Below is a chapter from my book Inflatable Hugh which is about to go through the publication process. I’d be interested in your views on it.
“There seems to have been a long gap between the date of my brother’s death and his funeral,” observed Pugh.
“There was a rather unusual burial request,” explained Oldknow. “Certain difficulties had to be overcome in carrying it out.”
“An unusual burial request?”
“He wanted to be buried in a vagina.”
“In Virginia?” Pugh raised his eyebrows. “What’s so unusual about that?” He knew that Aneurin had connections in the southern states of America, and whilst he could see why it might be a bit awkward, not to say inconvenient, burying someone in America who had met his end in Ramsbottom, Lancashire, he could see nothing particularly unusual about it.
The solicitor leaned back in his seat slightly and peered at Pugh over his spectacles. “Not Virginia, Mr Pugh. A vagina.”
Pugh wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly. “My brother wanted to be buried in a woman’s minge?”
Oldknow winced at the crude language of the former Minister for Culture. “I’m afraid so. Not a real one of course. A coffin designed to look like one. He left strict instructions as to its design and construction. He was particularly insistent it should have lots of black pubic hair. ‘Like a bush’ was his most graphic way of describing it. And real hair. It cost a small fortune.”
Pugh didn’t at all like the idea of a small fortune being frittered away from his inheritance by the purchase of a coffin that looked like a vagina with real hair. However he was intrigued as to why anyone would want to make such a request in the first place. He asked the solicitor.
Oldknow shrugged. “People get buried in all manner of things nowadays; indeed there are specialist coffin suppliers who cater for the most bizarre of tastes. I once heard of someone being buried in a Red Arrows jet coffin. Another in a motor-bike sidecar, alongside her motor-cyclist husband who had met his demise a year earlier. In your brother Aneurin’s case, from what I’ve been told – although I didn’t delve too deeply I must admit – he believed very much in the rejuvenating powers of the vagina.”
“Rejuvenating powers?” Pugh was surprised to say the least. “He’s not expecting it to bring him back to life, is he?”
Oldknow smiled. “I shouldn’t think so. Perhaps revitalising powers would be a better expression. Your brother believed that there was nothing better than sexual intercourse for making a man feel good about himself, giving him a feeling of well-being if you will, a feeling which transposed itself into his everyday life, made him perform his job better, made him a better husband, father and human being.”
Pugh nodded. His brother was right, or at least partially right; you did feel a lot better after a good blow through, although whether it made you do your job better afterwards he wasn’t so sure. Personally he always wanted to go to sleep immediately after it. He nodded. “Yes, I can see that.”
“Apparently he devoted his life to ensuring that as many men as possible gained from his beliefs. And possibly he had such a respect for the role the vagina had played in his life that he wanted to show this respect in death by being buried in one. In fact it was that which caused the delay in his burial. ‘Wacky Caskets’, the firm that Oldknow and Wormald charged with supplying the coffin, had trouble getting the right shade of pink velvet for its inner walls. And I believe there was some trouble with the clitoris fouling the corpse. In the end they had to settle for positioning it off centre, although I don’t suppose your brother minded. All told it was over two weeks before he could be interred.”
Pugh visualised his brother lying in his idea of what a vagina-shaped coffin looked like. A thought struck him. “How did they carry it?”
“Most gingerly and with great trepidation, I should imagine. I didn’t attend the ceremony personally.”
It was the contents of the letter marked Private and Confidential that had informed Pugh of his brother Aneurin’s death from a heart attack. Pugh didn’t like receiving letters marked Private and Confidential; in his experience they rarely contained good news and very often the reverse. However he certainly enjoyed receiving the news this one had contained, and with an extra pleasure, as he had truly hated his brother with an intensity that only a younger brother can hate an older brother.
The hatred was rooted in jealousy; when they had been growing up his brother had been cleverer than him, better looking than him, stronger than him, a better athlete than him, better at acquiring money than him, and every time they had an argument, which was frequently, Aneurin would bring the difference of opinion to a conclusion by hitting him on the head with the frying pan. As they had had many arguments and Hugh had consequently been hit on the head with the frying pan many times it was a moot point as to whether this had damaged his brain or improved it.
