Arthur Mulcrum was in no way unusual. His surname rhymed with fulcrum as you would expect. He had a side parting with lofty combover ambitions as you may have suspected. Like many Arthurs before and since he still lived in his childhood home at the age of fifty-three where he looked after his mother – the once statuesque, twice reduced Mathilda Mulcrum (nee Crump) – and her borderline feral dachshunds, Ranjit and Stephen. Statistically speaking, as was Arthur’s wont, Arthurs were no more nor less likely to live at home with their respective mums at the age of fifty-three than any other human males. Except of course, for Reginalds, who have remained a statistical anomaly throughout history.
Arthur was “a nice guy”, “a bit weird but nice enough” or “which one is he again?” depending on who you asked. Statistically speaking you could bet your house on option one. The second description was only ever voiced out loud by Barry Harding (newsagent) and that was all down to a mix up involving a copy of Accounting Babes and the bumper Christmas issue of Logic Puzzler Monthly. The doubt involving his identity was Mathilda’s idea of a joke and can therefore be discounted.
Bearing all this in mind it would fair to say that other than perhaps the old beggar woman who raggedly flounced her way into the village fete of 1976 and proclaimed that the then thirteen year old Arthur Mulcrum was in fact possessed by a cat from the future (wanted by the Parisian authorities for a spate of art thefts and who had been in hiding in le deuxième arrondissement for several months) most people would have been surprised to learn that Arthur was pen-pals with Satan.
When questioned on this fact, Arthur tended to shuffle about a bit within the confines of his cardigan and offer to make tea but gradually, over time, darjeeling and an assortment of wafers I gained his trust and he opened up. A little.
“It all started about eighteen months ago. Lionel and I were sitting in the canteen lamenting the loss of the written word. It’s all whatsyerface and twitterbook these days isn’t it? Anyways, we got to talking about how it was when we were in school and how we had pen-pals and such. He used to write to a girl in Borneo apparently. Me? No. Nothing like that. Colin Harris from just outside Torquay. He wanted to be a cowboy. Never met him but the last letter I got he was thinking of doing an apprenticeship with a local builder. I said to Lionel that kids these days don’t know what they are missing out on and we left it there. Anyways, next morning I came down the stairs and there it was. Well it was easy to spot to be honest in that bright red envelope. Lovely handwriting on the address. The smell was a bit off-putting mind you. Aye, that’s what I thought as well, a drop of Old Spice splashed on by mistake but it was…well it was a bit more brimstone-y than that to be honest with you. What’s that? No. Look I’d rather not talk about what we’ve talked about over time but it’s all pretty normal to be fair. That first letter was just a few lines of introduction asking me if I’d be willing to write on occasion. He told me he liked to write by the fireside and about his pets. Yes, he’s got a couple actually. Loves cats. He’s just got a new rescue kitten. Called her Lucy Fur bless her…”
…meanwhile somewhere off-central to la neuvieme arrondissement de l’enfer…
“Oh don’t be so formal Nigel, I only stand on ceremony in front of the hordes.”
“Right. Sorry about that. It’s just that there’s a letter just arrived for you, Your Despic…Lionel.”