Silicon Fiction

August 1, 2007

Loss

Filed under: Flash Fiction — Chris Neal @ 9:41 am

Helen’s corner was still her corner even though she’d had the lounge to herself for two years now. On the small mahogany table to the left of her chair and illuminated by the yellow glow from the wide-shaded standard lamp behind were her reading glasses, with frames of clear pale-pink-tinted plastic and large, round lenses. These rested on the historical romance novel she had almost finished. On the small wall shelf above the table stood a framed colour photograph of her with John and their new grandchild Justin. It had been taken in the hospital, a year before John’s death. He had been thrilled at becoming a grandfather and had doted on Justin during the first few months, until he was no longer able to recognise the baby. Next to this was a pile of opened correspondence — bills, letters, junk mail, catalogues — that Helen would deal with when she got around to it. On the carpet under the table, her craft bag contained the beginnings of the yellow cardigan she was knitting for Justin’s new brother or sister. She was half-watching a game show on the old fourteen-inch television set, which stood on a new-looking mahogany cabinet in the corner. On the shelf below was the video recorder and two blank tapes, still in their cellophane. The volume was always set lower now that she had the remote control. The red brick fireplace was John’s domain, so it had lain cold since his death, replaced in Helen’s world by a portable electric fan heater which was humming hot, dusty air at her slippered feet. One duty she had taken over from him was the winding of the clock: a large, heavy wooden clock with a round, cream-coloured face — a wedding present that had stood officially in the centre of the mantelpiece, marking the rhythm of their lives for the last forty-seven years. She had felt like a thief as she opened the small wooden box on the mantel and took out the key for the first time, but the prospect of this room without the constant reassurance from the low, stately tick-tock was unthinkable. The rest of the room lay unchanged and untouched: John’s armchair with it’s greasy stain where his oily hair used to rest now lacking purpose, the plain wooden fold-out table in the bay window with its small pile of newspapers and three straight-backed wooden chairs, the glass-fronted dark wood bookcase next to the hall door with its full set of encyclopaedias, unopened since they’d been pressured into buying them by a man at the door twelve years ago. All of it redundant, yet silently admonishing Helen to leave it be. Whenever her daughter came round with Justin, they would use the dining room, which now looked more like a playroom. The game show finished and a commercial offered loans for the over-50s. Helen’s tea had gone cold and her eyelids started to droop.

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