Like blood from a crikey it was, a hurt through the brain. Not in some grand meta, maybe that was the problem, that you didn’t go getting metaphysical veterinary because if you did then maybe, maybe then things would be suiting but they weren’t, things had not been suiting her so well at all. Another Tuesday in from work to open straight into, such an understandable, easy way to feel the evening now belonged to her not those dogs swallowed tights not microchipped cats, coughing sheep. Another Tuesday come to this. To think, maybe it was the winter but for months now she had been trying not to think about how it had come to, crikey it was, a hurt through the brain.
How many, people went years didn’t they of coming in straight into a glass of years without facing up, accepting the need for change. Because what if it wasn’t veterinary this town wasn’t the, what if it wasn’t the situation but she that was at blame? The thought, was it the same, to have a thought or entertain a thought was that the same as contemplating or taking an idea from off its shelf and onto the scales. Suicide or phoning in sick, letting everybody those coughing sheep down.
The cornered glow from the TV humming and would it be the same on some beach Martinique or the Comoros would it be any different over there, a change of climate sun on the face. Her, anywhere she went she would be taking herself with her but not the sheep the coughing there would be no coughing without sheep. To be past changing but, looking back now it wasn’t as if she had made the effort to distance herself from those possibilities, things had imperceptibly slipped and aligned into something past shifting, such weight on the scales. An aptitude for science and look at us now. The TV on and wineglass refilling, noise as if, shadows lengthening and the TV turned louder.
When last did you laugh?
What kind of a question is that?
When did you last lose yourself in laughter?
How did you get in?
You should lock the door.
I thought I had.
Who even are you?
The glass flowing empty to full and, really, to have gotten here, nothing to watch if you don’t like houses don’t like cooking, another morning with the sheep tomorrow, a Mediterranean climate with olives on the veranda, chairs painted white for the outside and would it be any, just a phone call but for the slur, they’d smell it wouldn’t they, the drink on her breath. Just, an aptitude for the sciences, better at them than the other subjects other children and why not, if you’ve got the grades then why not, why not think at least of applying it’s worth giving it the go. You can always do an evening class if you still fancy painting. How many, not years but decades and counting still, so many times since, every day you might turn around but that seeming the crux of it still. See how it feels in six months for a holiday when your exams are through. Just, give it another year before changing upside down.
Just, if you were to go home and not reach straight into it, take up a hobby something to do but, how to do an evening class when you can’t hold anything but a glass come the evening and the TV a candle guiding through the night. Something to aim for. All day and the dogs swallowed tights the thought of it churning like a stomach. Just the one, a glass to take some edge off but opened again the bottle and the cork unreturnable, pouring sloshing still. Nothing to watch but the light from the box, other people’s kitchens, how Italians fix their roofs. Some gloaming, you might call that half-light a gloaming. Nothing to be done.
Nothing to watch but the light from the box, other people’s kitchens, how Italians fix their roofs. Some gloaming, you might call that half-light a gloaming. Nothing to be done.
You should lock the door.
I thought I had.
Who even are you?
Why be like that?
Like be like, what?
That with me, that. Saying you don’t remember when.
Letting yourself in and standing there pacing around when I don’t even know you.
Why are you being like this?
Being like, in my home I’m being like what am I even being like?
Saying you don’t remember, the things we’ve been through.
What things really I, don’t even know you.
We used to sit together.
We used to sit together?
In geography and maths. German.
Don’t say you don’t remember German. Mein bruder hast blaue augen und wir gehen aus dem kino. Ich möchte apfelsaft.
I don’t have any.
I beg your?
Apfelsaft, I’m all out of apfelsaft.
Nice of you to think of me.
It’s, why are you?
I was getting to that.
You remember me then?
Maybe it’s, we sat next to each other in German that’s, must be, decades ago now.
More than two.
If time were not a thing to spread and ripple but instead condensed, grew solid and, what texture might it hold what colours might be found within that substance if it were a thing congealed and viscous, contained within a jar or able, like a brain removed from its chamber capable of being placed carefully on a plate, old crockery. How might it smell. Grey matter flecked and wobbling. The stains it would leave. If time did not go but remained, grew fat and heavy.
Cutting through, with surgical blades dissecting envy and pride, regret a membrane tough as gristle. What good would be done, to hold again the years, examine the damage through a microscope. To see again the tangerine blush of youth swallowed whole. What good would be done, to hold again the damage, feel its weight. Years dense as stone.
Don’t say you don’t remember German.
It’s just, a bit. Decades, it’s a matter of decades now and, there’s so much I’ve forgotten.
Us, we sat together. Third row on the right.
So you say.
I’m not a liar.
That’s good, but.
I’ve a job for you.
One last hit.
But, I’ve already got a, I’m already employed.
Don’t say you’ve forgotten.
I’m not sure, what there is to forget.
You were the best we had.
What good would be done, to hold again the years, examine the damage through a microscope. To see again the tangerine blush of youth swallowed whole. What good would be done, to hold again the damage, feel its weight. Years dense as stone.
But, just one day off sick without an alarm the coughing, what could be done with a morning, the afternoon. In this town where everybody knows, not her but, who she is, what she should be doing, this town where each movement is a known and noted thing. To stay in bed or, might as well take a hangover to work as cower inside it someplace else.
The best we had.
At German I, didn’t even take it at O-level even. Sciences. I was always best at the sciences.
Things weren’t the same when you left.
I’m sorry I really don’t, know what you’re.
One job, a final hit.
So you’ve said.
Don’t tell me you’ve gone straight.
I’ve told you I’m a vet I’ve never, never not been straight this is getting really, it’s a bit much now.
One job, a final hit and that’s it we’re through I mean, really, think about it. I don’t want to make life difficult for you, have to be more persuasive than I’m already being.
This isn’t making sense.
You’re the missing link.
I think you should leave.
Let’s call it ten.
You drive a hard bargain.
I’m not bargaining with you.
Twenty, that’s the final offer before, I don’t want to have to start getting persuasive with you.
I’m not sure I’m here to be persuaded.
Ten now ten later, when the job is done. In twenties, non-consecutive, used notes.
This isn’t getting any clearer.
I’m not here to explain.
Really, it’s. Please, leave me alone.
Non-consecutive notes. Ten now and ten when it’s done.
When what’s done, really. Please.
The job, really. Please. When the job is done and you can get back to what was it, veterinary you said?
Veterinary yes please, I’ve a start in the morning.
Oh I’ll be going but, count them. Think it through.
Persuasion, I don’t want you to have to start thinking persuasion through.
At the kitchen table and the TV humming, creaks of the house never still and washing-up from yesterday even the day before heaped in unctuous water, crockery overpiling the sink. Thumbing notes into groups of five trestled upon the surface. How many of these to be counted, checked again and again checked and counted. Non-consecutive currency. It is all there.
David Roberts is a poet, writer and artist currently based in Sheffield, England. His work has appeared in places such as Poetry Wales, Sein und Werden, the Bohemyth, UK Climbing and Ink, Sweat and Tears. He loiters @djohnroberts