Between the neat borders of peonies and primulas, the jugs of Pimms turning warm in the afternoon sun and the relentless flanks of people-carriers jammed nose to tail, in the leafier end of Urmston, behind an imposing Victorian façade of sun baked red-brick, live the Savage-Bonds.
The Savage-Bonds enjoying spending money – and enjoy making money even more. Both Mr. & Mrs. Savage-Bond work in soaring offices that snag the clouds. They make money from the savings of others. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t; they get paid either way, keeping them in thin smiles brought on by the fatigue of finding new ways to spend their money. Their downstairs bathroom is papered in real twenty pound notes and worth a considerable sum – at least it could be, had they not pasted the notes with unforgiving glue.
Twice, in the last fifteen years of a protracted marriage, Mr. & Mrs. Savage-Bond have stopped making money, stopped spending money, long enough for Mr. Savage-Bond to roll on top of Mrs. Savage-Bond and penetrate her. As a direct result the world now sadly includes Edward Savage-Bond who is twelve and Arrabella Savage-Bond, nine. Both children are fatter than children should be, swelled on a diet of foie gras, heavy red meat and the dispensing of confectionary items each time they would have preferred a hug from their parents. Love-making and hugging are generally sidestepped by Mr. & Mrs. Savage-Bond as they are not activities that make money, but do cost a vital amount of time. The children – piggy-eyes sunken into meaty cheeks like snowman coal, round limbs and stretched clothing – waddle around their large home, clutching toys in sausage fingers, generally left to their own devices.
They do have a nanny, Ms. Chapman, who has been employed for many years, fighting a losing battle, trying to teach the children right from wrong, how to interact and how to eat healthily. She used to play with the children, lift them up in her arms, but they became too heavy around the age of two. Nowadays Ms. Chapman has MS. She has told her employers and they offered her some money to “go private, do something about it”, but she politely turned the offer down. Her time in this house will soon be done and she tends to do little than pick up toys and clothes and make sure the children aren’t in any immediate danger of falling, electrocution or lumbering into the traffic outside.
Mr. & Mrs. Savage-Bond have no care for the items in their home – as long as they are expensive. Spending money, for them, is a little like trying to stem the blood escaping from a major artery. Today – a summery Saturday in late June – is delivery day. A table has been purchased from one of the many faceless retailers wedged into the waking nightmare that is the Trafford Centre.
It is a large, heavy table that some months before was a beautiful, majestic tree in a forest in South America. It screamed as it was felled, its cries suffocated by the bellowing of the logging machinery. It was the last tree that held a species of flower that has now disappeared from the Earth forever. The table has ham-fisted carving on the legs, worked by children who were beaten each time they stopped to take a breath. Mr. & Mrs. Savage-Bond have no idea what type of wood the table is made from only that it cost £2000. They intend to redesign the dining room around the new table – “something ethnic” Mrs. Savage-Bond had told her friends over Pimms, “So I feel I’m doing my bit”. They will slurp up bowls of cholesterol around this mighty table, blinking across the long table at one another, trying to remember connection.
The delivery van crawls in reverse through the electric gates and onto a long drive covered with beige gravel. An older man and two sons with shaved heads pile out of the front of the van and open the rear doors. Inside the van, bound in plastic bubble wrap, the table awaits. The wood is angry and as the daylight streams into the van, it lets out an audible groan. The three men look at each other in silence, each assuming the other has let out a long sigh – or worse. Heaving the table out of the van, there is a series of moans and groans and huffing that emanate from the table directly. For a moment, the table on the driveway, the three delivery men talk in whispers amongst themselves, looking around as though expecting to be suddenly thrust into a hidden camera show. They have delivered a lot of furniture in their time, but none of it has ever spoken to them.
Picking the table up to carry it indoors, a loud “whooooooooop whooooooooop” fills the air, followed by a gruff, roar of “dumb bastards!” each outburst coming with a Tourette’s-like insistence. Even through the plastic bubble wrap the table feels suddenly warmer, hot to the touch as though fiery with rage. As Mrs. Savage-Bond glides down the staircase, trailing a perfume of Pimms behind her, to supervise the delivery, the tiled hallway is filled with a growling cry of “furniture-carrying donkey fuckers”. The three men stare at one another as Mrs. Savage-Bond raises her eyebrows and glances at the open front door. “Well, I’m sorry, the neighbours leave much to be desired” she says with a measured slur.
