A Bedtime Story : Mister Pettifer.

Posted on March 20, 2010


Trevor had been friends with Mister Pettifer ever since he’d first found him propped up on a bench in the park. His parents hadn’t been home at the time, so Trevor had performed the task of maneuvering Mister Pettifer into the go-kart and bringing him home alone. Trevor was big for his age, but this was still a pretty impressive effort, and had only involved one slightly unnerving cracking noise. Mister Pettifer had been unable to assist Trevor in this endeavour, as Mister Pettifer was dead.

The fearless pair had enjoyed many adventures together over the week they’d been friends, all of which had involved Mister Pettifer slouching in a go-kart in the shed at the bottom of the back garden. He had looked on glassily as Trevor had defeated an entire army of plastic soldiers armed with nothing but a hammer, and had cheered silently as Trevor had successfully won no less than seven games of hide and seek. He had also been tremendously stoical when Trevor had improved his seating posture in the go-kart by adjusting his limbs, ably assisted by the same hammer that had vanquished the troops the day before.

Today would be different, however. The shed was beginning to smell, and it was clear that Mister Pettifer needed some fresh air.

The announcement that he and Mister Pettifer were going out to meet the neighbours had largely gone unconsidered by his parents. Trevor had had imaginary friends before, but most had deserted him after a few hours upon discovering how little they had in common. The staying power of Mister Pettifer was seen, by and large, as a step forward. As Trevor pulled the go-kart through the front gate, his parents caught their first glimpse of their son’s new playmate through the lounge window, and were slightly taken aback that this one had an actual physical manifestation. Remembering that it was early November, however, they took him to be an effigy of Guy Fawkes, and walked away smiling at their son’s newfound entrepreneurial spirit.

It should be noted that it was considered perfectly reasonable for otherwise well-to-do children to go begging at this time of year; first door-to-door at Hallowe’en, and then for the next few days in the street proper, as long as they were accompanied by a pillow with a face scrawled on it, possibly tied in the middle with a belt, and in extreme cases wearing a hat. Full-time mendicants who were actually in need of alms would continue to be shunned during this period, possibly owing to the absence of pillows.

Trevor and Mister Pettifer had not gone more than twenty yards before encountering Sally. She was younger than Trevor, but already had a healthy mistrust of strangers. She looked shyly at the friendly rictus grin of Mister Pettifer as Trevor proudly introduced him, and began to regale her with somewhat exaggerated versions of their adventures to date. He had barely gotten halfway through the tale of the fight the duo had had with a squadron of paratroopers when the little girl’s face dropped and she began to scream, pointing at Mister Pettifer’s flies.

Trevor had been aware for some time that Mister Pettifer had become home to a sizeable number of maggots, but he too was taken aback by the metamorphosis of so many at once. The buzzing was quite deafening, and Trevor was finding it hard to continue his story in the face of this development, particularly as the multitudinous young horseflies seemed thirsty for blood. He struggled on for a few more sentences, but had to concede that Sally simply wasn’t going to be able to concentrate further whilst tearfully running in circles, batting at the air like that. It seemed discretion would prove the better part of valour, and the boy and his decaying friend turned for home. At least Mister Pettifer had seen the sun for a few short minutes.

The events set in motion by the encounter with young Sally came to a head less than an hour later, as Mister Pettifer bid Trevor a fond farewell whilst being zipped snugly into a large bag, and then hoisted onto a stretcher carried by two troubled-looking paramedics. If anything, there were more flies now than ever, possibly attracted by the vomit. Both Trevor’s parents had been sick on Mister Pettifer as soon as they had set eyes upon him. Their introduction to Mister Pettifer had been prompted by the arrival of Sally’s mother, who had angrily insisted on seeing ‘Trevor’s grandad’, as she had erroneously assumed Mister Pettifer to be from Sally’s choked and panicked description. Sally’s mother had also been sick, but thankfully only on Trevor’s mother. Trevor was disgusted with all three of them; what must Mister Pettifer have thought?

Trevor was upset for a long time afterwards, having had his best friend taken from him in such an untoward fashion, but he was somewhat mollified by the arrival of Doctor Jeremy, the psychiatrist subsequently assigned to him. It would be Doctor Jeremy’s job to help Trevor work through the abandonment issues he had involving Mister Pettifer and the numerous imaginary friends who had let him down so badly in the past. It would not be until the fifth session with Doctor Jeremy that Trevor would be able to recall his first meeting with a still-animated Mister Pettifer (whose real name was ‘Henry Stephenson’, according to the Coroner’s Office, though the Doctor indulged Trevor in the continued use of the soubriquet he had provided for the corpse), some hours before happening upon him in the park; when Trevor had sold him the lemonade he’d made to his own unique recipe from various ingredients he’d found in the shed. To Trevor’s bemusement, it was decided by his parents and Doctor Jeremy that this particular recollection should never be spoken of again.