Part two Untitled #1

This opening has been edited so it’s best to read it as if you never read it previously. Today it leads into part two of three. Finally I know how it will end. Do you?

#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 but this one 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’ won’t help, will it? He laughed. The business type sitting along the bar raised his head from his paper and 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 but that 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 beer 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 and 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. ‘Don’t move, Tommy’ said one of the faces, the male one; You’re going to be all right but best to keep still for a little bit. You had a fall. You’re in Southampton General. I’m Doctor Sikorski and 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 to be too large for his mouth. ‘Silosky. Doctor Silosky? Or Sikosky?’ He groaned.

‘That’s near enough. You’ll be fine. You took a bit of a bang on your head and your hand’s suffered some laceration. 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 Barlow, do you?’ She was smiling gently. 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 there under his tongue. ‘Don’t think I’d have forgotten, nurse, but 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 catalogues. Right, of course. We’re near neighbours.’  

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


‘Tommy. Of course I -‘ she hesitated, then, ‘Of course I heard about your wife. I’m 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.

(To be concluded tomorrow. Suddenly the conclusion is known!)

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