It looked revolting. Mr Roach, the college caretaker looked at it in disbelief. Where the heck had it come from? It certainly hadn’t been there when he had locked the hall last night, and the only other key was held by Mrs Widdows, the cleaner, who didn’t work on Saturdays. He scratched his head and looked round. All the tables were stacked as he had left them, except for one, which was set up against the wall, and on it was the offending item. It consisted of a plain wooden tray, which held a mug of cold tea with a greasy film on the top, a teaplate holding a slice of buttered bread, cut in half and with a large bite taken out of it, and a plate of egg and chips. It looked as if it had once been swimming in fat, but having gone cold, it was now congealed and horrible. Tomato ketchup had been liberally slopped all over it, and a knife and fork were laying across the food. A chip was impaled on the tines of the fork, and it was half submerged in the yolk of the egg, which had run and formed a crust on the side of the plate as it had dried out. Two large flies were buzzing around it all. Funny, Mr Roach thought, they always appear, even in a locked room like this.
He looked at his watch. Best get a move on, he thought, the art crowd would be in shortly and would need the tables. He’d move the disgusting meal in a minute.
It didn’t take him long to organise the room for the art club. They met every Saturday morning, but today they had a special display on, and prize giving, hoping to convince the local Council to carry on subsidising them, and maybe sell some of their efforts too. Some hopes, thought Mr Roach, considering the weird ideas some of them came up with !
He picked up the tray and carried it to the kitchen, where he scraped all the food into the dustbin and washed up the crockery. He stacked it in the cupboard with the tray, maybe someone would claim it, and he’d give them a good grilling to find out how they had got into that locked room overnight.
About an hour later, he was in the yard repairing a broken chair when a young man came rushing out after him. It was Mrs Widdows’ son, Simon, and he appeared to be very agitated. “Mr Roach” he said “Have you seen my artwork anywhere?”
“Hello Simon” he answered “I didn’t know you were one of the arty crowd. What artwork you lost then, Son?”
“It was a conceptual piece” replied the lad “I called it ‘The Last Supper’ Mum lent me her keys to bring it in last night when dad was around with his car because I couldn’t carry it on the bus this morning, and I left it on a table in the hall. The teacher reckons I’ll get an award for it”.
Awareness dawned on Mr Roach. This called for tact and compassion, neither of which he was famous for. An award ! Flippin’ heck. He’d have to make do with getting his equipment back, and be thankful for that.
“I was just going to put the kettle on” he said “Shall we have a cup of tea and a chat?”