By twelve months the elder of the two brothers, Aneurin was a different kettle of fish altogether than his sibling. Versed by his father in the principals of socialism Aneurin, unlike Hugh, had rejected the dogma out of hand in favour of capitalism. Whereas by the age of eleven Hugh had fully accepted the principle of ‘share and share alike’ Aneurin at twelve had embraced the less sociable but much more profitable ‘what’s yours is mine and what’s mine’s my own’. To his father’s great despair whilst Hugh was spending all his spare time distributing Labour Party pamphlets Aneurin was running his own business as a bookies’ runner. By the time he left school two years later he was a fully fledged partner in the firm of Potter & Pugh, Turf Accountants. He left home as soon as he was legally able to, at the age of sixteen, and within two years, with the profits from his share of the bookmaking business, had opened one of Nottingham’s first night clubs, the Pink Pussycat. It was the era when striptease joints and porn magazines began to proliferate. From his offices in the Pink Pussycat no one saw that they proliferated more, and with more profit, than Aneurin Pugh. It was only a matter of time before Nottingham wasn’t big enough to hold him. At the age of twenty he sold all his interests in the city and departed for the brighter lights of London. And until receiving the news of his death, apart from a rumour that he had gone to seek even more fortune in America, that was the last Hugh Pugh had heard of his brother. Or wanted to.
The letter from Oldknow and Wormald, Commissioners for Oaths, had informed him of nothing other than that Aneurin had died intestate, along with a request for Pugh to contact the firm’s Mr Benjamin Oldknow at his convenience. Pugh’s convenience was very quick, no more than two minutes, the time it had taken him to look up the word ‘intestate’ in the dictionary to confirm that it meant ‘without leaving a will’, and to pinch himself to confirm he wasn’t dreaming. A meeting was arranged for the following day.
Now at that meeting, before getting down to the business of Pugh’s inheritance, Oldknow filled him in with a few details relevant to his brother’s demise.
“At first we had no idea your brother had a brother. It was only when his housekeeper returned from an extended holiday and recalled that he’d mentioned you in passing a couple of times, and we’d followed it up, that we became aware of your existence. Certainly no one at the An Hour In Bed factory in Ramsbottom knew of you.”
“He owned a firm who made beds?”
“No. Apparently it’s a pun, a play on his name Aneurin – ‘An…hour…in…bed’.”
Pugh grimaced. “Very droll I’m sure. So what did his firm make?”
“Inflatable rubber women.”
“Inflatable rubber women?”
“Apparently your brother maintained the belief that having sex with an inflatable rubber woman was almost as beneficial in creating a feeling of well-being as the real thing. This being the case he viewed his operation more like a public service than a money-making operation. Which isn’t to say he didn’t make substantial profits from the sales of inflatable rubber women. Which remains the case with An Hour In Bed today, so far as I know.”
Pugh’s eyes gleamed. Substantial profits. What a wonderful joining together of words. “How big are they?”
“Well the usual size I suppose. Although I’m told they do one for dwarfs. Modelled on Disney’s Snow White I believe.”
“Not the fucking inflatable rubber women, the firm, how big is the firm?” Pugh barked, impatiently.
“Ah. An Hour In Bed is by far the biggest manufacturer of inflatable rubber women in the country. Seventy two per cent of the market, according to their company secretary, Mr Plimmer.”
Pugh gave a silent whistle. Seventy two per cent of the market. He wondered what it meant in round figures, or shapely figures with big tits, given the nature of the merchandise. A lot. Must be thousands. Millions. He wouldn’t mind betting that most of the men he came into contact with, especially his male compatriots in the House of Commons, had intimate knowledge of inflatable rubber women. As for the Lords….well the sky was the limit. And while it was true that the sexual appetite and tastes of the average man paled into insignificance when compared to those of an MP they didn’t pale so far as to disappear completely. And he was now the owner of the business which would be catering for at least part of these tastes! Salvation had arrived. His ship had come in, bringing with it the cargo of an assured future. It didn’t matter now if he lost his seat at the next election, check, when he lost his seat at the next election, he would be safeguarded from it, in contempt of it, in fucking clover!
Was there any money to come? In addition to this wonderful thing that had been dropped in his lap? There must be, you don’t own by far the biggest inflatable rubber women factory in the country without earning a bob or two in the process. How much had his brother salted way? A million? More? He could be a multi-millionaire. He could be sitting here in this solicitor’s office a multi-millionaire for Christ’s sake! The first thing he must do when he got back to the office was check out the date of Sotheby’s next fine wine auction. And fuck fact-finding in the Maldives, it would be fuck-finding anywhere in the world he felt like finding it from now on. In fact he wouldn’t have to find it, it would come looking for him waving its knickers.
