by Stephen Tuffin
William Henry Muggs died as he had lived. Fucked off, furious and fuming. He died with his eyes clamped shut and his teeth gritted. He died cursing every last person he could think of – and one person in particular.
Prior to the popping of his clogs, Muggs had spent the day sitting in his south-facing garden in a deckchair reading The Daily Mail. He was a big, fat, stupid fan of that particular paper because it seemed to Muggs that whoever wrote the articles in it was every bit as angry and bitter as he was. Every now and then he’d shake the pages with such self-righteous indignation that even he wasn’t sure if the paper would make it to the end of the day without having its innards torn into tiny little shreds.
After a great deal of tutting and cursing under his breath, and wishing every bugger and his mother would bugger off back to wherever it was they came from, Muggs fell into an angry and indignant slumber. An hour later the sound of buzzing forced him awake. It was a wasp.
How many times had he told Mrs. Muggs to get on the blower to the council to come out and get rid of that bloody wasps’ nest? How many times?
The woman was an idiot. Why in the hell he had ever married her and not Angela Ovenden was a mystery to him. Angela Ovenden would never have let herself go in the way his stupid wife had. Angela Ovenden would have remained trim. Kept her figure. Saved her marriage!
And, Angela Ovenden would have been sure to have had the bloody council out to that bloody wasps’ nest weeks ago.
Muggs shooed a wasp away and sat, arms resting on his great belly, staring at the hole in the brickwork where the wasps could be seen coming and going. Hadn’t he read in The Daily Mail only last week that wasps had been introduced into the British Isles from India?
‘Bloody foreigners,’ Muggs thought. ‘Bringing their bloody insects over here to plague decent English people in their homes.’
The longer he sat watching the tiny black and yellow insects the angrier he became, until eventually he could contain himself no longer.
‘Right!’ he said, his face turning a delicious shade of crimson as he struggled to hoist his rollicking bulk out of his deckchair. ‘Just you bloody wait!’
He stormed inside the house returning moments later with a can of insect spray.
‘Here, you buggers!’ he said, shaking the can vigorously as he advanced on the hole where the wasps were still going about their business.
‘Now let’s see who’s the bloody boss around here!’
And it was then, just as he was poised to wreak bloody and exacting revenge on the bunch of fucking foreigners that were living in his walls, in his home! — that it happened.
Out of nowhere came a wasp of such striking appearance that it took Muggs completely by surprise. Its yellow stripes were richer and more yellow than the buttercups that did their level best to defile his front lawn. Its black stripes were blacker than the hole that occupied the space where Muggs’ humanity had once dwelled, and the wasp’s wings were of the sheerest material and, as the sun bounced off their surface, threw out an infuriating rainbow of exotic colours. The wasp hovered for a moment close to Muggs’ head then settled, gently, onto his bare arm.
Muggs put down the can of insect spray. ‘Stupid. Bloody. Insect,’ he thought.
He was going to enjoy this. No artificial substances would be necessary for this dual. It was man versus wasp, and it was to the death. Carefully, he brought his other hand round and with thumb and finger poised like a pincer he plucked at the wasp’s wings, lifting it from his arm. From there he planned to dash it on the floor and crush its head under his size six sandal.
The wasp, however, had other plans and despite being taken by surprise, twisted its tiny body and plunged its stinger deep into Muggs’ fat and fleshy thumb. Muggs let out a cry as the insect’s venom went to work.
The wasp whirled away, spiralling upwards then swooping, like a kamikaze, down towards Muggs’ nose. Moments before it struck, Muggs was sure he heard the wasp, in a voice not unlike his wife’s, screech, ‘Die, you vindictive old cunt!’
The pain in his thumb and now his nose was unbearable. The wasp circled and attacked for a third time, this time skewering Muggs’ wobbly earlobe. Again Muggs cried out, dropping to his knees, one hand clasping his swelling nose, the other hand fumbling to clutch the swelling on his wobbly earlobe. Finally, he fell forward, paralysed but alive. And, through gritted teeth he cursed the world and everyone in it.
He cursed his parents for having him — and the children he’d never been able to have. He cursed his job, and his boss, and his bone idle work mates. He cursed skinheads and Sooty and Sweep and long-haired hippies and Hell’s Angels — and the bloody French!
He cursed Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of the bloody fucking Moon (wherever the hell that was). And chewing gum on pavements and Margate Football Club and Spaghetti bloody Junction and the CND and the miners. And that ginger git, Arthur. Bloody. Scargill!
He cursed the buses and the trains and the government and the politicians and his wife’s knickers for constantly airing on the washing line. He cursed tramps and squatters and the bloody, bleeding Irish and men who have their ears pierced and bloody pansies the world over! And he cursed his neighbour, Tommy bloody Nolan, and his neighbour’s bloody cat, Seamus.
But above all of them, he cursed Mrs. Muggs the hardest, for the loathsome, pig-headed, thick-witted, idiot that she was and he cursed her and he cursed her and he cursed her and then he died.
And that’s where she found him two hours later on returning from her shopping trip to Margate. She’d come round the back way as she’d forgotten her front door key and hadn’t wanted to give Muggs another opportunity to belittle her.
When she saw him lying there, a small trickle of blood mingling with his angry little black moustache, she Stopped Stock Still. She placed the shopping bags carefully on the ground and moved to where he lay. Kneeling beside him and with a great effort, she managed to roll him onto his back. Despite the livid marks that had been left by the wasp stings, he looked almost serene. The anger that had blighted both their lives had vanished into thin air — the frown lines, the set mouth: gone. With shaking hands she searched for a pulse.
After a while she decided he was dead and so she rose silently to her feet and went inside the house. Closing the door and lowering the blinds to be sure none of the neighbours could see her she started to dance around her kitchen.
Then dizzy and dishevelled from the dancing, she opened the bottle of Mateus Rose which Muggs had been saving for a special occasion, and she necked it all straight from the bottle. And as the red liquid flowed down her chin and between her cleavage, her mind started to wander to thoughts of her handsome neighbour Tommy Nolan, and her neighbour’s cat, Seamus. And she thought of the lustful look in her neighbour’s eyes whenever he happened to catch sight of her knickers airing on the washing line.
And with that thought and three-quarters of a pint of Mateus Rose swirling about inside her head, and her vindictive cunt of a husband going cold on the back lawn, she danced and danced until she could dance no more.
Stephen Tuffin has an MA in creative writing, teaches creative writing with the Open University as well as working freelance as a creative writing teacher and mentor. Stephen regularly reads his stories at A Word in Your Ear in Bath. Listen to him reading the full version of The Glorious and Much Celebrated Death of William Henry Muggs, August 1972 here: