Sirens blared nearby, but as James sat, they sounded distant. Distorted. Like a baby’s cry from a monitor. People rushed by, screaming, sobbing, but the world was silent and still. His heart slowed as emotion slipped from his body. All that remained where he sat were functioning organs under worthless skin.
A guy I know had the telly on one evening, wasn’t taking much notice of it, and then one of those telly chefs came on. That made this guy get out of his chair and kick fuck out of the thing. He’s a happier man now, so everybody says. In fact, I don’t know him, but I think I believe it because telly chefs, they have to be a sort of conspiracy to piss people off, isn’t it, a sort of programmers’ revenge on the people who put them where they are. Think about it this way: you dream of a life in television, want to make your mark on the spirit of the age, and they make you set up a programme featuring a telly chef?
He died on a Friday.
The July heat was already pouring in through the weathered old screen as he perished quietly in his slumber. He’d always insisted upon the open window, even on the very coldest of nights. His wife would wrap herself in layers and layers of electric blankets in those days when they still shared the same room, time and circumstances causing them to slowly drift apart in their sleep.
Thirty-nine years as husband and wife. Decades of laughter and illness, heartbreak, and euphoria gone in the span of a single heartbeat. She would never know what did him in, only that he slept. She found him there in the first blush of morning, leaving the room before turning back and placing her hand gently on the bedroom door. The new day opened up all around her, petals on a withered flower, as she realized they would never see their fortieth year together. Continue reading
Dang. My husband’s always doing that, overbidding me when he knows fool well I can make my bid and he’s got diddly-squat. Of course, nine hearts is the perfect bid—for Ed. If he wins the round, he’s a hero for pulling it off with a hand like a foot. That’s what we call it when our cards stink, a hand like a foot. If we get bumped, he’ll blame it on me, say I inkled wrong, made him think I could get more tricks than I could. Never mind that I bid spades. That won’t make a bit of difference when we replay the hand at the top of our lungs after Dan and Jean have gone home. Either way, nine hearts makes him look good and me look bad.
21 June 1943
Emma Wick had been beautiful for life. Even at seventy-four she had retained her figure and carried herself with the grace and confidence of someone much younger. For nearly half her time, however, there had been an icy quality about the lady. The few persons who knew her attributed this remoteness to the closely occurring losses of her daughter and husband, many years before. Only Emma knew the truth. She had lost her Mary, who had lived just five years—to a bad case of it having been 1906, more than anything else; but she was the reason why her husband, Robert, lay in his grave since 1907–which was a circumstance that she had never considered anything more than addition through subtraction.
The whole thing about bum cracks and manual workers is derided only by people who don’t work hard, physically, and by younger people, thinner people. Alec didn’t care what people thought, what stuff looked like, what was falling apart or falling down as long as it did the job. It’s as much as he could do to pick himself up after bending down to fiddle with something. He picked up, pulled up what he could, when he could. He was at the stage where he had to prioritise physical effort in a very task specific way. After hours, years of hard labour, his time was spent just getting done, anything else was superfluous. It wasn’t giving up, it was getting by. Continue reading