“Did my brother leave any money?” he now asked, trying not to sound too anxious.
Like all solicitors Oldknow chose to go round the houses before arriving back where he started from and getting to the nitty gritty. “Your brother was a very rich man.” Pugh positively beamed. A gloat quickly joined it. “Unfortunately, twelve months ago he gave most of his money away.”
Pugh stopped beaming and gloating, a dropped jaw not conducive to exhibiting an expression of unbridled joy. “What do you mean he gave it away?”
“To a university. Cleek University to be precise.”
“Perhaps he was an alumni?”
“He was a cunt,” snarled Pugh. He slapped his forehead with his hand in anguish. “Christ, giving all his money away to a fucking university for fuck’s sake!”
“Well not all his money. There is still a quite substantial inheritance.”
Pugh gratefully grabbed hold of the lifeline the solicitor had thrown him. He wasn’t going down with the Titanic after all. He was Kate Winslett hanging on to the flotsam, not Leonardo de Caprio in the drink freezing his bollocks off. Figures began to go round in his head again, revolving like the numbers on a slot machine, although this time they were modified by his brother’s profligacy; two hundred grand, three hundred grand, five hundred grand? Please, please God, let it be five hundred grand. He wasted no further time in finding out. “How much?”
“Sixty thousand pounds, more or less.”
Substantial? What was the old fool talking about? He wants to try living with my outgoings and he’d soon find out how substantial sixty thousand quid is. His mind raced. He must have left something else. Property! A house maybe. The owner of the biggest inflatable rubber women factory in the country must have had a house, a big house. “How about property?”
“I’m afraid not. Apparently he sold Pugh Manor last year.”
Pugh Manor? Christ he’d had a manor. And the twat had sold it! But if he’d sold it, where was the money, what had happened to the proceeds of the sale?
“The money he raised from the sale was part of the ten million pounds he gave to Cleek University,” continued Oldknow, strangling Pugh’s latest hopes at birth.
Pugh silently cursed his brother for presenting him with a magic carpet to the future then inch by inch pulling it away from under his feet. He shook his head in disbelief. “The bastard. The fucking bastard” He thought for a minute on his words. They were inadequate. “The cocksucking motherfucking twat!” That was better. It didn’t make him feel any better though. But Oldknow’s next words did.
“An Hour In Bed is still a thriving concern however. If your brother made ten million pounds and a handsome living out of it I’ve no doubt you will be able to do the same.”
As his chauffeur Slaithwaite drove him back to London in the Mercedes SL 500 Pugh reflected on the solicitor’s words. He was right of course. All right, ten million pounds and the largest inflatable rubber woman factory in the country would have been absolutely wonderful, but sixty grand and the largest inflatable rubber woman factory in the country was not to be sniffed at. Especially the department that tested them. The thought of inflatable rubber women being tested for shagworthiness, or whatever the inflatable rubber woman manufacturing equivalent of roadworthiness happened to be, brought forth a guffaw from Pugh.
“Did you say something, sir” asked Slaithwaite.
Pugh thought he’d do a little market research “You’re a bachelor aren’t you, Slaithwaite?”
“Ever used an inflatable rubber woman?”
“Me sir? No sir. No, I can get all the sex I want with proper women. The uniform helps.” Pugh wondered what it was about a chauffeur’s uniform that might induce a woman to make free with her favours. He was about to ask when Slaithwaite continued, saving him the bother. “I tell them I’m an officer in the Horseguards. The leather riding boots help. I’ve been asked to keep them on more than one occasion.” He paused. “About inflatable rubber women though. I do have a mate who’s into them. If you’ll pardon the expression. Swears by them. Fuck ‘em he says. Sorry sir, just a joke. He does fuck them though, regular. Says they’re better than real women; they never have the rag on and they don’t moan when you come too quick. I know a couple other men who use them as well. Why do you ask, sir?”
“No reason, Slaithwaite.”
“I tell you something though. I wouldn’t mind owning the factory that makes them. The man who owns an inflatable rubber woman factory must be a very happy man.”
I am, Slaithwaite, I am, thought Pugh, and settled back in the luxurious leather seat of the Mercedes. Even as he did he thought he might change it for the luxurious leather of a Rolls-Royce. The ride home was the happiest he’d had in ages.