could still have some sort of rest before Christmas Day.  

Besides, he needed to look at the positives. This was at least a really big deal. He was bringing in one of the most wanted criminals in London. It would get Cindy off his back and possibly put him on the path to becoming an inspector. 

Rod took a deep breath, put the car in gear, pulled out, clipped a moped and sent the rider flying.

“That was your fault,” said Bilal, “Highway Code, page 77.”

Rod helped the rider to his feet. He had two options here. The first was to admit fault, apologize profusely and hope that he didn’t report him. The other, which was the option he went for, was to give the moped rider a ticket and warn him about his dangerous driving. He nearly chickened out when she, it turned out it was a she, removed her helmet. With her broad shoulders and scruffy mullet, she looked like a 1970s footballer. One of the tough ones who liked to tackle round the shins. But he persevered and received a barrage of language that even former Leeds United hard man Norman Hunter might have found a bit blue. “I am afraid,” said Rod, “that the law is the law.”

“You’re lucky I didn’t jump in,” said Bilal when they were back on the road, “what you did is a violation of the police code of practice.”

“I have a copy of the police code of practice right here,” said Rod, “and it’s quite heavy and quite hard and fits snugly into the palm of my hand.”

“I hope that’s not a threat. As you well know, threats both direct and indirect are…”

Rod ramped up the sound of the radio, at which point Bilal shouted something about the noise pollution act which Rod, thankfully, couldn’t hear. 


“So,” said Rod when they were in the interrogation room, “what would you like to tell me?”

“I’m not saying a word until my lawyer’s here.”

“But it’s a straightforward confession. You’ve already said you did it.”

“Inadmissible as you well know,” said Bilal who proceeded to put his hands on his stomach, close his eyes and sit in silent meditation.  

Chloe knocked at the door. “Sarge, PC Biggs would like a word.”

“Send him in.”

Biggs came in, hands on his hips, looking very pleased with himself and displaying a belly that defied his years. Out of all the accomplishments in Biggs’ young life, the growth of that belly was the only one that could be deemed impressive. 

“Any luck?” asked Rod.

“The DOG has been RUI, sarge.”

“You’ve released a dog under investigation?”

“No, sorry. Returned under instruction.”

“Splendid. What did the owners say?”

“The owners were mispers.”

“So how did you return it?”

“The DOG was RWOC.”

“Speak English for god’s sake.”

“The front door was open so I put him inside and shut it.”

“Right, fine.”

Biggs removed his hat, revealing a patchwork of uneven tufts that made it look like he’d got bubble gum stuck in his hair several years ago and had never quite managed to get it all out. 

“They’ll regret letting that dog escape,” he said. “When I found him, he was on their front lawn, pissing on one of the two wise men.”

It wasn’t until this point that Bilal opened his eyes. 

“Ah, how rude of me,” said Rod, “PC Biggs this is Bilal Sandhu, whose reputation precedes him. Bilal this is PC Biggs, whose reputation is probably stuck to the bottom of his shoe.”

“Did you say two wise men?” said Bilal. 

“That’s correct,” said Biggs, “the dog was pissing on the smaller one.”

“Was there also a herd of sheep and a donkey?”

“Correct again. The full kaboosh.”

“Off the record,” said Bilal, “that’s one of mine.”

Rod felt a brand-new vein bulge into life on the back of his neck.   

“What’s one of yours?” he asked, wishing there was some way he could avoid hearing the answer. 

“That’s one of the houses I hit. I stole the third wise man. I’m not proud of it but it’s better to own up and that’s why I’m here.” 

“Very good of you,” said PC Biggs, patting him on the back.

“Right,” said Rod, welcoming the new vein into the world with a calming rub, “are you telling me that you’re not here to admit to the import of half a million pounds of heroin?” 

“What’s heroin?” said Bilal with a smirk. 

“You’re here to admit to stealing a wise man, aren’t you?”

“And a candy cane. And a snowman. And two nutcrackers. But as I say, I want my lawyer.”

“And you,” Rod said, turning to PC Biggs, “have just put an angry, confused dog into the house with the missing wise man?”

“See, I completely forgot there were meant to be three,” said Biggs, “I thought it was just gold and frankincense. But how could I forget about myrrh?”

“You saw the open door and you assumed that’s where it lived, whereas in fact that is the house of a little old lady who utterly despises dogs.”

“What sort of person,” said Bilal, “doesn’t like dogs?”

Chloe opened the door. “Call for you, sarge. A Mrs Winterton.”

