"Click, squeak!" The sound of the garden gate opening alerted me to the visitors, an elderly woman with a very young girl. When the woman gave the girl a collecting tin, I realised they were collecting on behalf of the annual British Legion Poppy Day appeal. Pausing in my clearing the weeds from the flowerbeds, I stood on the drive and watched as the little girl ran eagerly with tottering steps, holding the collecting tin with outstretched arms. The woman carrying a tray of poppies walked slowly behind her. As she arrived at my feet, the girl tripped, dropped the collecting tin and grabbed my sweatpants in effort to save herself from falling. This had the unintended effect of pulling my sweatpants to my ankles with the girl falling on top of them between my legs, leaving me naked from the waist down. I could do nothing to cover myself until the woman placed her tray on the ground and picked up the now crying girl. In doing so she had to kneel with her face level with my prick but instead of being irate, she gave an amused smile and apologised for the child's falling.
I apologised too, although really the fault wasn't of mine, and tried to defuse the situation by saying, "I don't usually show myself to every young lady that calls."
"Don't worry about it, I've seen many of them in my time." She gave me that amused smile again and then examined the bleeding abrasions on the girl's leg while I returned the sweatpants to their rightful place.
"You'd better bring her inside and wash the blood off her leg," I suggested and, picking up the tray of poppies and collecting tin, led them inside the house.
In the bathroom we cleaned the wounds, fortunately only superficial scratches but the blood made them look worse, and I broke off a leaf of aloe vera, applied the soothing gel until the girl's crying gradually decreased and she clung to the woman whom I later found was her grandmother. I tried to amuse the child by pretending I used a magic leaf but that only made her more irritable and fractious. "She's very tired," the woman said, "You're the last house and she wanted to walk rather than sit in the buggy. I expect she'll get even more cranky by the time we arrive home as we live at the other end of the village."
"Put her on the bed for little while and I'll make some tea, I'm due for a rest from gardening anyway. Is the buggy still on the pavement?" She made a token protest but in the end acquiesced.
"Hi, I'm Ken, Ken Goodie."
"Paula Worsley," we introduced ourselves, "My granddaughter is Katie, Katie Bishop. My daughter had to go for an interview this morning and I'd already committed myself to collecting for the British Legion. Katie was very enthusiastic with a collecting tin when we first started but her enthusiasm has begun to wane, as you found out."
"How did you get involved with the collection? I haven't seen you around before."
She laughed, "It's my name. As a child everyone called me Poppy and that's the name most people know me by now. My maiden name was Day, hence Poppy Day and some years ago I was asked to do a collection and having done it once, you are asked year after year but it is the first time I have done this round."
"Were you a nurse?"
She laughed again, "Because I said I've seen many pricks in my time? You obviously haven't been speaking with the village gossips; they would have told you that I'd been a prostitute, even though I packed that up when I married thirty years ago. I married one of my clients and we lived quite happily until he died two months ago from a heart attack while we were making love. That of course, refuelled the accusations that some of the old women still held against me and if they've seen me come here, and they'll probably think you are another of my clients." Another laugh. "What about you, are you married? I can see the photographs but it doesn't look as if this room has had a woman's touch for some time."
"I'm married but I might just as well not be, my wife has advanced dementia and is in a home. She no longer recognises me at all or even the staff there but her health is deteriorating quite quickly, and while I shouldn't say it, it will be a happy release for her when she passes on. She's been in the home for about six months and fortunately the insurance plan covers the cost. Last week, when I reached the age of sixty and Blakelocks were cutting back on staff, I took voluntary redundancy so maybe now I'll get round to doing a little more cleaning. I've never been with a prostitute and Harriet, my wife, is the only woman I've known sexually."
"There's a police car at the gate and one of the officers is coming up the drive," Poppy remarked, looking up from washing the lunchtime plates and glancing out of the kitchen window. Katie continued to sleep while we did a few chores and then had lunch. I opened the door and met the policeman before he had time to ring the bell and wake Katie.
"I'm sorry sir, but we had a report that a known prostitute with a child went into these premises at 10:47, at 10:56 you collected the buggy and at 11:02 the bedroom curtains were drawn. The curtains are still closed. I'm sorry but we have to investigate these reports but I can see the lady in question is not in the bedroom and by the looks of things, hasn't been there for some time." He looked at Poppy standing at the sink wearing one of Harriet's aprons and a pair of my yellow washing-up gloves. I guessed old Mrs. Ryan from across the road, in her guise as neighbourhood watch representative, knowing of Poppy's past, had reported her.
Poppy turned and sharply remarked, "I thought they deleted all that information from my records years ago and it's now thirty-five years since my last conviction."
"I'm sorry Ma'am, we were close by and the report sounded urgent. My colleague is checking on the information now." We managed to convince him that nothing untoward happened without mentioning my nakedness and I knew the prying eyes over the road would not have seen me because of the high hedge.
"MUMMEE! NANNEE!" the second officer rang the doorbell and woke Katie who, not being in familiar surroundings, screamed for her mother and grandmother. This further confirmed our story and after a few pleasantries the police left, again apologising for disturbing us.
A bowl of ice cream and two chocolate biscuits soon restored Katie's good spirits and after a phone call, her daughter came and picked them both up but not before we arranged to meet the following day, Sunday, to spend the day at the seaside. We had a good rapport until time the policeman suggested she was still a prostitute and, as that had upset her, I planned to get my own back on the busybodies from over the road.
We drove to South Beach in Poppy's car rather than use my van and spent the morning walking hand-in-hand along the promenade in the early November sunshine like a couple of teenagers, but after having a fish and chips lunch in a seaside cafe, the sky clouded over and we made our way to my home.
"What was that for?" Poppy laughed as I embraced and kissed her at my gate.
"Something to give the watchers over the road something to talk about."
"The armed response squad will arrive shortly now." Still giggling like youngsters, "Do you think they will call the police again?" she asked seriously when we sat in the kitchen.
"I rather doubt it, Poppy, and I have a plan which, with your help, will stop it for good." She looked at me quizzically. "In fine weather I fasten a grill over the opening to the roof light to the attic to keep out the birds and through the openings I can look down on the Ryan's bedroom window without them noticing me. It's not something I normally do but I thought I could take my digital camera up there when we know she's watching and photograph her looking through the binoculars I know she keeps at hand. If we go into the bedroom and put on a little show and then I nip up into the attic and take a picture, I can then print copies and hand them around to the neighbours. With the crescent shaped road, from the bedroom in front of mine and from the window at the side, she can see into the rooms of six houses and I'm sure the occupants will not be pleased to learn how she spies on them."
"You want us to have sex while she watches?" Poppy asked with surprise.