Published 'Glimpses' 1994
Matthew occupied the garden, accompanied by a half empty bottle of Muscadet on the white table. He had the world's horrors on his shoulders knowing deep down that if he didn't visualise the downside, somebody far more evil would take up the mantle and dole out even nastier helpings from the dregs of man's barrel. Matthew's duty was almost like setting the bottom line. So, his thoughts had pain and sorrow as their marker. Furthermore, the monstrous hauntings that filled his mind had all the gore left in - mulchy corpses lying in wait with few shreds of flesh in place, then the mincing, the putrifying, living cadaver-swamps.
He was just visualising such a fate for his wife Amelia. Yet, she looks with a wan face into the garden, her dress picked out by an artist's palette, greens, blues and gorgeous reds. She stands at the kitchen door, empty wine glass aloft, as if intent on her share from Matthew's bottle. He tries to ignore her. Real people had this knack of creeping up on one and masquerading as ghosts. He'll have no truck with it.
She walks towards him, forcing a smile against his efforts.
He cringes. A small item has fallen from the sky into his wine, one with insect legs. He fishes it out but does not throw away the mouthful he is about to take. No such insignificant member of God's creatures will make Matthew lose out on any wine. Amelia pours herself a glassful and sits down in the other folding garden chair.
"There are dark places that I dare not clean," Amelia said.
Was she the woman Matthew had hired to keep house for him? Not a wife, but an employee? He could not be sure.
"I know the landing is dark, Amelia. I understand your fears." He does not understand his own, however.
"Not only the landing, the broom cupboard, too. And the main bedroom at the front of the house."
He seethed. He had told her not to venture into the master bedroom. There was nothing that could be cleaned properly in there, after all - and she might see the thing in the bed with which he slept.
Tom now stood at the kitchen door, another empty wine glass aloft. All Matthew's visualisations had now reverted to type. Tom used to be Matthew's son, before he grew too old to have him as a father and left home to be a teacher. Amelia beckoned Tom to join them in the garden. The grass needed cutting (still does), but Matthew had ensured that nowhere was there available anything that could cut it: to be on the safe side of the bottom line.
Tom helped himself to the wine and sat in another garden chair which had unfolded like a yawning stick insect before their very eyes. Tom's long legs took stretch and splay as if they yearned to escape the body they were tired of toting.
"Hiya, Dad, lounging around again, thinking up those thoughts of yours?"
"My thoughts, son, are more real than you'll ever be!"
Amelia, by now, had taken stock of the grass and urged someone, preferably not her, to cut it.
The people had returned to the house, leaving Matthew to think away to his heart's content. Where was his daughter? She was probably visiting one of those dark places from where no children ever returned. Better than watching soaps on TV. She had yearned to marry a fruit-stoner, but Matthew had said that a tinker, tailor, teacher or suchlike were beneath her. But she'd gone off to find the beggarman or thief, no doubt, to fulfil ideas she kept like ants' eggs in her head.
For all Matthew knew, his real thoughts are even now being acted out inside the house, whilst their alibi sits out here.
He puts the wine to his lips and is slightly amazed to find it treacly red, ripe for a midnight feast at noon.
He'd soon discover that the bottom line had been snatched away.