The Man Downstairs

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Drawing by Laurie

Every night and every weekend my mum would shout:
‘Can you set the table, please!’
‘Have you set the table yet?’
‘KNIVES, FORKS and MATS ON THE TABLE PLEASE!’
I didn’t like doing it. I didn’t want to do it. It was boring.
Sometimes I did it in the end but I made it a real pain for my parents.

It was another Sunday lunch and
I ignored my parents as they called me to set the table.
A few moments passed before I heard my dad’s footsteps coming.
In a rage he dragged me to the kitchen and then to the cellar door (yes, we have a cellar)
He said: ‘If you can’t do one thing for us then you can eat your lunch in the cellar with the cats.’
I slammed the door on the way down. I didn’t care.

But when I got downstairs I was given the fright of my life by a man waiting down there. I was too scared to move. He had feet made of bits of knives, his underpants were knives, his hands were forks, he had bits of spoon on his face, on his knees and as a beard.
He looked at me and said:

‘Hello mate.’ (see picture)

He said ‘I’ve been hearing stories about you and your inability to set the table every day.
It’s not a difficult job is it?’ He asked me.
I couldn’t speak. He moved closer.
‘You know what an anagram for cutlery is?’ he said
I shook my head
‘Cruelty.
I am the man downstairs.’ he said. ‘I can be cruel.’ he said.
‘If you don’t set the table then you’ll be sent down here again.’
As he said it he clanked his knives and forks.
‘And it won’t be pretty…’

I nodded and backed away back upstairs.
I got the cutlery out of the drawer and set the table.
My parents looked at each other with surprise, raising their eyebrows when they saw me.
I don’t know if they knew about the man downstairs that day but i’ve set the table ever since and i’ve learnt that It pays to be helpful.