The Man in the Attic
It was a Saturday afternoon in October and I was having lunch in a little corner street café in Paris with a man named Pierre, a detective…
Ok, that isn’t strictly true. It was October and it was a Saturday afternoon, but I was actually sitting in the pub round the corner from work with my friend Laura. We were eating chips and absently flicking through women’s magazines, trying to decide which one was the most pointless. Unfortunately, I had something more pressing than the cellulite of the stars on my mind. I was just trying to find a way of approaching the subject casually, without simply blurting it out. I decided to open with a question, from which I could hopefully lead into my predicament without sounding too mental.
‘What’s the difference between a loft and an attic?’
‘I don’t know. What is the difference between a loft and an attic?’
‘I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you.’
‘What kind of a punch line is that?’
‘I wasn’t telling a joke, it was a genuine question.’
‘Oh. Well, maybe it’s that a loft is an actual room, sort of living space, kind of thing – like when you get a loft conversion, or, or whatever – but an attic is just a sort of storage space, where you keep boxes of stuff and there’s all spiders and sometimes there might even be a bat up there –’
‘Or a mad old woman?’
‘– and it’s just all dusty because no one ever goes up there, apart from when they’re about to move house or suddenly need something from one of the boxes. Or something like that.’
What a marvelously succinct reply.
‘Or maybe it’s that attic is just the American word for loft.’
‘Maybe.’This wasn’t really working.
‘What about basement then?’ said Laura.
‘What, like “don’t go in the basement”?’
‘No, like basement and cellar?’
‘Oh, right. Well, erm, I suppose a basement is like a big room and a cellar is more of a storage space. I mean, it’s always wine cellar isn’t it, never wine basement. And people often live in basements, but they never live in cellars.’ Laura was nodding uncertainly. Excellent. Now I was making even less sense than her.
‘Or maybe basement is just the American word for cellar.’
‘Either way,’ I continued, trying to steer the conversation back on course. ‘I don’t think I’d like to live in an attic.’
‘Or a loft.’
‘Right. Anyway, speaking of attics, I meant to say about my house.’
‘The house where I live.’
‘Nick’s house where I live, yes.’
‘What about it?’
‘There’s a man in the attic.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I went up there the other day to look for some old books and there he was, in a sleeping bag reading The Unbearable Lightness of Being.’
‘Why do I think you’re making this up?’
‘Why would I make it up?’
‘I don’t know. You tell all sorts of weird stories. Maybe you’re a compulsive liar.’
‘I am not a compulsive liar. When have I lied?’
‘What about when you said Sean Bean drinks in this pub at the weekends?’
‘He does! When he’s not away filming… Anyway, I thought you believed me. That is why we started coming here every weekend. If you think I’m lying we can go somewhere else.’
‘No…no, I like it here. I’m not saying I believe you. I just think it’s a nice pub.’
‘So what are you going to do?’
‘The man in the attic.’
‘Oh. I’m not sure yet. I guess I’ll home tonight and confront him. Tell him to leave or I’ll phone the police or something.’
‘Shall we have another?’
‘Yeah, might as well. I’ve got go soon though. I’ve got a meeting with a detective later. He’s from Paris…’