CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
She lifted the front of her coat and showed him her leg, which was bruised and had been recently bleeding. As he looked at it, he slipped into his physician persona, so much so that his right hand involuntarily twitched, as though reaching for his prescription pad, and he asked:
“How did you do that?”
“Climbing over my garden fence,” she told him. He looked up at her with a raised brow, then her confession poured out:
“There was a man at my front door, trying to get in. It was terrible; I can still hear the knocking. And I could see this big white thing through the glass; he was trying to deliver it but I didn’t want it, so I had to escape over the garden fence.”
John’s brow was still raised, so she told him, as if this explained it all:
“It was a big white thing; I could see it through the glass.”
“Why didn’t you just hide?”
“He kept knocking. He wouldn’t go away.”
John tried not to sound dismissive, nor doubtful of her sanity, as he asked: “And what do you suppose this white shape was?”
“A washing machine, of course!”
“A washing machine?”
“The one they’re trying to deliver, to help me with my leak.”
“Your leak?”
The woman seemed to be losing her patience with him:
“Yes, my leak! I have a leaking tap; it’s driving me had, and I phoned the helpline and he said to check my washing machine and I couldn’t open its door and now they’re sending me a new one.”
“A new washing machine!”
“I couldn’t say No.”
“But what does that have to do with a leaking tap?”
“It’s all connected. They found it in a trial, he said. The problem with the door has caused the leak.”
“But where’s the leak?”
“In the kitchen. They said it’s connected. But it will ruin me. I can’t afford to pay for it.”
“Well, just say No—you don’t want it.”
“But I’ve already said Yes.”
“Well, change your mind.”
“I can’t. I couldn’t think what to say, and now they’re trying to deliver it.”
“Just say No!”
“I can’t!”
“So, you’re going to spend the rest of your life climbing over your garden fence?”
“I can’t open the front door. It will be there.”
“Just look and find out.”
“But they might get in.”
“Well, close the door again, quickly.”
“But they might be too quick for me. What can I do?”
“Well, look from the outside. Walk along your street and look.”
“But they might see me. I can’t stand it any longer. The man might still be there, knocking on my door. I can’t go back home. I can still hear him in my mind, knocking—I can still hear him!—what can I do?”
John felt the desire to push her over the wall, which was the only solution he could think of. He said, “Oh, I’ve just remembered something; I’ve gotta go,” and walked onto the bridge. In the distance behind him she was shouting:
“What can I do? They’ve ruined me—”
On Tuesday evening, John walked back onto the bridge, having wrestled with his thoughts all day, and as he was midway across, he focussed on some of the now-familiar features of the gorge’s floor—familiar but seeming, as he looked down at them, an eternity away, across the flight of that dizzying leap from the bridge’s handrail. And as he was midway across, he became aware of movement about twenty yards behind him. He looked back and saw that same woman hurrying towards him. He recalled her distant words again “What can I do? They’ve ruined me—” which seemed in his mind as inescapable as the wind, as though those words were the accumulated cry of every one of his past victims whose dying sighs would now circulate within his head wherever he went. He turned back and quickened his pace.
Sally Softly had an unusually large collection of tracksuits. The whole thing started two months ago when she suddenly noticed that Peter, her husband, was behaving strangely. He was not paying enough attention to her, so she (and she was quite within her rights to do this) she complained to him, saying, “You’re a selfish pig; you never think of anyone but yourself.”
For the next few days he watched her out of the corner of his eye, and when she had finally had enough of this, she told him, “Stop looking at me; I know what you’re thinking; don’t think I don’t.”
From then onwards he did not say another word but merely kept looking at her with his face contorted, as if in agony. From this, she deduced he was now trying to trick her into thinking she was ugly. But she was determined to not let him get the better of her, so whenever “doughnut” appeared on her shopping list, she would immediately scribble this out, write a further entry below it, drag herself out of her easy chair and stagger to the nearest sports shop to buy a tracksuit (which was the added item on her shopping list), so that she could use the tracksuit to counteract the side effects of eating doughnuts.
At 17 Misconception Boulevard, Sally was now standing in her living room, wearing one of these tracksuits. She watched her usual exercise‑spot on the carpet, when she recalled Peter looking at her that morning with that look on his face. She reflected (—I’ll teach him to try to trick me into thinking I’m ugly—I’ll do some more exercise. Not that there is any excess weight on me, mind—because there isn’t—but—just in case. Then I’ll be so attractive—even more than I am now, because I’m already quite attractive—I’ll be so attractive, men will flock to me. And when Peter sees all these other men wanting me, he’ll then want me too but I’ll reject him—ha!).
She lay on that spot on the floor and endured ten minutes of absolute agony—throughout which she attempted to pluck up the courage to begin using the tracksuit. She then raised her legs into the air—with much groaning and shuddering—and her feet kicked about wildly above her, like delirious hatchets massacring a roomful of imaginary people. She did this for fifteen whole seconds, then her legs dropped to the floor and she gasped alarmingly.

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