by Robert Williams

"It's incredible!" exclaimed Des excitedly. "It's an absolute miracle! I just can't believe it!!"

"What?" said Mick, who had been called round for an important meeting in Des's kitchen. "You've managed to pick up Channel 5?"

"No, not quite that incredible," said Des. "Do you know what the date is?"

"Err...February 14th," said Mick.

"Yes," said Des. "And what does that mean?"

"The dustmen come round?" said Mick.

"Yes, yes, but what else?" said Des.

"Oh, it's St Valentines Day," said Mick. "So what?"

"And I've received a card!!" exclaimed Des.

"You receive one every year," said Mick. "Wayne always sends you one as a joke. It would be really funny if he didn't sign his name on it."

"Yes I did, but..."

Just then Wayne burst through the door, unable to contain his giggles.

"Mornin' Des, got anythin' in the post today?!! Eh?? Eh??!!"

He started winking at Des and elbowing him.

"What, apart from that joke Valentine card you've sent me every year since 1985? Oh, by the way, here's it back so you can send it to me again next year."

"Oh thanks Des," said Wayne, taking it.

"No, this year I've got a real Valentines card!" said Des, waving the card around.

Mick's and Wayne's eyes nearly popped out.

"A real one???!!" exclaimed Mick. "Let's have a look!"

Des showed Mick the card.

"'Dear Des, roses are red, violets are blue, will you be my Valentine?' That doesn't rhyme! [That does though.] Signed question mark."

"That's not very helpful, is it?" said Des. "I've no idea from it's from!"

"I know her, Question Mark! She works down Sainsburys!!" said Wayne.

"Oh be quiet Wayne," said Mick. "It's obviously someone who hasn't been to the opticians recently. Ha, ha!"

"That's just the kind of snide remark I expect from you," said Des. "Well I'm determined to find out just who sent this!"

"What's this then?" said Clive, walking in.

"What do you want?" said Des.

"Something incredible's just happened!" said Clive. "I've just managed to pick up Channel 5!" said Clive.

"Oh really, what's on?" said Mick.

"Nothing, that's why I've come round here," said Clive.

"You've come at just the right moment," said Mick. "Des has received a Valentines card!"

Clive stared at Des in disbelief.

"And I'm going to find out who sent it!"

"How are you going to do that then?" laughed Clive. "Go down the opticians, they're bound to be there!!"

"Ha, ha, there's so much originality round here," sighed Des. "Now this strange person is obviously someone is useless at poetry."

"Right," said Mick. "So we've established they're blind and illiterate. That's a great help."

"Mrs Greasy!" exclaimed Clive. "She obviously can't read her cookery books, and if she could see properly she'd see how awful her food really looks!"

"I don't think so, somehow," said Des. "(At least I hope not!) Any other suggestions?"

"Maybe you should just wait for a bit," said Mick. "If she's serious, she's bound to get back in touch!"

So they waited. After ten minutes Des was bored.

"This is no good!" said Des. "I've got to know, if only to recommend they get their eyes tested!"

"The trouble is, you don't really know any women," said Mick. "Except for Mrs Greasy. And we've already established it can't be her!"

"Maybe she can help out," said Des. So they went round to the Little Cafe, which, in honour of the date, Mrs Greasy had decorated in roses and pink heart-shaped balloons.

"Urghh," said Des.

"Hello luvs," said Mrs Greasy.

"It is Mrs Greasy!" exclaimed Wayne.

"And to celebrate this special day, may I present you with a free gift," said Mrs Greasy, giving them a heart-shaped box.

"Oh brilliant, chocolates!" said Des. He opened the box to find - Mrs G's fairy cakes. "Ummm...well, maybe later. Anyway, Mrs G, we're not here to have anything to eat..."

"Not that we ever are," said Clive.

"You see, I've received this Valentine's card," said Des. Mrs Greasy raised her eyebrows. "Have you any idea who it might be from? After all, you're a woman, you might have a better idea than us lot! Perhaps you might recognise the writing!"

Mrs Greasy hummed, and carefully inspected the card for several minutes, as Des and the others watched on tenterhooks.

"Yes, careful of those tenterhooks, I only bought them the other day," said Mrs Greasy.

"Have you any ideas then?" said Des.

"No, haven't a clue," said Mrs Greasy.

The others groaned.

"You're a fat lot of good," said Mick. "Now think Des, what places do you go where you might meet any women?"

"The corner shop?" said Des.

"Right," said Mick. "So why don't you go along there then?"

"And just wait around on the off-chance that she might be there?" said Des. "But even if she is, what if she doesn't want to reveal herself?"

"I beg your pardon???" said Clive.

"I see what he means," said Mick. "She may not want to admit in public that she likes Des."

"I didn't quite mean it like that," said Des.

"I've got an idea," said Mick. "Why don't you stand at the door and pretend to be doing a petition? Get all the women customers to sign it, and you can compare their handwriting with the card!"

"Brilliant!" said Des. "I'm glad I thought of that! But what kind of petition?"