Chapter Three

It wasn’t that Rod wasn’t in a hurry to get there, it was just that he couldn’t put on the sirens and make a stop at the bakery to collect his daughter’s Christmas present. Besides, the old widow was safely barricaded in her en suite bedroom. Yes, she might have dinner a bit late tonight but she would, ultimately, be fine.

Bilal Sandhu was another matter, but Rod reasoned that an hour or so in the company of PC Biggs would serve him right for admitting to a crime purely for the entertainment value of winding up the police. Bilal knew that when his lawyer finally did deign to turn up, the pair of them would drown the conversation in hours of legalise and the police would be taught yet another invaluable lesson in why it was better for everyone to leave serious criminals well alone. 

The parking spot he’d secured earlier, directly outside the shop, was now taken and Rod had to park a few hundred feet away. By the time he’d run from his spot to the shop, a broad-shouldered bloke was turning the lock on the outside. 

“So, so sorry, fella,” said Rod, “but can I quickly grab my box of brownies? They should be left out for me. Rod Garlick. And my daughter will be devastated if she doesn’t get them. I paid in advance so I just need to…”

The proprietor looked at Rod with eyes that could brown a creme Brulé and he realized it was the woman he’d knocked off the moped earlier. 

“I’m afraid,” she said, “I must be getting on. I have to get two buses home.” 

She walked away with all the satisfaction of a Leeds United great who’d just broken an ankle.   

“I’ll give you a lift,” he called after her.

And so, at a quarter to six, Rod, the no-nonsense-central-midfielder-cum-female-baker and the brownies were sitting in miles of traffic heading in the complete opposite direction from Levington Road, Mrs Winterton and the blood-thirsty dog. The brownies looked about as appetizing as the box that encased them and Rod was pretty confident that cardboard would prove to be their primary ingredient.  

He explained the tragedy of his evening and the Norman Hunter lookalike started going on about how much she adored dogs but she didn’t think they should be kept as pets because it undermined their agency and what right did humans have to assert our dominance over animals anyway? 

To hell with this, thought Rod, and turned on the sirens. 

He arrived at the street where he lived just after seven o’clock and booted down the door, which had always been his favorite part of the job. 

“Help,” screamed a voice from upstairs, “help, help, he’s trying to eat me.” 

He rushed up to find a mound of fine hair lying on its belly, panting peacefully. The dog was a harmless thing, even by Rod’s standards. It was big but docile. With its long silky hair and wet black nose, he knew what breed it was but couldn’t quite remember the name. He grabbed it by the collar and, with relative ease, affixed a lead he’d borrowed from the station. “It’s alright, Mrs Winterton. You can come out now.”

The old lady accompanied him to the new neighbors so that she could give them a piece of her mind but they weren’t in. 

“What will you do now?” asked Mrs Winterton. 

“I’ll have to take him back to the station.”

“You should have him put down.”

“That’s what we say about everyone who gets in our cars but sadly it’s not allowed.”

He let the dog into the back and started the ignition. He was about to radio through to the station when he heard a wet slurping sound and saw in the rear-view mirror that the dog was getting well acquainted with his daughter’s Christmas brownies. 

Rod pulled the dog out of the car and looked helplessly at the mushy brown mess in his back seat. He tried to undo the damage but there was no way he could give his daughter food that had been taste-tested in the backseat of a police car, even if the dog was one of the cleanest creatures to ever sit there. He rubbed his chocolate-covered hands on his trousers and pursued the miscreant. 

Finally, he caught up with him and grabbed hold of the collar. Together they headed back to the car, the dog with chocolate all over his mouth, Rod with chocolate on the back of his trousers. 

“Daddy,” called a voice and Rod looked up to see his little daughter, her face consumed with joy, by his own front door. She ran towards him and threw her arms around the dog. “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it,” she said, “thank you, thank you, thank you.” She took the lead from him and started walking the poor, abandoned mutt towards the house where they were met by Rod’s son who jumped in the air with joy. 

“Oh Rod, I’m so happy you finally came round.” It was his wife, standing beside him and resting her head against his lapel. “You’ve really come through for us this Christmas.” 

Rod was struggling to find the words when he heard PC Biggs’ voice on the radio. 

“We’ve got an urgent AS on an IC4.”

Rod felt the vein in his neck pulsating. “In English, Biggs.”

“It’s the Afghan, sarge. He’s escaped.”

