It is a totally ridiculous story.
Unworldly Hut Man, nineteen and a half years old, lives alone in the woods and talks to his Ikea furniture. He thinks hard about life, but invariably fails to understand what is actually going on in his encounters with the outside world. Yet, employing his own unique reasoning, he manages to survive and is always happy and confident.
When he finds an inscription in red ink in a book on hamsters at a jumble sale saying ‘Please return to Helen Jacobs, 31 Riverside Close, Budleigh Salterton’ he has to obey, and heads off on his bike to find her with Ken the plastic iguana on the handlebars.
He has puzzling and funny encounters buying a mobile phone and camping equipment, ordering an Indian takeaway, working in a lay by as a Picasso-like abstract artist, being tattooed, and getting arrested for being in possession of a firearm.
When he finally tracks Helen down at a care home he finds her to be very different from the girl he expected.
Below is a short extract:
“The camping store wasn’t in the High Street at all. It took me an hour to find. It was miles out of town near a garden centre and a scrap yard. It was like a metal hut, but much bigger than mine which is made of wood.
Inside there were tents all over the floor, like a camp site without grass and trees and campers.
Where to start? How should I know?
A man came over and said How can I help you, sir? I told him I was going camping to visit my aunt in Cornwall.
We’ve a range of tents second to none, sir, he said. You’re camping alone?
I think so, I said.
What else? But I made out I was thinking about it, otherwise it’s rude.
Well, sir, he said, you never know when you’re going to get lucky, do you, and winked.
I don’t really know what winking means. I think it means You know what I mean.
I didn’t, but I winked back to be polite.
He said Then you may not be wanting a one-man tent, sir, and winked again. It was too late to stop him because he was already showing me some tents.
This one’s just the job, he said. Easy pitch, cross pole for extra strength, with no way in for unwanted draughts, moisture or bugs. Room for a very cosy two, I’d say. And he winked again.
I looked inside and winked back and said it was very roomy – Open Plan on Steroids, in fact, and he laughed. I like sharing jokes, you don’t need to keep thinking up new ones. I don’t think Jeremy the stylist would mind.
Right, sleeping bags, he said. They come in mummy shape, square, pod, down, or synthetic. This Eventer 450’s ideal. Durable fabric, multi-fibre insulation, drawcord, internal zip baffle, deep pocket for those essentials. We’ll look at doubles, shall we, he said, and winked again. Before I could wink back he’d walked off saying, Wait here, sir.
I sat in the tent planning how I’d fit Billy, Nils and Nita in it even though they’re not coming with me, while he went round and round the store three times. He came back with a trolley full of camping stuff.
Right, sir. Two-man tent, pod sleeping bag, mallet, gas stove, cool box, water container, plates, cutlery, lantern, everything you need. And to you, sir, an exclusive one-day only price for the package. A very special £225 with your one-off unique discount and prestige club membership. Cash or card, sir?
I told him all I wanted to buy were some tent pegs and a plastic knife and fork. He looked cross.
Well, we won’t be going far on that, will we, chummy? Anyway, we’re closing, vacate the premises.
And he walked off. Not a nice man, especially after we’d shared winks and jokes. You can never tell, can you?”