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by Andrew Peters
I’ll give you the weather. Light clouds in the morning, a herd of them over the bay until the wind chased them off. Then a high milky blue, Howth Head resplendent in the sun, laid out on its back. As you once described: plump personage a-snooze under coverlet green.
The dead mouse I mentioned the other day is still there. Do you recall my mentioning it? The corpse lies on the front path. Step over it twice a day at least, but cannot bring myself to move it. Superstitious? Possibly. You will laugh, of course. But why doesn’t a cat? Or a fox? You know.
I can see it from the living-room window. There is a puddle in the broken concrete of the path since January and the mouse is lying half in it. I said to myself it looked like Deborah Kerr in From Here to Eternity—remember that? Rolling on the beach and the water breaking over her. And I thought you would find that amusing. Putrefaction. Well, we could all live without it. Ha ha ha. Will have to move it if no one else does. But where are the starving f’s and c’s or even a greedy d slipped its lead?
Evening: splendid sunset. Living room fully treacled. Stood for a while in the gold of it, warmed through. Yes, yes, drinking. Two glasses only. And not your good stuff, rest assured.
Clear start. Low mist in the a.m. Went out for the paper and saw the Pigeon House towers climbing out of it. On the rocks the early light was silvery dew, or—better—snail trails. The lady in the newsagent’s kind but solicitous. Am I alright? And so on. They are always there should I, etcetera etcetera. But are they? Is anyone?
There is something interesting going on next door. For Sale sign still present, but new people moving in already. Removal van outside, encroaching on our space.
Saw her at the front door with list in hand, directing. Young, sporty looking. Large television being carried in. Yes, a young couple I would say, the TV was a his TV. No sign of kids yet. Small mercy. Oh, let there be no kids. Why removal van, when patently arriving, delivering? You see I am sensitive to subtraction. I waved. Gave sign—talk later. Understood, I think. Should I go around with a bottle of wine? Not your good stuff.
Would you? Yes, I think you would.
Something has been at the mouse. Moved a little, and the white comb of its ribs now showing. Nothing big. Maybe a mouse colleague, an old acquaintance. Do they do that? To each other? Not cruel, your animals, but vicious practical. Same thing? Not the same, I think. Either way, didn’t clean its plate. Bad manners. Will have to go out there with a shovel soon and deal with the leftovers, give them a proper burial.
Evening: Low cloud pinched off the last light. The sun somewhere on the other side, battering to get through. Unsuccessfully.
Would you think me a fool if I said I was dreading Friday?
Thicker mist, slow shifting. Lunchtime before it was gone. In the afternoon, clearing wind—cobwebs blasted. The yacht race in the bay was comical. Little boats flipping distantly, like ants scurrying with leaves too big for them. I got to thinking: kitchen. Memories of ant infestation two years ago, most likely. Do you remember that? You had other concerns, I know. Bless you. But the kitchen.
Let us make plans. Spring approaches. You mentioned refit, new surfaces, appliances. At the time I balked, but now I see the sense. Perhaps it is the noise of the arriving neighbors, sounds of revolution. The ceiling needs replastering. I will seek out catalogues for cupboards, fitted counters.
I only ask, keep the kitchen table—for God’s sake leave me that. Do you recall our first winter? The burst pipe? Cataract through the back of the house, deep dark pool on the kitchen floor. I entered it in slippers and displeased you—pretended to be electrocuted. You thought you had lost me, you said. Three floors replastered, we did the wiring also. Infernal banging of the builders, we were full of regrets. The kitchen ceiling untouched since then.
This afternoon I took out a step ladder and climbed up and placed my fingertip upon it. Strange thing to do, perhaps. To touch a thing so long untouched. From a different time. Comfort, joy, sadness, all washed over. Too much, you think? Tedious old fool atop ladder, am I? I thought it myself. Descended shamefully. Missed bottom rung and almost put my ankle out.
Evening: mostly clear. Toppling cumulous loomed over the city and drifted north, like a departing liner. Limped to the neighbors’ door with a bottle of the cheapish Chilean. Orla and Michael. Young, friendly, handsome couple. Good people, I think. Noticed the rise of her belly at once. Six months, she explained. Her first. Heart dipped, you’ll know how it dipped, went into a faint. Heard already the midnight screaming and saw too the neon mess of toys on the lawn. But, confession: the old heart soared thereafter. And it is still light, uplifted, for Orla and Michael. The good young people. Our new neighbors. Now you will say I am gone mad.