Rod stared at the long-haired dog, who was just this moment being ushered across his threshold, in utter disbelief. And then he looked around to check he wasn’t being watched. “How on earth do you know that?”


Sadly, it was another Afghan who was now the focus of police attention. Rod apologized to the family for missing Christmas Eve but, so besotted were they with their new member, it’s more than likely they didn’t even notice. And, at 1 AM that morning, he was still driving around looking for Bilal Sandhu, with PC Biggs eating Chilli Heatwave Doritos in the passenger seat. “There’s no way,” said Rod, “that we are keeping that bloody dog. I will make those neighbours of mine take it back and, if they don’t, then you can have it Biggs because you got me into this bloody mess in the first place.”

“Do you think we’ll give Sandhu NOIP or just WOA, sarge?”

“Tell me, Biggs, how on earth do you manage to let a criminal escape the interrogation room.”

“He said he wanted a B&H.”

“A cigarette? And you left him to it. You know at your age it’s not too late to bring a charge against your parents if they did make a family sport out of dropping you on your head. Hang on, what’s that?”

Ahead of them was a large house with flashing lights dangling from each window and what looked like a tepee on the front lawn, on which he could just about make out the shadow of a man moving around. 

He opened his car door delicately and tiptoed towards the house. He was about to reach out and grab the man when PC Biggs slammed his door shut. Rod dived after his target and wrestled him to the ground, the two of them thrashing around and bundling into various unknown plasticky objects. The man pushed Rod off and tried once again to run. Rod grabbed his arm and the man swung his other one around and clocked Rod smack in the nose. As Rod was falling to the floor, he reached out for support and grabbed hold of a lever, the pulling of which caused the whole front lawn to burst into light and song. 

There was a giant Buddha, a cross-legged elephant man, a buffalo and a half dozen Red Indians banging drums. Looking up to the ceiling, Rod saw a terrified-looking George Washington dangling from the gutter as a Big Chief towered over him.

The front door opened and Superintendent Cindy Formby-Sinclair emerged. 


“You honestly expect me to believe that Bilal Sandhu was on my lawn trying to disturb my interfaith celebration of the Native American struggle,” she said, walking around inspecting the damage, “And what’s that brown stuff on your bottom? Oh dear, have you had some sort of an accident?”

It was on that last word that Bilal Sandhu, who’d scuttled up the drainpipe and onto the roof, finally lost hold of George Washington and came crashing through the tepee. 


“You’ll be hearing from my lawyer,” he shouted as he was being lifted into the ambulance, “and that stain on your backside, Sergeant Garlick, that’s an infringement of article seven of the uniform code for officers of the crown.” 

PC Biggs accompanied him in the ambulance. “I’ll track the IC4 until it’s AIO, sarge.” And one of the paramedics was able to give Rod some cotton wool for his busted nose. 

He checked his watch. It was 2.30 AM but at least he was done. 

“Well then,” said Cindy, after he’d wished her a Merry Christmas, “you’d better get back to the office and write this all up, hadn’t you?”

“Course guv,” he said, “no problem guv.”

“Oh, and Rod,” she said as he was about to get into the car, “best wishes for the season.”


It was 4 AM when he finally made it back to his house. He was too exhausted to be angry. He just wanted to get in and get a couple of hours sleep before his kids woke him up for their presents. He opened the door delicately and tiptoed inside. 

He was quite right to surmise that his wife and kids would be out for the count but that did not mean that all inhabitants of 37 Levington Road were asleep.

With the excitement of writing his late-night report, Rod had forgotten that his family had, albeit temporarily, acquired a new member. Said member was disorientated to find himself in the hallway of a strange house and, when the front door opened in the middle of the night, he had half a mind to make a dash for freedom. However, he was persuaded to stay by the smell of sugar-free, gluten-free, fat-free chocolate brownies. And, when the moment was right, he flung himself after the scent and sunk in his teeth. 

As he did so, the pierce of Rod’s scream was enough to wake up not just the house but the entire street.

And, through the blur of his own tears, Rod could just about make out four faces staring over him in genuine concern. His wife. His son. His daughter. And a long-haired, chocolate-gobbed dog.

What was supposed to be an easy early turn at the end of a desperate two weeks had turned into a nightmare that had stretched out until 4 in the morning. He had been bossed around by an old widow, a despised superintendent and a mulleted woman who could quite easily take him in a fight. 

And it had ended with Sergeant Rod Garlick getting punched in the nose by one Afghan and bitten on the arse by another. By which point, it was fair to say, he was not feeling particularly Christmassy.

[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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