It took me a bit of fumbling to get the locker door open; I never can see well without my specs. But I seemed to have got the wrong locker. No clothes, and something else in there. Something yellow. Something squeaking.
More squeaking. High-pitched. ‘I’m your fairy duckling.’
I stepped back, rubbed my eyes. ‘Okay, so I suppose I get three wishes.’
‘Correct. Three wishes for the New Year. How did you guess?’
‘Cut the wisecracks. Where are my bloody clothes?’
‘Your wish is granted. Look on the bench.’
I whirled round, holding onto my towel as a girl walked past me. ‘Nice duckling,’ she said. I scowled at her. On the bench was a pile of clothes, covered in dried blood.
The duckling had jumped down from the locker and waddled across the changing room.
‘Okay, Mr Cute,’ I said. ‘I don’t know how you’re doing this, or who’s behind it, but it’s not funny. I need decent, dry clothes.’
‘Your wish is my command,’ squeaked the creature. It waved a little wand with one of its wings.
Now there was another pile of clothes on the bench.
‘These are women’s clothes,’ I said, picking up a pink skirt.
‘Yes, and they’re mine,’ said the girl who’d walked past before. ‘Get your hands off them. Why are you talking to yourself, anyway?’
‘I, I–’ I stuttered. ‘I’m not talking to myself,’ I said, firmly now. ‘I’m talking to the duckling. Where’s it gone? You saw it.’
‘Why don’t you sit down,’ she said, patting my hand. ‘I could fetch you a glass of water.’
‘Now you get off. And I don’t want to sit down.’ I was beginning to feel hysterical. ‘I want to get out of here.’
Which was how I found myself out on the street on an icy December day with only a towel round me, explaining to a police constable that no, this was not a New Year’s Eve prank and no, I did not need to be escorted anywhere, thank you and yes, I would go quietly.
I could have done better with my wishes. Much better. We’re in lockdown now. Gyms and swimming pools are closed. Pubs too. Just as well, my wife says, after the incident with the so-say duckling last New Year’s Eve.
I’ve just looked out of the window. There’s a yellow duckling on the path. Waving a magic wand. I’m drawing the curtains before it sees me. Time to pour a drink.
Cheers! And a Happy New Year!