“Tim, Tim,” I said, whispering in his ear as he lay sweating on a li-lo.
“Eh? What? Jennifer?”
“No mate, it’s not Jennifer. What the hell happened last night?”
“Not much, I couldn’t find any old ladies to chat up, so I just got drunk in Merchants again.”
“No, I mean with the door.”
“The door that you left open, the one that was stopping thieving gypsies stealing the hobbit’s bikes.”
“What? Oh my god, the door,” said Tim, rubbing the sweat away from his eyes. “I’m sure I…” I could see the clogs working in Tim’s mind as he realised he had left the door open. I filled him in on the night’s pleasant chat with the Son hobbit. The fact that he was after the culprit, and was demanding five-hundred euros from us.
“But why didn’t he have the bikes locked up?” he said.
“That’s what I thought, but you try telling him that.”
“He can’t get the money off us. He can’t prove anything.”
“I know, but he could beat it out of us.”
As we sat on the sofa, both startling now and then as noises came from next door, I suddenly had a brainwave.
“Let’s go see Joaquin.”
Luckily Joaquin also had problems getting out of doorways unless he was sideways on, but he wasn’t a hobbit, rather a giant. We nipped up the road to his Tanning Shop, where people often came out as orange Umpa Lumpas. After I told Joaquin what had happened he just laughed.
“Don’t worry about it, there’s nothing he can do. There’s insurance on the house anyway, so we are covered.”
“Really? That’s brilliant,” I said.
“Oh, thank god for that,” said Tim.
“But do they know that?” I said.
“Sure they do,” said Joaquin.
“So what was all that rubbish about five hundred euros,” I said.
“That’s why I was laughing; he’s probably just trying to get one over you, being a guiri and all. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bikes are in his flat somewhere.”
“You reckon?” I asked, but immediately believed that he could be right, after all, it wouldn’t be the first time that locals had tried to get one over me.
“Sure, listen, if he comes knocking just say you have spoken to me. That should keep him quiet.”
We both left Joaquin’s Tanning parlour, skipping and jumping like a couple of Umpa Lumpas who had discovered a golden wonka ticket, knowing we were safe.
I managed to steer clear of the hobbits for about a week, but then one Friday night, when Tim had found another li-lo to crash on, far away from any hobbits, and me and my girlfriend were watching another film, the Son hobbit came calling.
“When are you and your mate going to pay up the five hundred euros?” he said, flexing his pecks.
“We’re not,” I said, flexing my knee, so that it firmly blocked the door.
“Joaquin.” As I said my master’s name, the hobbit’s eyes seemed to twitch. “He said if you have a problem then speak to him,” I said, rising on my tiptoes slightly.
“He did, did he?”
“Yeah, he also said you probably have the bikes hidden in your hobbit cave,” I imagined saying, but instead I just smiled and nodded my head.
“Fine, but keep that door locked in the future.”
“Night night,” I said, in English, which he didn’t understand.
So that was problem sorted. The Dad hobbit never acknowledged me again, which I wasn’t a tad fussed about, and after about a month two new bikes appeared in the hallway. They could have been the same ones for all I knew, I hadn’t studied them before. I made sure that I kept the door locked though, just in case anyone was watching.
I was glad when I moved in with my girlfriend up round the back of Plaza de Museo, in a grubby, tiny one-bed flat on the ground floor. To us it was paradise, mainly because we were living together and away from horrid flat mates, and mental neighbours. At least we thought we were.
On the first weekend, we were both snuggled up in bed, when we heard a strange banging sound.
“What’s that?” said my wife.
“Dunno,” I said, listening again as the banging continued. It wasn’t a hammer on the wall type of banging, but more a thigh slapping. The type of sound I’d expect to hear while living next door to a morris dancer. After ten minutes or so it stopped, and we thought nothing of it, until the following weekend.
We were just about to go to bed, at about 2am, when the slapping started again, followed by a strange wailing singing, and we could even hear heavy metal music.
“What’s that?” asked my wife.
“Maybe it’s some weird S&M morris dancing orgy.”
“What is morris dancing?”
“I’m too tired to explain that one. It’s just a weird leg slapping dance.”
“But listen, he’s doing it again.”
The wailing continued, as did the slapping and heavy metal music. After an hour of trying to block out the strange mix of mutterings, I’d had enough. I put on my pj’s, went round and knocked at the door, dreading to think what might be on show.
“Si?” said the 6ft something bloke, with a shaved head and massive headphones hanging from his neck.
“Er,” I said, with sudden flashes of the Son Hobbit smashing my head in the door. “Don’t suppose you could make a bit less noise, could you?”
“What noise is that?”
“Well, this type of noise,” I said, slapping my hands on my thighs and wailing slightly.
“What? You can hear that?”
“Sure,” he said. And strangely enough, the noise stopped. I think he was actually embarrassed that we could hear his awful attempt at singing. After month or so, he took up a new activity, yet again in the early hours, with a new, firmer type of banging.
“What’s that?” said my wife, as we both woke up.
“Dunno,” I said, listening out. Yet again the heavy metal music was playing, but the thigh slapping had changed into a sort of fist on punch bag type of banging. I went to get up, I even stuck half a leg out from under the duvet, but then I thought about the bloke, with his shaved head, and realised that he was probably training to be a boxer, who knows, maybe he knew the hobbits and they were planning to film a second fight club.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” said my girlfriend.
“I think I’ll just wait,” I said, covering my head with the pillow.
Miraculously, the Boxer moved out, and I didn’t have to risk my life by interrupting his boxing training session. We don’t know what happened, we just came back from holiday in the summer and he’d gone, along with the boxing, drumming, and wailing. We were not convinced it was the end though, maybe it was just a holiday, but alas, he never came back.
That was over six years ago, and it wasn’t until about three months ago when we had our third, and hopefully final, run-in with mental neighbours.