Published 8 March 2022
Chapter Three – Ina Seivwright
Back in my flat I warmed my backside against the radiator, luxuriating in its heat as I stared out of the window and watched the snow swirling by, smudging the outline of the docks beyond. I was supposed to be working – working from home – but I just couldn’t face my laptop, couldn’t stop thinking about Walrus. What the hell was I going to do with him? How long could I keep him cooped up? How long would it take him to recover his strength? What on earth would I do if he’d been spotted by the curtain twitcher?
There were two flats on each floor in the tenement and, if my guess was right, that curtain belonged to Mrs Seivwright – she who disapproved: disapproved of my efforts at polishing the communal stairs, tutted at the occasional girl friends I brought back to the flat, didn’t like the English. My fears were soon confirmed as there came a sharp rat-a-tat at the door.
Standing before me stood the mighty bulk of Ina Seivright, her slippered feet apart on the landing, meaty fists on hips, face red and breathing heavily. She came straight to the point.
‘An fit wis aat ah jist seen comin oot yer sheddie?’
‘No idea, Mrs Seivwright.’
‘Ye ken pets is nay permitted.’
‘And what d’you think you saw?’
‘Nay sure. Couldnae see recht thro the snaa. Bit it wis affa big.’
There was nothing else for it. I would have to tell her. ‘What would you say if I told you it was a walrus?’
Her jaw dropped, I could see her trying to process the information, comparing the size of what she had seen with this revelation. She scrutinized me with a look of utter disbelief. ‘I’d say ye wis aff yer heid.’ But I thought I caught a flicker of interest in her eye. Maybe I could even win her over.
‘Would you like to meet him?’
‘Ye’re kiddin?’ she replied. My God was that the hint of a smile? ‘Ah’ll hae tae get ma beets on first.’
‘I’ll see you down there. then.’
Waiting patiently outside the shed, I watched Ina emerge from the tenement and trudge slowly out through the snow. As she drew near I put a warning finger to my lips and opened the shed door a couple of inches. The stench was overpowering. Slumped In the corner lay Walrus, eyes closed, chest rising and falling gently, his flippers folded over his chest like a portly gentleman after a mighty pub lunch. Pinching my nose and waving my hand in front of my face, I opened the door a little wider. I beckoned Ina over to look inside, putting a finger to my lips once again so she wouldn’t awaken and frighten Walrus.
Ina’s face was transfixed, a look of utter enchantment replacing her normal sour expression. Walrus was a picture of contentment, having consumed half his box of mackerel. I closed the door and we left him in peace.
As we re-entered the tenement, Ina invited me into her flat for a fly cup. I told her the whole story, of how I’d stumbled across Walrus and brought him home, having promised him a quiet spot for the night to rest up. She gazed at me with a look of astonishment.
‘Promised him? Are ye tellin me, the craiter spiks?’
‘Well his eyes and body language speak to me and I seem to hear words.’
She gave me a slightly quizzical look, the kind you might give a daft person but I didn’t really care. The main thing was she clearly shared my enchantment with Walrus, and I was sure she wouldn’t make trouble now – maybe she might even be able to help.
‘I’m worried,’ I said, ‘I really haven’t much of a clue what I’m doing here. The only animal I ever cared for was a cat. I hate confining Walrus but I don’t want anyone seeing or pestering him – he needs to rest.
‘Fit aboot the Marine Laboratory?’
‘You mean that ugly building up the road near the golf course? What about it?’
‘M’be they’ll hae some cliver chappies in there that can help.’
I turned the idea over in my head. The place was supposed to be full of boffins wasn’t it? Maybe there would be someone there who could advise me. ‘Good thinking, Ina. I’ll try and find some contact details on my lap top and give them a ring. Thanks for the tea, I’ll keep you posted.’ And with that I was out the door and galloping up the stairs to my flat.