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Sunday, 4 May 2008
Dead Eyes


(published 'Dementia 13' 1993)

Wednesday was her day for muddling out the week. It would be washtub, hoover-out, dust-off, polishrub, bedamake, stew-and-bake, from the head of the morning to the bottom of the evening. To her mind, she topped and tailed the whole world.

The flanks of the week, she merely sat back upon the laurels of her handiwork, gently sipping upon fine bone-china and mindlessly tearing strips from celery-sticks with her long fingernails.

I approached the front door, wondering about her reaction, for I was convinced she was used to meeting next to nobody. I was hoping that they’d be at least a half chance she’d a room to lodge out. The holding looked big enough, literally bulging all over with bay windows. The various extraneous lumps in the roof indicated a healthy supply of assorted attics. I would be willing to shake down literally anywhere. I knew she lived alone, because the milkman told me he only left one half pint per day. The postman, whom I had consulted earlier, said the letters were far and few between (none of them bills), mostly written in a feminine hand postmarked Kidderminster.

I gave the front door a modest knocking. Slowly, it opened almost immediately upon a chain-lock.


I could just see a face of designed darkness, speaking with a hole laddering up and down in its knitted flesh.

‘Have you a room to spare for a poor unfortunate?’

I’d had my speech prepared, but she’d phased me somehow.

‘Come in, Mr Cobb, do.’

I was taken by surprise, as she unzipped the lock.

My name was not Mr Cobb, but something far more unusual.

She showed me a room without an outside window, where a bed was already made up, its lip of sheet mathematically straight.

As I limped behind, I seemed to echo her own gait.

The oil paintings on the walls were pretty pointless, as the light from the meagre fittings did not seep that far.

I suppose it was tantamount to an interview. Me following like a shadow. Her leading. Talking about the room, as I did, she could see I was not blind. Resorting to the parlour, she offered me tea and celery. Telling me about her empty life. By nodding at the appropriate points in her monologue, I proved I was no deaf man either. She gave me the job. I was to be the corpse that would decorate the room I’d just been shown round. Apparently, she gathered corpses to her, much like other old maids collected ornaments for their marble mantelpieces. I pictured to myself all the rooms in the holding: dead eyes gleaming in the darkness as they sat propped up in the armchairs, antimacassars liberally peppered over to prevent green stains forming on the expensive fitted covers below.

I heard the letterbox rattle down the hall. The dull clink of a milk bottle from the porch. I tried to cry out, as she tore strips from my manhood. Indeed, I could not disprove my dumbness.

Nor my immortality.

Come Wednesdays, I feel the tickle of her duster behind the ears.

Posted by augusthog at 4:44 PM EDT
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