The family had gone to London for a few days. I was home alone. Hooray ... two days to myself to watch sports on TV.
No sooner the match started that the door bell rang. Who is it visiting me on a Saturday afternoon? I don't like visitors at the best of times, never mind Saturday afternoons.
It was some friends we knew from long ago. A married couple. We hadn't seen them for some three years or so. They were visiting town to see a friend just for the day and they thought they'd pop in to say hello.
I wish I could have said hello and shut the door again. I hesitated. (Wrong thing to do - never hesitate).
"Ehm ... I was going out ..." I mumbled.
"Oh sorry," she said, "is it a bad time?"
"Actually ..." I hesitated again, "it is a tragic time ... tragic ... that's the word!"
"Oh dear ..." she said her lip trembling, "whatever happened?"
"Are you OK old boy?" he said holding me, "you've gone all white!"
"Well ..." I mumbled again trying to think up a good lie to get rid of them, "the family is away in London, (which was true), and our pet chicken has just died. One moment it was alive and running happily, and the next ... dead!" I lied so convincingly I almost believed it, even though we don't have a pet chicken.
Then confidently I lied some more. Amazing how easy it is. "I was just going out to the pet shops to see if I could find another similar chicken before the family get home on Monday!"
"Oh ... you had me worried, old boy!" he said emptying the pipe he was smoking by tapping it against my wall, "I thought it was really serious. Tell you what? The friend we are visiting not far from here owns a small farm. A few cattle, sheep, ducks and chickens. I'm sure we can persuade him to let you have a chicken. Can we see the one which died so we get one similar? If he hasn't got one, I'm sure he'll know where to get hold of a similar breed!"
"Yes ... that's right," she said, "he has contacts in the farming community. Can we see the dead chicken?"
I hesitated again ... after a second or two, I let them in. They sat in front of the TV and I left to go to the kitchen.
Where the hell am I to find a dead chicken? I thought. Why is all this happening to me? In desperation ... amazing the stupid things you do when you're desperate ... I opened the freezer and found a frozen chicken from the supermarket. We usually have some frozen foods for emergencies ... and this was an emergency.
"It's ... it's frozen old boy!" he said pointing to the bleeding obvious.
My immediate thoughts were "Cryogenics". I could say that I froze the chicken in the hope ... in the hope ... that ... that ... that when the family get back perhaps we could have the creature stuffed by a taxidermist as a permanent memory of the happiness it brought us.
But then ... how could I explain that it was totally devoid of feathers and had lost its head and legs?
What possessed me to bring a frozen chicken as evidence of a live one which had just died moments earlier? How do I get out of this tight spot of my own making?
A light bulb switched on suddenly in my brain. I pride myself in my quick thinking sometimes.
"Of course it's frozen!" I said convincingly pointing out to him that I too recognise the bleeding obvious, "I froze it in the hope of cooking it tomorrow. As I said, I was just going out to the pet shops to buy a live one ... not a frozen one ... ha ... ha ... ha ..." I laughed stupidly.
Unbelievably ... they bought it ... they bought my story which even I did not believe. Purely because it was all a pack of lies. And they bought it.
They drove in their car and I followed them in mine to their friend's farm. Luckily, he had normal looking chickens. I chose one which they put in a small cage for me to drive back home with.
The family will be surprised ... and delighted ... that I got them a new pet whilst they were away as a welcome home present. I think I'm a great parent. Don't you?