The Big Issue : Edition 439
14 THE BIG ISSUE 16 -- 29 AUG 2013 it out loud. Got a sore nose, I tell you now, that plate's hard. Cup of tea, Melissa?" Over tea and a lovely homemade Victoria sponge, we discussed Travises. Mrs Simms became interested in them when a cousin complained about being endlessly verbally tormented by his neighbour, a very tall, pale man with thick, black, square spectacles and wet skin. Mrs Simms Googled the characteristics and came up with Travises. Experts she approached did not agree with her fndings. They said Travises were fction and she had an overactive imagination. Mrs Simms was not to be deterred and started adding information about Travises to her blog. "People think I am a crazy old woman," she said. "But Travises aren't going to stay in the background forever. Someday a Travis will do some real damage, and they'll be sorry they didn't listen to me." "Aren't you going to call the police about the assault?" I asked. "No point. I've done it before. They say the physical characteristics I describe ft too great a percentage of the population. I thanked her for the tea and left, thinking she was a crazy old woman. Until September 2011, when I advertised for a tenant. There was a granny fat at the back of my house that had been empty for years, and it was time to remedy my fnancial situation. I received many responses, one from a Dennis Taylor, who garbled his words on the phone but had a job, was single and didn't have pets. Dennis Taylor came for an interview, wearing thick, black, square glasses. He worked as a security guard, he was willing to pay more than I'd asked and he really liked the place. He was the best candidate, so I prepared a lease and he signed it, paying two weeks' rent in advance. We shook on the deal and I was surprised to fnd that his hand was wet. No, not wet -- greasy, as though he had used hand lotion recently. When Dennis had gone, I looked at his full name, printed on the lease form. Dennis Travis Taylor. I thought he's not so tall, but remembered that he had stooped, and even then was much taller than me. Then I thought he didn't chatter but remembered how he'd gone off on a tangent about his friend. Yes, he was thin, yes, he was pale. Was it even possible? Had I met a Travis? I was intrigued, but not fearful. Dennis seemed like a decent young man. He moved in, and from that day on I saw people who closely resembled Dennis everywhere. In the street, at the supermarket, buying petrol at service stations, loitering at traffc lights and drinking in pubs, either alone, or in pairs. Dennis came and went, and we talked whenever we were both home at the same time. He tried to talk about too many things at once, leaving me none the wiser for the conversation. "I like reading research theses, I was an accountant, I'm good with money," he'd say. "Do you have a bike pump? I lost my bike, it was stolen, I think, I walked home, took fve hours, I’ll get my bike tomorrow. Is there a bus from here? What time is it? Only I think my bike might have been stolen. I'm hungry." Dennis drew the curtains every time he left the granny fat, but one day there was a little gap and I peered in. There was no furniture in the fat. No bed, no fridge, no sofa, nothing. I felt sorry for him. Perhaps he was in fnancial diffculty and was too embarrassed to ask for help. He paid the rent on time, but maybe that was all he could afford. The next day I told Dennis that I was going to throw out an old bed and an old sofa, and wondered if he could use them? "No thanks, I've got a bed and a sofa, couldn't use two, might make a stir fry, have you got a spare alarm clock? I've lost my mobile phone, it needed to be fxed, it’s in the shop. What's the date today?" I few to Thailand for a week to attend a wedding. On my return all the fower heads in my garden had been cut off, leaving just stalks. I asked Dennis what had happened. "I don't know," he replied. "Do you read much? I'm almost an expert in fnancial planning. At my old house, there are fve adults living there. Five. My toilet’s blocked, can you fx it?” Dennis and I went into the granny fat, which was completely empty. "My furniture's coming today," he said. "The fridge is huge. I could sleep in it if I wanted to. I'm working nights this week so I need to get my bike out of the shop." The toilet was blocked with fower heads. "You did cut the fowers off,” I said, very angrily. "No," he replied. "I don't know how they got there. I've got a friend who..." "Give it a rest, Travis. I don't care about your friend, or your bike..." Dennis’s eyes fashed pink behind his glasses. “Did you just call me Travis?" "No, I said Dennis." "You said Travis." "Look, Dennis, this isn't working out, you're going to have to leave." He smiled. "Mmm, no, I like it here. Have you got a watch I can borrow?" "I'll get the police." We walked out of the granny fat. "Here's your mail," said the Travis (by now there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that Dennis was a Travis). Some of the envelopes had obviously been opened. One was covered in badly drawn male genitals. "And I wouldn't get the police if I were you." "Are you threatening me?" "Are you? I've got a lease, you know, six months." "A lease which can be terminated by either party.' I FLEW TO THAILAND FOR A WEEK TO ATTEND A WEDDING. ON MY RETURN ALL THE FLOWER HEADS IN MY GARDEN HAD BEEN CUT OFF, LEAVING JUST STALKS. I ASKED DENNIS WHAT HAD HAPPENED.