"Doesn't matter," said Mick. "Animal rights, global warming or something."

So Des went along to the corner shop, stood by the door and took down names of all women going in.

After a couple of hours Wayne and Mick came along to see how he was doing.

"I'm not doing very well!" said Des. "Look, I've only got two names! Oh, excuse me, madam, would you like to sign my petition? It's a campaign to give Des O'Connor his own hour-long chat show every night!"

The woman screwed her nose up at Des and bustled past.

"Well I'm not surprised you've hardly got any names!" said Mick. "No one in their right mind would want to sign that!"

"Hey, can I sign it?!" said Wayne. "I think Des O'Connor's brill!"

"There's not much point carrying on anyway," said Des. "Most of the women who come in here are pensioners!"

After Wayne had finished signing the petition, Mick had a look at it and compared the handwriting.

"That second one looks pretty similar," said Mick.

"No, it can't be!" said Des. "She was about ninety and completely bonkers!"

"Fits the bill," said Mick.

"Maybe she doesn't go to the corner shop," said Des. "Since I've been standing here, I noticed this faint orange squash mark on the card. Perhaps we could go round to all the different shops, buy a bottle of their orange squash, stain it on a bit of paper and compare it to the one on the card. Then we'll know what shop she goes to!"

"Err, yes," said Mick. "If you say so."

So Des undertook his plan, and ended up with several bits of paper with different orange stains on them.

"Right, now let's compare them to the card!" said Des.

"They all look the same," said Mick.

"Hmmm..." said Des, who thought the same. "Errr...I think this one is the most similar! Yes! This is the one! Number two! Now which bottle was that? Wayne?"

"Eh?? What??"

Wayne was lying on Des's kitchen floor with several empty squash bottles.

"I was just doin' a comparison of me own!" said Wayne.

Des sighed.

"I think number two was the Co-op one," said Des. "Yes, that's right."

So he went along to the local Co-op with Mick.

"You wait out here," said Des. "I don't want you cramping my style. Remember, I've got my image to consider."

Mick sniggered. Des ignored him and went into the store. He first stocked up on chocolate biscuits, and then went to stand by the door with another petition campaigning for voting rights for penguins.

Two hours went by, and Des received a couple more signatures, but with no luck.

"Oh, I give up," said Des, leaving the shop. He walked along the road with Mick and staring at the card and not looking where he was going.

"Hey, watch out Des!" exclaimed Mick as Des walked into a young woman and dropped the card.

"Oh sorry!" said Des.

"Here's your card," said the woman, picking up the card. "Just a moment...I recognise that writing!"

"Really??!" said Des. "Is it yours?"

"No, no," she said.

"A relation?" said Mick.

"Yes. I can't believe she's been writing people Valentines cards!"

"Oh really?" said Des. "That was written to me! My name's Des, by the way."

"Oh right!" said the woman. "Shall I take you to meet her?"

"Yes please!" said Des.

Des, Mick and Wayne followed her along the road.

"Probably her sister," whispered Des to Mick.

"Bit young for you, don't you think?" whispered Mick.

They eventually arrived at a small terraced house with a delightful front garden. The woman rang the doorbell, and a frail old woman answered the door.

"Hello grandma!" said the younger woman.

"Oh, hello, Lucy. Come in."

"I've brought along someone to meet you."

Des and Mick looked at each other with a look of disbelief.

"Where's your sister then?" Des asked Lucy.

"I haven't got one. Des, this is my grandmother, Vera. Grandma, this is Des."

"Hello Des," said Vera. "I signed your petition, I remember!"

Mick smiled at Des, knowingly.

"Yes, well, never mind that," said Des. "Did you send me this card?" He handed her the card. Vera studied the card for a short while and then broke into an enormous smile.

"What's so funny?" said Des as Vera began to laugh.

"I remember now!! I sent this card in 1934!"

"1934???" exclaimed Des. "But I wasn't even born then!"

"Not to you!! To my sweetheart, Des Smith!! He claimed he never received it! Now I see why!"

"I thought the postal service was getting a bit behind, but this is ridiculous!" said Mick. "So this arrived 63 years late!! Ha, ha!!"

"Ha, ha," said Des, sarcastically. "So what happened to Des then?"

"I married him!" said Vera. "Des, come in here!"

"What's that, dear?" said the other Des, walking into the living room.

"Did you live at 25 Oakleigh Avenue in 1934?" asked Des.

"Yes, I did," said Des. "I moved in when the house was first built!"

Des sighed. "We'd better be off then."

Des and Mick moped home.

"I think I'll send a letter to the Post Office, demanding they improve their service," said Des.

"What's the point in that?" said Mick. "It probably won't arrive until 2060!"

As they walked along an excited Wayne suddenly ran into them.

"What's the matter?!" said Des.

"I've received a reply!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"A reply to what?" said Mick.

"That petition yer did!!! I sent it off, and now Des O'Connor's gonna get his own show every night on the telly!!"

"Oh great," groaned Des. "What channel?"

"Channel 5," said Wayne.

"Oh that's all right then," said Des.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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