Half-way through the afternoon, and three lines into his poem, Peter heard the doorbell ring. He tried to ignore it, but it rang insistently. He strode to answer the door, hoping whoever it was would tell by his icy, tight-lipped expression that they were guilty of the most unpardonable interruption. He would not be drawn into any vulgar complaint; he would simply direct a glare of such mordant disdain, they would apologise profusely and retire, abject and ashamed.
He opened the door to discover there was nobody there. His rage became incandescent. Then he noticed that on the outside doormat, in place of any cringing interloper, was a very large paperbag. It was on fire. Huge flames leapt up from it, along with the smell of lighter fluid. They licked at his chest; the fumes tore at his nostrils.
Peter’s rage turned upon the instant to panic and, regardless of the effect on his slippers, he stamped down on the inferno with both feet. His frenetic fandango had an immediate effect. As the oily flames capered and receded beneath his onslaught, he became aware of a pulping texture beneath his thin leather soles, and a disgusting stench rising up amongst the benzene. Someone had filled the bag with dog faeces and he was now treading them, warm and pliant, in all directions.
He looked around for help, for answers, for some sense of purpose. His poem was as ruined as his trousers; his socks and slippers didn’t even bear thinking about. Stranded, nauseated and helpless on his own porch, he realised life had not equipped him for this.
“Did you know him?” asked one of the perpetrators, as they strolled away.
“Not in the slightest,” replied the other, “but he’ll know why we did it.”