www.seapenguin-thecurioussheep.blogspot.com and contributes to www.coronationstreetupdates.blogspot.com, and to www.shortbreadstories.com
“SHANGHAI!! Shang - fucking -hai!!” shouted Ed, rubbing his hands together eagerly as he heaved himself forwards on his worn leather recliner. The springs on the recliner twanged and the bluish glow from the forty inch TV lit up the sheen of sweat on his forehead as he seized the remote from his wife and pressed the volume control.
“Ed.” said Kat again, quietly, twiddling with her wedding ring.
“Is everything okay? You feeling okay?”
“For fuck’s sake! Give yourself peace.”
“Eat your crisps and watch the Count. Ted Hankey’s going for Shanghai, for fuck‘s sake.”
“I don’t want any crisps. Can we not talk though? I was just thinking. You know. About what the doctor said. How we’re going to manage with you being off work, and that. Perhaps we‘d better.”
Ed turned towards her with a scornful expression. “Are you out of your mind? I’m watching the fucking darts.”
“NO-O-O! He’s missed the treble. Bastard.” The remote slipped from his hand as Ed threw himself disappointedly back into the recliner. “Pick that up for me, will you?”
Kat folded her arms and crossed her legs. “What’s stopping you?”
“You know fine well what’s stopping me. Anyway, I can’t be arsed.”
“No more can I.”
“The doctor says I’ve not to bend. What with my back and all.”
“Back nothing. You wheel it out when it suits you. Lazy sod.”
Kat got up from the settee, and sighed heavily as she plodded towards the kitchenette, her ill-fitting slippers scuffing a familiar trail along the carpet. “Want a cuppa?”
“What? Oh, alright. I’ll have a coffee. Three sugars, mind, and bung a whisky in it, will you?”
“I wasn’t going to make coffee.”
“Same difference, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so. But the doctor said…”
“Shut up about that fucking doctor. I’ve told you, I’m fine.”
“If you say so.”
“I say so. Now shut it. And get me a fucking Wagon Wheel while you’re at it.”
“Now you’re taking things a bit far, Ed. A Wagon Wheel? Three sugars?”
“Can a man not enjoy himself in his own home nowadays?”
“But Ed. You’re diabetic. And your heart…”
“Now who’s wheeling out the doctor? Two sugars then. And mind - none of that Canderel shit. Cos I‘ll know.”
Kat backtracked swiftly and kicked the remote further beneath Ed’s chair.
“Here! Kat! It’s the final leg, and Ted’s on a finish!”
“My heart bleeds. Get it yourself.”
Ed pursed his lips and continued looking at the television, with narrowed eyes.
“You’ve not half let yourself go, Kat,” he said venomously. “It’s a shame ‘cos you used to be not-bad-looking. It’s funny - you’re hatchet-faced, but you’ve got a right arse on you, as well. It’s like, all the fat’s gone from your face to your arse. How‘d you manage that?”
Kat turned, hand on hip. “Do you want a coffee, or not?”
“Get me the remote. Get me the fucking remote.”
“Get it yourself. Anyway, it’s loud enough. The neighbours‘ll start retaliating and we don‘t want that tit for tat carry on again. Not after the last time. You‘re not the man you were, Ed. Let‘s face it.”
Ed’s hands clenched into fists and his face reddened. “I don’t need reminding,” he muttered, his words drowned by Kat filling the kettle.
The screen went black for a moment and music boomed as Ted Hankey threw his Dracula cape round his shoulders and swept off the stage at Frimley Green. “This is my territory. Be on your way.”
“Class act, Hankey,” said Ed respectfully, passing wind at the same time. The sound was muffled slightly by the booster cushion he was sitting on.
“You’d better not have followed through again. I‘m fed up washing that cushion.”
Kat’s face twisted in disgust.
“I would,” she said.
“I would. Ted Hankey. He’s not a bad looking bloke. So I would. It’s not like I’m getting much at home, is it? Or likely to. ” The kettle was coming to the boil and Kat was waiting for it in the kitchenette, drumming her fingers on top of the fridge and staring through at Ed.
“Well, I’ll tell you something, Kat. Ted Hankey WOULDN’T. Not in a million.” Ed glared at the television and bit his bottom lip.
“You’d be surprised, Ed,” Kat continued, archly. “Ted Hankey might not. He’s a happily married man, after all. And I know you won’t. But you’d be surprised at who might.”
“You’re right. I’d be flabber-fucking-gasted.”
“The doctor might.”
“Oh, come on!” Ed turned towards her, the expression on his face a strange mixture of relief and mockery.
“He groped me when you weren’t looking. You were putting your clothes on behind the screen and he groped me.”
“Fuck off,” blustered Ed. He bent over and felt around beneath his recliner in an attempt to find the remote. He stretched his arm further. “Fuck off,” he grunted.
“I liked it, Ed. He’s not a bad-looking bloke, that doctor. Got a wee look of Ted Hankey, in the right light. I know he shouldn’t have done it but I admit it, I gave him the glad eye and I liked it.” Kat peered through at Ed from the kitchen. He had stopped searching for the remote and was sitting back in his recliner. His face had turned an odd putty-like colour, and his breathing was laboured.
“Alright there, Ed? You managing? Found the remote yet?”
“Get me my pills, will you? And the spray. Quick, Kat. I’m…”
“In a minute. Three sugars, wasn’t it?”
He held her tight. He caressed her skin, kissed her and touched her, giving her pleasure she yearned for. He made love to her, although the love was just an illusion. He gave her all his warmth, although it was just a one off gift, not ever to be reciprocated. He gave her oblivion which she needed to stay alive. That was all she wanted from him. A stranger that happened to be there when she needed to forget. And when the morning came there was no longing of the bodies to entwine, nor regret. He touched her sleeping face with soft indifference and left.
Kasia Boreysza 2009
Kasia lives in Glasgow and is a regular attender of The Hidden Lane Cafe where she reads both poetry and prose.