Part 3 Untitled # 1

This has all been edited so if you can stand it it’s best to read it as if you had never read it previously. Today it leads into part three of four (I thought it would be to a close but there are a couple of things on which I have to clear my thinking. So, tomorrow …).

#1: No Title

Roger spatula’d off the excess head of beer, pulled to top up the glass, handed him his next pint. ‘You OK, Tommy?’ he said, then at once, ‘Sorry, sorry. Stupid question. Listen mate, cheer up. What is it - three months now and not a word? She’s just not worth it.’

Tommy shifted on his bar stool but said nothing. He’d said enough. Right now he was trying not to think about Glo and her new man, Angelo the plumber - whoever that bastard might be. Snow had piled up outside in the corners of the pub’s window panes like on all the poxy Christmas cards. No sooner the postman’s back-breaking Christmas gone than yet more cards today; bloody Valentine’s. All the coloured envelopes, some with stuff on the back like SWALK, BURMA, ISYU. Most of them obviously husband to wives or more likely wives to husbands or more likely wives to someone else’s bloody husband. Had Gloria sent this Angelo one? He fingered the unopened envelopes in his pocket. There were always a few for him, all of course anonymous, some of them really crude. Most postmen got them. Well, this postman couldn’t give a damn.

‘You finished for today?’ Roger asked.

‘Yeah, finished’

‘Good. Listen Tommy, mate, you’ve got to get a grip.’ He wiped off the bar top. ‘Shit happens. ’Postman drunk in charge of a push bike’ - that won’t help, will it? He laughed. The business type sitting along the bar raised his head from his newspaper, his scampi and chips and his glass of white wine. Roger went on, ‘If it snows much more you’ll be having to dig your bike out. Leave it there. I’ll see it‘s OK. You’re best off home on good old Shanks’s pony today.’

‘Maybe; bike belongs to the Post Office. Let them come and dig it out,’ Tommy muttered. The room was beginning to spin. He concentrated on keeping his head still. Didn’t help. Roger shrugged, moved off to talk to his only other customer. There was a good fire in here. Nice and warm. Sickening smells of yesterday’s booze and today’s fried food. Tommy was not hungry and wasn’t thirsty but he was well outside a whole lot of beer today, like most days. To hell with Glo and her Italian bloody stallion. Plumber, she’d said! Angelo the plumber. Sounded like a bloody Ninja Turtle. Well, he’d plumbed Gloria all right. Bastard! He blinked back the tears of self-pity. Twenty two years married and she hadn’t told him nothing about it. Not a blind thing ‘til he’d got home that time, picked up the envelope off the kitchen table. Nothing. Not how long it had been going on for nor any damn thing except she loved the man and, ‘I don’t want to hurt you Tom, because you know I’ve always loved you too in my own way. I’m so sorry there have been no children. I’m so sorry!!!’ No address where they’d buggered off to. Nothing!

The rest of his new pint disappeared in one long swallow. He banged down the glass for another. His bar stool somehow tipped over sideways. he went down hard. Something seemed to be breaking; something other than his heart.

The black became white and the white became shapes and the shapes became faces, the faces of strangers dressed as medics. One of the faces spoke. ‘Well hello there, welcome back. Don’t move now. You’re going to be all right but best to keep still for a little bit. You had a fall and you’re in Southampton General. I’m Doctor Sikorski. This is Nurse O’Reilly.’ The young man smiled down at him. ‘Just testing now, Tommy. What is my name, did I say?’

His tongue seemed too large for his mouth and he would never have recognised the gravelly voice as his own. ‘Silosky. Doctor Silosky? Or Sikosky?’ He groaned.

‘That’s near enough for anyone with your amount of alcohol aboard. You’re going to be fine. You took a bit of a bang on your head and your hand’s suffered some laceration but there’s nothing permanent.’ He straightened up, stethoscope swinging, then moved out of sight. ‘Nurse, stay with him for a while, yes? Help him sit up. Back in an hour or so.’ 

He felt her moving around the bed, tucking in and arranging the covers. Finally she crooked an arm around the back of his neck, helped him to sit, plumped up the pillows, lowered him gently. She smelled of flowery deodorant, liquorice, lipstick, antiseptic; woman. Yes, woman.
Finally she drew up a chair, took out and shook down a thermometer, inserted it into his mouth. ‘You don’t recognise me, Mr Postman Tommy Barlow?’ She smiled. Tawny blonde hair curving out from under the cap, nice lips, friendly eyes with just the right network of the finest lines. About his own age maybe. Pretty lady.

In spite of his aching head and the pain in his bandaged right hand Tommy felt the attraction, and how long an age since the last time he’d felt like that? He managed to speak around the glass tube lodged under his tongue. ‘Don’t think I’d have forgotten, nurse. Can’t say I remember you, no. Should I?’

‘Thirty nine Napier Avenue?’

The response came as if on automatic; ‘Mrs Belinda O’Reilly! The one with all the heavy catalogues. Right, of course. We’re near neighbours.’ 

She leaned forward to remove the thermometer, looked at it, shook it down, replaced it in its case and the case into its correct breast pocket position ‘Yes, neighbours so we are, Mister Barlow.’ There was an Irish twang in her voice.


‘Tommy. Yes of course. I -‘ she hesitated, then, ‘I heard about your wife. I am sorry.’

Christ, had the whole world been in on it? On the shame of it? ‘Don’t be,’ he muttered. ‘There’s nothing to be sorry about.’ He wanted to say shit happens. ‘Things happen,’ he said.

‘Yes.’ She stood up, smoothed her nice blue uniform over her nice round thighs. More briskly; ‘Perhaps, Mister Postman, you’d like to open your own mail now? You had these in your pocket.’ She handed him the three envelopes. ‘It would seem you have yourself a bit of a fan club.’ She smiled. ‘I’ll leave you to it now.’

The two coloured envelopes obviously contained Valentine cards; one of them even had the inevitable block letters on its reverse. The third envelope bore his typed name and address. It contained another smaller envelope and a letter headed St Stephen’s Hospice, Lower Dibden, Northumberland. His overworked heart skipped a beat or two and his headache ratcheted up a couple of notches as he began to read it …

Dear Mr Barlow, began the letter, It is my sad duty to advise you, as next of kin, that your wife passed away here at 08.15, today the 12th of February 2011. Paragraph. On behalf of the Hospice I would like to express our deepest sympathy. Gloria was a fine and a brave lady and was universally liked and admired by all our staff.  Your wife was expressly concerned that you should not know of her condition until it had led to its inevitable conclusion, at which time I was instructed to send you the enclosed private communication. Paragraph. If it is your wish, I can see to the funeral arrangements on your behalf. To this end I shall travel south, hopefully to meet with you following your receipt of this letter and the enclosed. However sombre an occasion, I do look forward to that. Paragraph. Yours most sincerely. Paragraph. Michael McCorquodale, Head of Hospice.

The typed sheet fell from his fingers. Stupidly he turned over and over the envelope bearing Gloria’s beautiful handwriting.  


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