The men carry the table into the dining room as quickly as possible, grateful for the wide doorways and large rooms of the Savage-Bond house, keen to dump the table and leave as soon as possible. As Mrs. Savage-Bond watches them hastily remove the bubble-wrap, she is aware of a savage cry of “rich bitch whore” over and over. It isn’t a loud voice, but it is an earnest one. Running her hands over the surface of the table, she feels it is very hot to the touch, as though having been out in the sunshine for longer than she assumed. At a shout of “take your fuckin’ hands off me you dirty cunt”, Mrs. Savage-Bond recoils somewhat confused, her only solution to retreat to the kitchen to mix another jug of Pimms.
Evening has arrived over Urmston, dusky clouds nestling together. Mrs. Savage-Bond has microwaved some Marks & Spencer ready meals, peeled the sweating plastic lid off a couple of salads and opened a bottle of vintage red wine. “Edward, please set the table.” She calls into the ‘den’ – a large room for the children, both of whom are beached on separate sofas, heads bowed over chirping tablets.
Edward lolls from the sofa and moves heavily into the dining room. “Cool table” he says to himself as he looks for cutlery. “You fat little bastard!” the table responds. Edward stares at the table. “Fatty boombatty, Fatty boombatty” the table cries out in a sardonic sing-song voice. Edward looks down, unable to see his feet past the distended paunch that rings his waist. “Fatty boombatty, Fatty boombatty” the table wheezes with undisguised vitriol. “Muuuuuuum!” Edward cries, abandoning the cutlery like a pile of bones on the table top. Not one to miss out on her brother’s anguish, Arrabella shuffles slowly into the dining room. Within seconds, the cry of “Fat little bitch child” is filling the air until she burst into tears.
Five minutes later, the table is as silent as a calm sea. Mr. Savage-Bond has taken over the setting of the table. Mrs. Savage-Bond hears her children crying as a noise not unlike a jet engine. It is something she hears but cannot directly connect with. Ms. Chapman is called and strains an arm around the children separately. Dinner is served fresh from the microwave by Ms. Chapman, who is not invited to join them.
“Well, this is a grand table, isn’t it children.” Mr. Savage-Bond exclaims as they each reach for their forks. Before anyone can answer, the air is filled with the rage of a severed tree forced to become a table for people with money in a far-off country:
“You fuckin limp-dicked wife disappointer!”
Mr. Savage-Bond shuffles uncomfortably in his seat, clawing at his throat to unfasten the top button of his shirt as his neck swelters.
“You fuckin limp-dicked wife disappointer!”
Mr. Savage-Bond turns angrily to his son. “Edward, I will not tolerate such behaviour, now go to your room!” Edward blinks, holding tight to the bowl of food in front of him. Sensing conflict, Arrabella dips her head nearer her bowl and begins to shuffle food into her mouth as fast as her doughy arm can manage. Mrs. Savage-Bond feels a smirk tickle her lips.
“Now, Edward!” Edward picks up his bowl and heads away from the table.
“Fatty boombatty, Fatty boombatty!” the table barks as he passes by.
“Now, if we can all just enjoy this wonderful food…” Mrs. Savage-Bond slurs gently.
“Drunken lush cunt, drunken lush cunt, drunken lush cunt!” the table screams angrily.
Mrs. Savage-Bond watches as her glass of wine begins to boil over on the table…
Arrabella screams as her skins sizzles where her spare arm has come to rest on the table…
Mr. Savage-Bond shrieks as the cuff of his expensive shirt begins to smoulder…
“Drunken lush cunt, drunken lush cunt, drunken lush cunt!”
Before the three of them can move, the surface of the table, not smoking and charred, bursts into flame, the full force of the anger of the tree erupting outside of itself. Freed of its itself the raging flames arc in every direction as the table collapses in on itself and within seconds, an inferno engulfs the house.
Mrs. Savage-Bond passes out shortly after her £150 haircut melts into her scalp.
Mr. Savage-Bond roasts inside his tailored shirt, the material running over his body as the molten fibres wilt.
Arrabella manages two more mouthfuls before she splits open at the seams like an overdone baked potato, fat oozing into a pile beneath the burned remains of an antique chair.
Edward, trapped at the top of the stairs, stares into the spreading flames and hastily empties his bowl, burning his mouth on the contents, before his sagging, fat mouth is spread across his skull like old paper by the fire now climbing the stairs.
Ms. Chapman, having had the good sense to take up cigarettes again once hearing of her diagnosis is outside the house, at the far end of the garden stood beside a small terracotta pot filled with cigarette ends. She sees the flames flickering behind the windows and thinks about calling the emergency services.
She decides she will call them, but will have another cigarette first.
No one hears the final cry of the table as its legs buckle, the remains of the surface already turning to ash from the inside out, its anger having combusted spontaneously. “Fuck you, fuck each and every one of you that allows us to be torn from our earth and destroyed…fuck you, fuck you…fuck you!”