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Counterpoint (standard:Psychological fiction, 4488 words)
Author: Gavin J. CarrAdded: Jun 04 2006Views/Reads: 1954/1184Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
After we're gone we all become a character in someone else's story.
 



The room is dark. 

The only light is from the television and the red winking eye of Tommy's
cigarette as he inhales the smoke. 

He is alone in the house; the third time in twenty years that he has
spent the night apart from his wife.  The first and second times were 
yesterday and the day before. 

He stubs out his cigarette in the ashtray balanced on the armrest.  It
is overflowing and he knows he should empty it, but he doesn't have the 
energy.  The light from the TV has hypnotised him.  He is not seeing 
the picture on the screen, but is inside his head, occupying a memory, 
a scene that he has re-enacted countless times over the past three 
days. 

The ambulance drivers are taking his wife away.  She is wrapped in a
blanket, the straps of the gurney fastened around her chest and thighs. 
 Her hair is wet; thin and straggly, hanging limply about her face.  He 
is worried she will catch a chill, but does not say anything.  It seems 
foolish to mention it in the circumstances. 

I should have said something, he thinks. 

He reaches into the top pocket of his shirt and takes out his tobacco
pouch.  He makes another cigarette, rolling the paper between his 
fingers and licking the gummed edge.  The process is automatic, like 
blinking or breathing. 

He glances at the clock on the wall across from him.  Another two hours
until visiting time.  He should get ready, he thinks, go upstairs to 
the bathroom and take a shower and shave.  He should change his clothes 
as well.  His shirt stinks of tobacco and fried food. 

But what's the point? he thinks.  What's the point of making an effort
if she won't speak to him?  She hasn't spoken since he found her in the 
bath.  She couldn't get out.  Why doesn't she speak? 

He better bring a fresh nightdress for her.  And a dressing gown and
slippers.  Maybe a magazine or a newspaper.  He can get those from the 
shop in the hospital.  But she won't read them.  Why won't she speak to 
him?  Is it something he's done?  The other newspapers are still lying 
on the table next to her bed.  No point bringing anything.  Just a 
change of bedclothes.  He should have said something.  There was 
nothing stupid about it.  He hopes she speaks soon.  He can't take much 
more of the silence.  She could have caught a chill.  It wasn't a 
stupid thing to say.  What is wrong with her? 

His head is beginning to hurt.  He puts the cigarette into the corner of
his mouth and reaches for his lighter.  It is a Zippo.  She gave it to 
him for his fortieth birthday.  Things were very different then, he 
thinks. 

He walks through the memory again.  She is on the gurney.  The wheels
bump down the stairs towards the back of the ambulance.  Her hair is 
wet.  He wants to say something, but doesn't. 

Tommy's head is pounding now.  His face feels hot and there is a smell
in the room.  Burnt cheese.  But that is silly, he thinks.  He never 
eats cheese, he can't stand the stuff. It gives him heartburn. 

His arm is numb as though he has been leaning on it for a long time. 
The pounding in his head is suddenly gone and then it is in his chest. 

The cigarette drops from his mouth and lands unlit on the sofa.  He
can't seem to get a breath; the air is thin and he can hear a whistling 
as he breathes out his nose. 

The pain is very bright now.  It is deep in his chest and spreading
outwards.  His throat feels dry and thick and he wishes he had some 
water.  The pain is everywhere and he is shaking. 

I should have said something, he thinks. 

*** 


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