Clear start, quite unexpected. Bay disturbed by new wind, wavelets awkwardly combed. White horses in the outer reaches. The Holyhead boat nodded through it, flashing white rump. Lost hat on walk to the newsagent’s. It rolled along Monkstown Road like a wagon wheel worked loose. Under a bus it went. Gave it up for lost, nearly. But it was waiting in the bus’s exhaust. Went into the road to get it. Stopped traffic with raised hand. Moses parting waters. Old as Moses, at least. Glad I persisted, no damage done. Persisted, you see? Like you told me to. Hope there, always.
Note received from Orla and Michael. Thanks for the wine. Will I pop in over the weekend? Suspect they have heard. If they have been to the newsagent’s they will have heard. The one behind the counter today: Dreadful day Mr. Clancy, but summer soon. Will you be heading off to visit your family in the summer? From behind her till she cast happy vistas at me. One of them bound to hit, must be the thinking. How many brothers and sisters have I? All that. She had them marching before me. I listed the survivors and she smiled throughout. I would swap them all, I might have said.
Trying at least, she was. I am not ungrateful. Reply to Orla and Michael: I have much to do this weekend, but will gladly take you up on your offer at a later… etcetera etcetera. That should do it. No damage done.
Evening: Strange stillness. A darkening in the north. The sea dark underneath it, a black pool. I have decided that the kitchen table must stay. I simply can’t be without it. As it is brown, then the new units must be brown too. It will be a woody, country kitchen, of the variety you dislike. We can argue about this later. But the oven and refrigerator will be new, the dishwasher also. The wood will be warmer in the winter. Your modern kitchen is like sitting in an icecube, you cannot want that for us. Yes, later we will argue, set about each other. I will relish it.
Sunset a low fire, raked over, red-hot horizon but above was all towering dark draughts. Barometer reading: Change.
Heavy rain, curtains of it across the bay. Cold glittering edge to it, like falling knives. The door is shut on spring. The hydrangeas in the front garden shaken madly like pompoms. Once, might have said the gods were grieving. Michael and Orla’s car lies halfway into our space. A Volvo estate. Signification: babies, at least one a year. No wonder the sporty clothes, they will work hard to fill the seven seats. Again, the dip of the heart. Any plaster I put up will be shaken for a decade. But following quickly, joyful expectancy. Why? Cannot say. Only that behind the blind partition wall there will be increase, young, adamant addition.
As for the encroached space, I will let it lie. If one day I buy a car it can be reclaimed.
Evening: Difficult, as expected. What would we do? Dress up, go out. Dinner with friends. The friends are still there. Calls from the Herliheys, Riordans, Tabby Walsh. Your sister, also. The phone was a hot stone against my ear. Later, later, I said. No damage done. Rang our pizza place. Girl on the phone paused after I gave the order, expecting more. Is that it? she said. She expected me to say, And a medium veggie, also. Sensed something was up, thoughtful girl. Asked no more. Described in brief the special offer. Turned down, as always.
Have Fridays always been the worst? They crucified your man, etcetera. But he got up again on the third day, very persistent. Rain heavy on the kitchen windows. Gutter and drain-trickle audible. I poured us a glass each. The French. Drank mine then yours then poured again. Reprimand me if you wish. Refilled and repeated. Yes, the old fool. Too much for my worn heart, your potent French stuff, but it is Friday.
And I saw you at the kitchen table. Of course it would be there. That is where I shall always see you, in your regular place. The picture materializing, like an old print fixing in the chemical tray. You were wearing your blue dress. Asymmetrical neck. You looked well, and not so surprised to see me. You gave your inquisitive look. With the eyebrow. I waited for you to speak. Why wouldn’t you speak? There is an etiquette, presumably, but I am new to it. I had questions. ‘How long will my weather be of interest to you?’ and ‘How far are you away from me?’ and ‘When will I see you again?’
I wanted times and distances. Essential human calculation, the whenwhere. Foolish enquiry, unanswerable. You are beyond all that, I am sure. But so real you were I ran up the stairs and into our bedroom to check the wardrobe for the blue dress. Asymmetrical neck. Not there. Not there! My heart leapt.
Yes, old fool. Won’t write any more for now. Pen heavy in hand.
Midnight: Distant thunder, flashes over the bay. Once there was sun-play over that water—impossible to believe.
But of course your favourite blue dress would not be there. How could it? Oh let me keep the kitchen table, that at least. The wooden units we can discuss, we can argue. But the table stays. Where I see you sit in your favourite blue dress. Asymmetrical neck. Your inquisitive look, the smile only beginning.
The mouse is gone. Vanished. Not even a stain remains on the broken path.