The first thing that hit Sal was the smell, this acrid stink that swept her sinuses clear. Viv didn’t flinch; she marched to the lounge and hauled on the door.
Sal crept for a look. Forty-seven pairs of eyes regarded her with contemptuous eyes.
Viv stamped her feet. She slammed the door and opened it. She began to scream but without words.
The cats blinked in unison but otherwise didn’t move.
Now she took Sal down the hall to the dining room. This time it was beautiful piano music that floated out when the door was opened. Inside was a tiny, tiny man raised on a pile of cushions so he could reach the piano keys.
‘Well that’s…that’s beautiful,’ Sal said.
‘Wait for it.’
The diminutive pianist was approaching his crescendo, stood on the cushions as he strained to reach the low notes. A strangled cry and the music cut out, followed a moment later by the rag doll sound of him hitting the floor. Viv put out an arm to stop Sal going to help.
The pianist crawled between the legs of the piano stool. He deftly began to shin up one of the legs, muttering and cursing. Once he’d achieved the cushion summit he settled himself and the piano music began once more.
Viv shut the door.
‘All bloody night. Tinkle tinkle arrgh, tinkle tinkle arrgh. Driving me potty, it is.’
Over tea in the kitchen Viv showed Sal the contract. Beneath a patina of dried goo Sal could just about make out the words “Arabian Nights Lamp Co, Three Wishes contract”.
‘Banana,’ Viv said. ‘Idiot tried to hide the contract in the wheelie bin under a load of peelings. Bloody norbit, him, finds an old lamp and what’s he wish for? New car, new computer?’
Sal sipped her tea then began to read aloud.
‘I, the undersigned, for wish number one, hereby wish to knee deep in wall to wall-‘
Sal gulped some tea. She didn’t dare look at Viv.
‘Let’s see, wish number two. I wish for a twelve-inch pianist…that can last all night. A pianist?’
‘Beats the hell out of me an’ all.’
Sal plunged on to wish number three – the zone of solitude, where not even her buzz saw voice can get in to nag. She sipped her tea then glanced at Viv.
‘He’s turned his study into isolation room?’
‘Yep, been in there for days,’ Viv said. She stood and crossed the room to fetch a paper bag from the top of the fridge. ‘But the contract says this about a zone of silence: no sound gets in or out – state of the art sound proofing on the inside, but it’s our normal door. Our wood door.’
Viv gently eased the contents of the bag on to the table. Two sturdy metal bolts.
She was wearing a wide grin.
‘I’m right, aren’t I? You know your way around a drill and toolbox?’