She was outside looking in through the open door of the shop. He was inside. Stood clumsily, as though not used to wearing his body, or at least, not enjoying it. She smiled, and he looked nervously down, dying inside as she walked on.
They’d survived. Another year, another party, another full night of summer with everyone in the house. Even them.
The morning after the night before was, as ever, littered with regret. Bottles that had contained hope lay empty. Flat surfaces sullied. The smell of poor choices in the air.
Alice looked across the room to the mirror. Her reflection looked aghast to see her assessing it.
The lights of the tree cast magic across their faces. She lent forward.
She passed him a present. Beautifully wrapped in gold paper, and finished with a ribbon and bow. Small but perfect.
“I thought we said..”
“We did. But its Christmas.”
He held it in front of him, and looked across to her shoulder before starting to open the paper. Carefully, keeping the moment going.
Inside, a smart black box. He could feel just the weight of the card.
“What is it?”
He lifted the lid.
“I don’t understand?”
“Its like all the love you’ve given me.”
She looked back to the tree.
Dawn had yet to be smashed to bits as I entered the field. The farmer looked at me, as surprised as the cow to which he was tending, as I ran from, then back to, the path. Can’t wake the rest of the creatures. Besides, over in the distance I could see a man walking his dog, so there was little time left to make good my escape.
The staff of the Indian restaurant were crowning in their contempt. We’d been bowling, straight from work, beers by the lane. Two strikes in a row was a peak at about 7 pints, but then straight down the gutter. A foreshadowing drunk. The others from work went off to eat, but lost, we instead called at the Swan, for 2 nicks of vodka and orange. We arrived late to the restaurant.
I choose the first bottle with a degree of care. The cat will be watching as I drink it, and besides, there’s always a chance that I’ll taste this one.
Pinot rouge, which is a joke to myself, because its black and red, a wine in a sweater which later will be a truth as I drink.
A good first start. The second choice is more difficult. Something fruity, but without the heaviness of a bottle of domestos. I don’t want to clean my teeth until later.
The normals, looking around the shop for something to drink as opposed to numb the dull sensation of their pointless and inevitable decline, choose a four pack.
Ideas are infectious as I grab three more of the same, rabid as my mouth salts inside with the thought of inevitable repetition, killing ninety nine percent of known thoughts, dead.
He sat in the car, studiously avoiding the newspaper for fear of missing her pass. On her way home. It was a good day, and he’d finished work early which gave a nice opportunity to catch up. Always the socialite. Maybe they could have a pint. Or a cup of tea.
The waiting game was relieved to an extent by the radio, but there was only so much inane chatter with which he could cope. Let it go on, let it go off… the sounds of 60s pop faded to nothing as he turned off the radio, snapping into silence unlike the valve sets of the music’s own era.
Twenty four minutes.
That’s not too bad, he thought. She must be due back any time now. Any time. Time was forgetting to pass, in the main, but at least it seemed now that it was getting to the point of coming home. So here he was. And there she’d be. Soon, he hoped.
The sound of a truck horn startled him and he wondered if he’d dozed properly. Had he missed her? Could be. He’d been sat for three quarters of an hour now, and he knew she was nearly always on her way back by now. The window whined as he let it sink and enveloped himself in the stale city air, to keep himself fresh.
And so she was. Walking. Past. No stopping. Perhaps she’d not seen. Perhaps…
He picked out his phone and dialled her number. No reply. Looked at his phone again. There was just the text from earlier. Only now did it seem true.
There were no marks to distinguish the package. At least, nothing out of the ordinary. THat was always key to a successful delivery. He wasn’t there to see the results, but imagined it being opened, an unexpected prize to his achievement. Once again.
At the end of another day, in th equiet off the alleyways, the side streets, and in the ginnels – and in the most lonesome and empty rooms of the houses – the universe unwinds. The noise is like the all the conversations you’ve ever heard, all the sounds of the day, slowly being reversed, out and in again, the sound of a giant’s great slumber. You mustn’t wake the giant, for he needs his rest
Some forget this. And when it happens, the giant deals with interruptions – say, the child who wonders about his parents’ house after they have gone to sleep – with quiet efficiency.
21 days after the first meeting with the Colonel, I found myself astride his still warm corpse, the beaten heart ripped from his chest and held aloft as a cheer leader holds a pom pom. Those about me gave noises of appreciation, but the loss of this once great man made me sick to my stomach, a wretching worstened by the inevitablity of his decline.