Carter and the Blue Cow
Carter, bleary-eyed, opens the front door. Litter floats above the pavement.
“Delivery.” The voice is deep and sticky. “Sign here.”
Carter scrawls his name.
“You’ll have to take it up yourself. I don’t do stairs.”
Carter steps out into the open air. A page from yesterday’s newspaper wraps his ankles like a cat.
Carter blinks. Twice.
“I didn’t order this,” he says.
“You signed for it.” The deliveryman says. “Your name. Your address. Your cow.”
He tips an imaginary hat and gets into his van.
Carter looks at the cow in front of him. It’s a cow, all right. Blue. With patches, like plasters. Outside his door. A cow.
Carter pulls the delivery tag from the cow’s neck and goes upstairs. He dials the delivery company.
“You’ve delivered something to me. A cow.”
“Was it the right name?”
“The right address?”
“You signed for it?”
“Then it’s yours. Thanks for calling.”
Carter finds another number on the tag: the company that made the cow. He phones them.
“You’ve sent me a cow.”
“You received it? Great! We hope you’ll enjoy owning it as much as we enjoyed making it.”
“I didn’t order it.”
“You’re lucky to have it then, aren’t you?”
“I don’t want it.”
“Well, what sort of attitude is that? Best to buck up and be grateful, I say. Goodbye.”
Carter throws his phone at the wall. The battery pops loose and clatters on the lino.
Carter goes out just before lunch. He stops and looks at the blue cow. His blue cow. Fucking blue cow. He grips it round the middle and drags it to the bins at the end of the block.
He spends the afternoon at the bookies.
He comes home as it’s getting dark. The cow is standing beside his front door.
“Fuck,” he says. A woman pushing a pram tuts as she walks past.
The next morning, the blue cow is still there. Carter picks it up again. There is a building site, half a mile away, with a skip. He levers the blue cow up and into the big yellow bin.
He stops for breakfast on his way back. By the time he gets home, the cow is already there.
That night, he grabs the cow again and takes it to a piece of scrubland that he knows. He pours petrol over it and sets it alight. The blue cow burns with a blue flame, which satisfies him. He watches the blue cow melt into a puddle of sticky blue plastic, then walks away.
In the morning, he opens his door. The cow is there again.
“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Carter shouts.
In time, Carter gets used to the cow. It lives in the street, outside his door. People stop from time to time, smile, take pictures. Carter thinks the cow is stupid and ugly. He kicks it when he passes, just to show who’s boss.
One night, some months later, Carter is coming home from the pub. As he reaches his door, he sticks out his leg to give the cow a kick and stumbles as he kicks at nothing.
The blue cow is not there.
The blue cow is gone.
In the morning, a van pulls up. Carter watches from his flat as the deliveryman gets out and checks his clipboard. Carter comes down the stairs and opens his door. The deliveryman has gone to the flat next door.
“Mr Pettigrew?” the driver says. “Delivery for you.”
“My cow? How delightful!”
Pettigrew signs the paper and the cow is placed outside his door.
“Wait a sec,” Carter says. “That’s my cow.”
“Is your name Pettigrew?” The deliveryman asks. “Forty-six Market Street?”
“No. I’m Carter. Forty-four Market Street.”
“Then it’s not your cow.”
Carter turns to Pettigrew. “That’s my cow.”
Pettigrew waves the receipt at him.
“You’d better take it up with the company,” he says. “This cow is mine.”
Carter phones the company that makes the cows. There is no answer.
He tries again, every fifteen minutes, that day and the next. No reply.
He waits a couple of days – maybe they’re on holiday – and tries again. Nothing.
The blue cow lives next door now, Pettigrew’s cow. Each time Carter leaves his flat, and each time he comes home, he sees the blue cow with its big stupid eyes. And each time Carter leaves his flat and each time he comes home, Carter wishes someone at the company would answer when he calls.