The occasional table

Having done a couple of dark stories in a row, I felt like going back to something surreal and daft again. So here you go.

‘What the hell is that?’ asked Gavin. ‘And why is it in the middle of your living room?’

Jason looked in admiration at his new purchase. Oh yes, it might look like a six foot stuffed alligator with an eye and several teeth missing, but he knew better. ‘It’s an occasional table,’ he smiled.

‘No, Jase, mate,’ said Gavin, warily. ‘That’s a giant alligator.’

‘Yes, it is right now,’ said Jason. ‘Most of the time, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s magic, see, and every so often, just occasionally, it turns into a table.’

The alligator loomed as Gavin took a couple of steps back from Jason, and towards the door. ‘Jase. That’s a stuffed alligator. It never will, and never has, turned into a table.’

‘That’s what I said when the man in the shop first showed it to me,’ grinned Jason. ‘”That’s not a table,”’ I said, ‘”that’s an alligator”. And he said, “yes, most of the time, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s magic see, and every so often—“’

‘”Just occasionally, it turns into a table?”’

‘That’s right. And sure, I didn’t believe him, but then he showed me.’

‘You’ve seen this happen, have you?’

‘No, but I’ve seen photos.’ Jason turned, rummaged in a drawer, then handed a clutch of photos to Gavin. ‘See!’

‘Jase,’ said Gavin, as he flicked through. ‘These are just… photos of a table in a shop.’

‘Yes, yes – but that table is in the exact same spot in the shop as the alligator was! In just the same place by the counter! The man said he took them the other week when it changed for a couple of minutes. Mad, innit?’

Someone is, thought Gavin. ‘Which shop was this?’

‘One down an alleyway in town. I’d never seen it before. It sells all sorts of magical stuff! I bought loads! Like that magic lamp over there!’

On Jason’s chest of drawers was a dirty old lamp. Gavin picked it up. ‘I suppose if I rub it, a genie comes out and grants me three wishes?’ he said.

‘Not yet,’ grinned Jason. ‘He’s on holiday, the man said. Skiing in the Alps. But he’ll be back later today, I’ll get my wishes then.’

Gavin searched Jason’s beaming face. Yes, he thought, he totally believes this nonsense.

‘And,’ said Jason. ‘I also bought these amazing invisible trousers! I’m wearing them now. I had to put them on over my normal trousers, because when I went outside earlier with only the invisible ones on, Mrs Jones down the street called the police.’

A pause, while Gavin took all this in.

‘Jase… this stuff…’ Gavin managed to say. ‘It’s garbage. All of it. You’ve been taken for a ride.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You’ve been sold a manky stuffed alligator, a set of photos of a table, a toy magic lamp with “made in China” on the bottom and a pair of trousers that don’t even bloody exist! How much did you pay for all this?’

‘£500,’ said Jason, finally beginning to look a bit uncertain.

‘Jesus, mate. Look, look, I’ve got to go and pick my kid up from school. But tomorrow, you and me are going down to this shop and we’ll get your cash back, okay?’

‘You really think it’s all rubbish?’

‘Yes!’

‘All right, all right… thanks, mate. Yeah, it would be good if you’d come to the shop with me.’

‘No probs, we’ll sort it out.’ Gavin gave Jason the sort of awkward half-hug that men specialise in, stepped back quickly, and opened the door. ‘See you tomorrow, OK?’

‘Bye, Gav.’

The door shut. Jason turned and surveyed his purchases, and sighed. Then there was a flash, a fizz, and the alligator turned into a table. This was followed by a bang and a puff of smoke, and a genie appeared from the lamp, wearing skiing goggles and a woolly hat. ‘Sorry I’m a bit late,’ he said. ‘The flight back was murder. Now, master, your wish is my command. What would you like?’

Jason looked around wildly, ecstatically. ‘Gav!’ he yelled, flinging open the door and sprinting outside. ‘Wait!’

‘Funny fella,’ said the genie to himself. ‘Fancy wearing invisible trousers.’ Then there was another flash, another fizz, and the table turned back into an alligator. ‘What the hell is that?’ he said, looking it up and down. He shrugged, took off his goggles, and slithered back into the lamp for a nap.

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