I’ve been sitting here looking out of the window for a while now, waiting for something to change. But it never does. It feels colder in here than normal. Bloody heating on the blink again. Tears of condensation race each other down the pane. The one on the left is going to win. No, the one on the right. It’s a draw. The tears blend into each other and form a single trickle onto the frame. They join the other trickles, all racing each for a place in the tributary that will take them somewhere else. Somewhere new. Somewhere far from the cold and the dark. There’s a paradise waiting: anywhere but here.
The teapot needs topping up. Another brew. That would be nice, but my limbs feel stiff. The lads at work used to call me Thirsty Harry. There goes Thirsty Harry, they said.
Brewing up again. Your fiftieth cup, Harry? Cutting down, Harry? There he goes again, to the piss-pot. They joked and laughed: We’re going to bury you in China, Harry. Either that or put your ashes into a bloody teapot. No! An urn, I told them. It’s called an urn. Now the bloody bulb has started flickering. Thought I’d turned that off.
I’m going to have to make an effort to get up in a moment, there are things that I need to do. To get ready for a bit of food shopping. Empty fridges make empty bellies. The rumbling in mine stopped a few days ago. There’s a couple of grains of rice in the bottom of the pan that I couldn’t get out. Left the bloody thing on the hob too long and the water boiled away. Nice bit of Sweet and Sour that was. Got some decent scran those Chinese. I used to order one every time I did a Saturday night shift at the factory. What do you think the lads said? We’re going to bury you in China, Harry. I’ll have to get Bill to pop over and and look at the electrics. That flickering is making me feel a bit sick.
Cleaning. That’s one of the things on the to-do list. Bloody dusty in here now. It’s all settled on Phyllis’ nick-nacks. Should have got rid of them years ago. Should have buried them with her. You leave them alone, they’re my ‘ladies’, she’d say. Tall, slender women with umbrellas or poodles or what-not. The faces on them got all worn away. It’s all that looking at them she used to do. As each day passed she’d be looking and coo-ing over them, talking to them. Faceless bloody ladies. Used to give me the willies. I’d turn them round when she went out. Couldn’t stand them looking at me. Well, how could they look without any eyes, but you know what I mean. I tried to give them away to Bill’s missus.
She collected ‘ladies’ and you know what the cheeky bleeder said? Not really my thing, they’re a bit old. And the faces, they’ve all worn away. I don’t think I could stand that. And bedsides which, they’re just Chinese fakes. Not what you think. They’re a bit odd.
Bill was there. He smirked as I was leaving. I nearly dropped the box of the bloody things. Looks like you’re stuck with them, he said. We’re going to bury you with the China, Harry.
But brewing up, cleaning, sitting here thinking about the nick-nacks, it’s not going to get me very far, is it? And that light. That bulb. It’s getting brighter than the other ones I’m sure. Shouldn’t even be on in the day. It’ll cost me a fortune. I’ll have to nip out to the Post Office and top up the meter card. Pain in the arse.
Here we go, and up you get, Harry.
Come on, you can do it. Up out of the chair.
You silly old sod.
Shift your ‘arris, Harry, Phyllis used to say. Shift your ‘arris. Aris Stotle. Stotle -Glass- Arse. Get it?
Phyllis always knew how to get me going. She had what they call ‘get up and go’. Mine’s got up and left, Phyllis my dear.
Phyllis my dear. I haven’t said that in a long time. Ph-ill-is. Phyllis. Forever my sweetheart. Frozen solid I am, without you. Everything seized up the day you went.
Tighter, stiffer, achier. The days drifted apart. Like those chunks of ice the size of an English county that you see on the telly. Further, further. Until they melted, Phyllis my dear.
The light. What’s happened to the light? It’s stopped flickering. Now it’s burning. It’s bloody sucking the National Grid dry, I tell you. Dry as a bone.
Phyllis my dear.
It can’t be. When I say your name, it gets brighter in here. You always did light up a room, Phyllis.
You’re here? Phyllis? Phyllis? But-
Ridiculous. Get a grip. Who are you kidding? Phyllis, here with me? Phyl-
Phyllis! Let me turn off that bloody light, I can’t see your face properly.
You’re going to have to do it, my dear. I can’t get going today.
It’s burning the back of my eyes out! You’d think having the bastard child of the sun up there in the ceiling would make it feel warmer, but it’s bloody freezing.
Help me up, Phyllis. I need to sort the heating out. Give the boiler a good bashing. I’m sure I’ll be knocking penguins out of the way, though. God, it’s cold. God, it’s –
Your ‘ladies’. Lined up like the bloody Terracotta Army on the living room floor! My dear, how have you managed to do that? At least you’ve turned that bastard light out.
Cup of tea? Yes, of course. Thank you, my dear. A brew. That would be nice.
God, it’s cold. There’s those tears again, on the window pane. Racing down, down, down. Then, blending into each other. I love it how they do that. How two becomes one. Can you see it, my dear? Beautiful.
They join the other trickles, all racing each for a place in the tributary that will take them somewhere else. Somewhere new. Somewhere far from the cold and the dark. There’s a paradise waiting: anywhere but here.
LEE D THOMPSON is a short fiction author, poet and music writer who scribes furiously from an underground bunker in a secret location in the East Midlands. Published by Ad Hoc Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Algebra of Owls, and The Cabinet of Heed. He is a contributor to Memoir Mixtapes and a correspondent for the Mass Observation Archive. Twitter: @TomLeeski Web: ldthompsonwrites.wordpress.com
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