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He checked his watch.

5pm.

A rather serious programme on Radio 4 about council tax rebates had just finished  He felt drained and rather uninspired. It was Radio 4 or nothing and Radio 2 just would not do.  He turned the radio off but the seconds of thick silence that followed stuck in his windpipe.

Panic.

He shot his hand over to the wall-socket and turned it back on again and changed the station to Classic FM.

But it was all so quiet.

He didn’t hear a thing.

He turned up the volume to ‘Max’ and sat down on the chair beside the kitchen table. It was still quiet. He wondered if he had broken the volume control. As soon as he got up, cacophony and mayhem ensued.

A blatter of blind oboes and the caterwauls of strings broke the silence into hundreds of pieces of anxious moments that lay invisibly on the floor.

He ran over and switched it off.

Bloody classical music, he thought. Either as loud as the cracks in the sky of judgement day or as quiet as plotters in the alcove. He liked classical music but he always found listening to it on the radio frustrating.

Too wide a symphonic range.

Heart pounding, he checked his watch again.

It’s around this time he made supper for both himself and his wife. He went to the fridge and took out a packet of rindless bacon, eggs and a punnett of mushrooms and set the food down on the worktop next to the sink. It was then that he noticed that the mushrooms were turning brown around the edges. He peeled back the torn cellophane and held the packet up to his nose and sniffed a few times.

Detecting nothing noxious nor foul, he removed ten mushrooms exactly and nipped off the brown bits with his finger nails.

He sliced the bacon and chopped the mushrooms and fried them for about five minutes before adding the whisked eggs. Five minutes later he served the omelette onto two warmed plates and laid them down on the dining table.

 “Freda!” he called out.

Freda and he were not on the best of terms. They had an almighty row only a couple of days earlier and hadn’t spoken since. It was over something stupid. Freda wanted to watch Coronation Street. He wanted to watch the History of Mathematics on BBC4.

He sat down to his supper and tucked in, wolfing it down.

Omelettes get cold so quickly.

Before he knew it, he was nearly done. Freda’s plate remained untouched

“Freda! Your dinner’s getting cold”

Within seconds he finished his meal. He lifted Freda’s plate and touched the omelette with his fingers. It was more luke than warm. He placed it in the microwave without turning it on for sake keeping.

Knock. Knock .Knock

On the front door.

 He sat still, not saying a word.

Knock

“Who is it?” he shouted

“It’s Gertrude”

He ran out of the kitchen and down the hallway to greet Gertrude.

He pressed his left ear, his best ear to the door.

“What do you want?”

“I want to see Freda; I’ve come all the way from Huntsville you know”

“I don’t know where she is, let me go and find her. You wait there a second”

“Oh”  she said.

He turned around to Freda .

“Do you really want to see Gertrude while you wait for your omelette to be heated up?”

Freda smiled but she was smiling for days.

Freda lay still and quiet on the hallway floor, smiling but without knowing it.

“It’s nice to see you so cheerful love”

He bent down and kissed her on the lips.

“You’re very cold, dear. Let me get you a blanket”

Gertrude knocked once more

“Let me in this once”

A film of sweat formed on his back, sucking his shirt towards it to form a second skin. He lifted a porcelain clock from the occasion table and held it in his hands. It was a wedding present but had suffered minor damage just a couple of days earlier but nothing that anyone would notice close up.

He held the clock with his left hand,behind his back and reached over to the latch with his right.

“You can join Freda very shortly!” he said.

He turned to Freda, caressing her limp yellow hair.

“Gertrude is coming to stay with you. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

 Image ‘Black and White Photo of a Bench in Elizabeth Park in West Hartford, Connecticut, at Night: Photo by Sage Ross’ courtesy of http://www.annedarlingphotography.com

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