CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
The sun rose ten minutes ago and Jack Hutton walked into his bathroom. After fourteen years of training as a martial artist, he possessed a marble-like confidence in his ability to meet any earthly challenge. So confident was he that his usually calm and blank expression had even begun to adopt an occasional twinkle of complacency. But this he resisted, for he knew that such flaws were the downfall of champions. One day, he knew, he would meet his match. He reached for the soap but it was not there. In disbelief he looked down at the washbasin’s empty surface. Unable to believe the evidence of his eyes, he began involuntarily rubbing the porcelain, as if to check he was not hallucinating, or as if to perform some magic spell that might liberate the soap from its invisibility. Whatever his intention, he was disappointed, as the soap did not reappear.
The previous day, Maryanne, his girlfriend, moved in with him. Over the past eight years of living in his flat, he had never before had to locate a misplaced item. Each possession had its proper place and every task its correct procedure. His household had become as efficient as a martial arts routine and he was alarmed at how irritated he felt simply because Maryanne moved his soap. He located the “hidden” soap, used it and replaced it in its proper place. While his eyes were closed, he reached for a towel but there was only empty air. Again, like a conjuror he began involuntarily waving around in the air where the towel should have been, but his magic did not work. He dried his eyes with his fingers, located the missing towel, used it and replaced it in its proper place. He took a deep breath and exited the bathroom. His morning had never been so fraught.
He found Maryanne in the kitchen and noticed his breakfast had been prepared. In the bedroom earlier, she asked, “What do you usually have for breakfast?”
“Porridge, but I’ll make it.”
“It’s no trouble.”
“No, I’ll make it,” he told her as he headed for the bathroom.
With each of his meals, he had developed the recipes and cooking procedures so as to maximize the nutritional value and flavour. When he noticed she had used the wrong procedure to prepare the porridge, his acquaintance with calmness grew distinctly chilly.
He looked to Maryanne, who was now doing the washing up, and he noticed she was also using the wrong procedure there. Her dish stacking was inadequate. He rearranged the dishes into the most efficient draining position and managed to calmly tell her, “I was going to make the porridge.”
“It’s no trouble,” she reassured him.
He turned away to get a cup and as he opened the cupboard, he noticed her rearranging the washed dishes back into their “incorrect” draining position. He looked into the cupboard, and the cups had also been rearranged. He moved them back to their correct position, took out his “morning” mug, then noticed the kettle was now in a different position, as was the water jug, and that Maryanne had emptied the water jug without refilling it. This meant he now had to refill the jug himself and wait for it to filter through before he could take a drink. But Maryanne had filled the sink with her washing up, which made it impossible for him to refill the jug, which meant he had to wait even longer before he could quench his rising thirst.
Through years of training, Jack managed to defeat his temper, for to lose your temper was not only to lose any immediate skirmish, but also to harm your own health in some small way. But as he now stood there holding the empty jug, his eyes began misting with muted rage. He watched Maryanne and wondered how it was that his years of training had been so easily overturned by simply having a few of his household procedures disrupted.
Maryanne turned to him, smiled and said, “Isn’t it a wonderful morning?”
Lily was watching his face. She was sure she had seen him somewhere before but could not think where. Then she started recalling that place, the asylum; she could still clearly see its wards and corridors, even after all these years. And while continuing to watch this man raging at her from the sofa, she recalled the noise of the mob as they clung to her like the collapsing walls of some confined pit she had stumbled into. They were pushing her along a corridor, shouting, “Butcher’s wife!” Then they pushed her into that room; and she could still recall the sight of their close‑up faces and the feel of each of them entering her in turn like a series of brutally curious snakes, each determined to plant him inside her, so he would grow and grow until he, too, would become like them.
She continued watching the face as it raged at her. Yes, it was him, her second son, Thomas (—But why’s he come back here?—and after all this time, and just to read the gas meter? And who’s that woman beside him?—arguing with him and smiling at me—she keeps doing it!—what does she mean?). Lily heard the woman saying something about, “...your bloody petition again.” And then, “What does it matter?” And it seemed to Lily they must be talking about the gas meter: what does it matter about reading that when they can drink all her tea—“After all, what does it matter?”
Lily heard the man saying something about, “...her see‑nine letter to the MP.” But that could not be right, so perhaps he was saying, “I’ve seen nine letters to the MP.” Then she heard him saying there was room in the letter; he kept shouting this at the woman on the sofa, “There’s room in it and she doesn’t know.” And Lily wondered what there could possibly be room in the ninth letter for.
She watched his angry face, and suddenly the face seemed unfamiliar again. She knew he was connected with Tommy, her young boy, but she could not work out how. She could imagine Tommy’s face, and she could even hear his voice, a small boy’s voice, calling to her from somewhere nearby (—Yes, that’s where he is—playing in the garden. And he’ll want his dinner soon; what can I make? something for—), something for her dear little boy, the only one she had left now—they had taken her first one, Peter, and now she only had Tommy, her dear little Tommy.
She saw the man on the sofa glaring at her, then realized who he was, for she now remembered it was this man who stole her Tommy from her (—And now he’s come back to boast about it—“I’ve taken your Tommy, so you can’t have him any more, so there”—that’s just what he’s done).

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