I slept an' slept. I dreamt nasty dreams. It's funny, some dreams you've forgotten before you wake up, but some stick in yer mind for years. I remember, lyin' there on that little bed in the caravan at Silver Sands, dreamin' that I was bein' sent off into outer space with just a monkey for company. The space ship looked like summat made on Blue Peter with a giant washing-up liquid bottle. It seemed just about big enough for me and the monkey to cram into. An' there was a single lever to pull - one forward, t'other back.
"Ooh, I can't go in there!" I said. "Me claustrophobia'll start up!"
But there were crowds of people all standin' on the tarmac by the launch pad, shoutin': "GO ON! BE A MAN - THE MONKEY'S GOT MORE GUTS THAN YOU 'AVE!" And the Missus was there, doin' the same.
I woke up in a sweat. Me 'ead was still poundin'.
I thought I could smell steak an' kidney for a minute.
"I must be seriously ill," I told meself. "Fantasy smells! Alcohol poisoning!"
I fell asleep again, an' this time dreamt I was in a cage with lots of people jeerin' an' laughin' at me. I knew I musn't get upset though coz Auntie Doreen was standin' at the front of the crowd, wavin' a banner. I kept tryin' to see it, but people were in the way, wavin' their arms about.
But some'ow I knew it said: "BE A MAN".
Well, there were other dreams I just recall bits and bobs of, some I've forgotten completely I daresay, but it were a nasty few hours.
Then I came to.
I was glad to be in the caravan, safe.
I lay there. I realised I 'ad to phone the Missus. We were on the phone at the shop - 'ad to be because of orders an' suchlike. But not many round our way were in those days, just us, the other shop keepers, and the landlord at the Foundryman's pub. Oh, and Mrs Thirkettle in Bright Street. But 'er 'usband was manager of the abbatoir and they were a bit up market.
I 'ad to tell the Missus I knew what had gone on. I knew she'd deceived me. What would she say? We'd never 'ad a conversation that were owt like that in't past...
There'd never been any need...
I got up. I'd 'ave a quick sluice and get down to the payphone. I checked me pockets for change. Plenty of 2ps. Me 'eart felt like lead.
'Ow could she do it? Leave me to face a new challenge with the booking at the camp, and Auntie Doreen for a whole week? And all because she didn't like caravans and didn't want to miss the new bingo 'all opening?
I opened the door of the bedroom.
And everythin' changed.
Just like that.
There were the Missus, just takin' a steak and kidney pie out of the oven. A pan of mashed spuds and a pan of sprouts stood by on the little worktop, together with a couple of warmed dinner plates.
For a minute, I thought I'd died and gone to 'eaven.
"Wash yer 'ands, Joe," she said, very matter of fact. "And whatever's 'appened to yer 'air?"
"It were a fag, I caught it alight..." I started
The Missus laughed. "It's good to see yer again, lad. I've missed yer this past couple of days. I know what you've been through. I met a young girl outside 'ere when I arrived, just about to knock. Very large chest. Bit of a floosie I reckon. She said she were a singer at the club 'ouse. Said she'd seen yer this mornin' lookin' like death, and she'd come over to see make sure yer were all right. She told me all about last night."
"It were nice of 'er to pop over," I said.
"Well, she won't be poppin' over again," said the Missus firmly. "I made it plain to 'er she weren't needed, thankin' 'er all the same."
There were a glint of jealousy in 'er eye, if I wasn't mistaken!
I washed me 'ands while the Missus dished up. One of her 'eavenly pies - flaky pastry, rich meat 'n' gravy... it was a grand sight.
"Joe, I've summat to say," the Missus said after a moment or two, a bit awkward-like, as she finished dolloping out the mashed spud.
"What's that, luv?" I asked.
"Well," the Missus paused with a dessert spoon of sprouts, and looked uncomfortable. "I can't lie to yer, lad. Not for long, anyway. It were a put-up job, our Florrie's gallopin' flu. I couldn't face a week in a caravan with yer Auntie. But as soon as you'd gone, I realised I were wrong. 'For better, for worse, for richer for poorer'. My place is 'ere with you."
I kissed 'er on the cheek.
"You're a wonderful woman!" I said.
"Daft beggar!" she said - but she looked dead chuffed really. "Anyway, I am sorry, luv. Where's Auntie?"
"Found 'erself a fella!" I said. "Off ridin' snails and old time dancin' in Great Yarmouth!"
The Missus looked amazed. "It must me the sea air! Poor fella! Ridin' snails? Been at the brandy bottle 'as she? Always makes 'er a bit whimisical, that does. Remember that Christmas when she were prancin' round our living room sayin' she were't sugar plum fairy? I were that embarrassed! I couldn't look Mrs Potter in the eye for weeks after! Now, luv, we'll eat, then we'll go for a nice long walk along the beach. It'll put some colour back in yer cheeks. And Joe - "
"Just open that window, will yer? Condensation's terrible in 'ere."
I opened the window - with a sigh of 'appiness.
So, it all ended all right. Gotta go now. We 'ad 'igh winds in the night and a couple of slates 'ave slipped.