I have to admit that last evening I was a coward. Sunderland were playing football and for the 3rd season in a row were fighting relegation. The match was broadcast live but instead I went out because the stress of watching the team was too much. I had a ticket for a performance of Cox and Box and Pirates of Penzance which was good enough to distract me for the necessary period of time. It wouldn't have all fallen down if my team had lost but the best opportunity was at home last night.
While pondering the possible outcomes I remembered a short story I'd written of when things go wrong that I thought I'd share.
It All Fell Down
It was a seemingly ordinary Monday morning he got up as usual, showered as usual, dressed as usual, ate breakfast and set off to work. That day was never going to be normal and it was going to live in his mind forever.
The journey to work was as busy as it always was and even the short stretch of motorway that he took as part of the route, was thronged with commuters thundering their way to their jobs. He glanced at the speedometer and was approaching 90mph.
‘It would be so easy,’ he thought to himself. ‘I could accelerate to 100 and flip the steering wheel!’
The turn-off he always took was approaching. It was as much muscle memory that saved him that morning. Within ten minutes he was in his place of work surrounded by people which in some ways was a blessing but in others increased the pain.
“What’s up mate?” asked one of the older guys he worked with.
“Nothing Bill,” he replied. “I’m fine.”
Of course it was a lie and the astute Bill had picked up on the fact that his behaviour wasn’t normal. It wasn’t so different that the younger staff noticed anything but Bill had more life experience.
It was the longest day imaginable and he avoided long conversations, breaks and banter. Work was the interim cure for what ailed him but it had to come to an end. There was no reason to hurry home so he finished off and was almost the last person to leave the building. It was dusk by the time he was on the return journey home.
Home! It was a new house when they moved in not long after their wedding. They were the first to live in the cul-de-sac and had to negotiate the building site to access their new dwelling for several weeks before they had neighbours. All was normal, children came along, and one even got to school age. The garden was cultivated, relationships in the neighbourhood developed and all seemed happy. Just how wrong can you be!
They were going! By the time he got home his wife and two children will have gone for good.
Home! Driving into the street and up to the building, it wasn’t a home anymore; it was like driving into a black hole. Everything that had been life up to that time was centred on this place but now the windows were black in the gloom of the closing day, like sightless eyes.
He put the car into the garage and fussed around, avoiding the inevitable moment when he had to enter the house. It was never going to be usual because the house was empty so the lights were out, there was no welcoming smell of cooking, no noise and the heating was off. The atmosphere was as chilly as the air temperature. He turned on lights, TV and central heating but didn’t prepare food. He wasn’t hungry. Eventually the inspection of the whole house had to take place because there was an inbuilt need to re-establish the house as his home.
The TV news finished, it was fully dark outside and he finally girded his loins, carried a cup into the kitchen and looked round the ground floor but there was little that was different in the shared spaces. The CD rack and bookcase was no longer full but in itself no great problem as they were very utilitarian objects of furniture. He knew that the upstairs was going to hurt.
The landing light shone into the bedroom of his youngest. There was nothing left! It was totally empty except for the carpet and the wallpaper. He leant against the door and cried remembering the fun he’d had with this happy, intelligent child. It took a while for him to pull himself together and, rather than go into the older child’s room, he went into the room that he’d shared with the woman for almost ten years. There wasn’t much different apart from the half of the wardrobe that she had used that was now empty.
In the final bedroom, the middle sized room, there was only an upright dining chair as if his big lad had never come home from hospital. He folded into a heap to the carpet; the tears began again and he ached with tangible pain as the full enormity of what had happened finally hit him.
He knew that he was going to be late for work. The roads were considerably quieter. He couldn’t remember whether he’d locked the door but it didn’t seem to matter. He accelerated down the slip road on to the motorway and accelerated until he reached 100mph……