The growing pile of bin bags, stuffed full of things that have been unused for so long comforts her, she feels as if she is returning to the person she was just a few days ago, organised, focussed, someone who gets on with stuff.
She doesn’t recognise, doesnt want to recognise this other woman, the one who sleeps in the day time, hides under bedding, eats at strange times, reads stories in her own notebook she has no memory of writing.
This woman scares her, makes her realise how thin the layers of competency are, how quickly they dissolve when everything else that underpins them is taken away.
She resolves to keep busy for the rest of the stay, keep on track.
She wonders what she will do if she finds anymore of the strange little clippings and feels instantly conflicted. A part of her still believes that they are some sort of message from one or both of her parents, something important that she should ignore at her peril.
For a moment, she has a mad image, her parents sitting at the dinning room table, the orange handled kitchen scissors between them, cutting these headlines from a teetering pile of old newspapers while they discuss the best hiding places, not too obvious, not so challenging that she will miss them.
But, she knows that this scene is impossible, her mother had left speech behind long before she died and her father, quietly failing, had shown no signs of anything outside of the normal on her dutiful daughter visits.
She shrugs, this is not the type of thinking she should be falling into now, she must stay in the present, stay within the list of tasks to be done, use a red pen to tick things off as they are achieved.
There is an elderly cardboard box right at the back of the wardrobe, it is half wedged against the wood and she has to tug hard to get it out, almost unbalances and falls backwards.
The box has been taped up with sellotape, ageing now, yellowing, loosing its hold on the cardboard edges and as she pulls, it comes apart, revealing the contents.
The box is full of tiny china animals, each one wrapped in tissue paper, placed carefully on top of each other to ensure that none of them will chip or break.
They are hers, the little animals she collected, collected obsessively throughout her childhood and beyond.
She remembers them, lined up on the window sill, the book cases, even on top of the wardrobe, the favoured ones, kept carefully under her pillow at night and sometimes held tight in her sleeping hand.
She knows she shouldn’t, knows she has far too much to do, but the lure is too strong and she kneels down, the new , but becoming familiar twinge in her knees as she hits the carpet no longer surprising her.
She will just look for a few moments, choose a handful to take with her, they will, she reasons, look sweet on the shelf in the bathroom.
Like dipping into a lucky dip at a summer fete, she doesn’t even look, just grabs a handful and drops them gently, carefully onto the carpet in front of her and then bends nearer the little pile to unwrap them.
Two rabbits, rabbits were always her second favourite, a mute reminder to her parents about her lack of pets, a quiet, understated demand for a real bunny, for something to hug and cuddle.
A cat and 3 puppies, a chicken, that one surely a gift, she cannot remember ever having any interest in chickens and then the best animal, the ones she collected the most, the ones most likely to spend their evenings clutched in her warm hands, the horses.
She can, if she lets herself, remember these horses quite clearly, knows that if she sits here quietly for a moment or two that their names will float into her mind as if they have never, ever been away from her.
Midnight and Flicka and Ghost and Champion, she picks up the little black pony and trots him across the carpet, her throat re-finding the little clicking noise she used to make to replicate the sound of trotting as the ponies and horses went about their complicated story lives.
She cannot help herself now and digs again into the box, pulls out more and as she unwraps them, she remembers them all and finds herself putting them back into the families they lived in, lined up carefully according to the rules of her complicated china world.
She is so engrossed with these memories, the actual physical reality of the china animals that she almost misses the slip of newspaper, slid between a red squirrel and a slightly chipped china mouse, but there it is and really, she is unsurprised.
This box is so much of her, of her childhood, that anyone who wanted to make sure that she would find a clipping would have placed one here.
Before she unfolds it, she wonder for a minute if this one will be somehow more personal, will give her some clue to the purpose of this little game, treasure hunt, whatever it is, but it is just like all the rest, a headline, no explanation, no date, no story, simply a few words, an outline of an event without the event itself.
She reads the few words.
” Police Chief wrote his own death note”
Nothing else, she cannot tell if this is a obituary, a new story, she re-reads them as if this will make anything clearer and now of course the non story is worming its way into her head, pushing her to use it, to write something and she knows that this is not the time, knows that really she must get on, but it’s too late, this mornings’ focus is slipping away.
She stands up, glad to straighten her legs, take the weight off her knees, wonders for a moment when her body decided to slip into middle age and then she stops, she cannot leave all the animal lying around the floor, she cannot put them in bin bags and so, she spends minutes wrapping them up again, putting them back in the box, but she keeps a few out, the best horses, a grey rabbit and her best rabbit, black and white and slightly bigger than the other bunnies, always a perfect size to clutch in a palm and these she takes downstairs, wastes a few moments carefully arranging them on the coffee table, smiles at them and then pulls out her notebook and pen and starts to write.
The Next Narrative – The Police Chief who wrote his own death note
This is a simple story of greed and every day folk. The story of what happens to an ordinairy man when he gets greedy, when he thinks he can have it all. It’s my story and i am a very ordinary man indeed.
I always knew I’d be a police officer, not in some superhero fighting crime in Gotham sort of way, not in a personally tortured, booze loving, opera listening sort of way, not even in a slap the bitch, drive the motor around and around that one deserted car park/wasteland so beloved by 70s tv show makers sort of way.
No, it was much sadder than that, I wanted to be a police officer so that I could help people, so that I could do good. I didnt want to be a detective or a dog handler or a member of the SWOT team, I wanted to be a proper bobby on the beat, walking out in all weathers, measured fiootsteps, knowijng every inch of my patch, my people.
And that’s what I got, for more than 10 years, I was the model beat officer. I took real pride in what I did, the nods from the passers by, the waves from the kiddies in the primary school playground, the nose, the eye, those things they can’t teach you, but once you’ve got them, thry never leave you, that sense of when soemthing, someoen is amis, a wrong un.
And yeah, some days, it was tough, even occcasionaly, a little dangersous, more often, quite tedious, but he liked it, liked the quiet respect, the patterns of his days, the routiines and rituals.
Patsy ‘s given up on me now, has her own glittering career and just smiles when I tell her about my day
” stick in the mud” she calls me, it’s affectionate and besides it’s true, but just sometimes, I get that urge, the itch, to show her that trhere’s more to me than she knows , which is why I suppose that I said yes, why I’m sitting here now and why I’m writing this down.
It sounded like a joke at first or soemthing out of a science fiction film, Robo cop, but we kept being sent on thses courses and seing these training films and eventually it dwaned on me that there was a Robo Cop, but it wasn’t some huge killing machine, it was being designed to replace the likes of me.
And of ciurse, we all laughed, shook our heads as we sat in the canteen over chips and mugs of tea, I mean how can a machine be a beat officer? How can a lump of metal deal with people and situations and well, stuff?
Then they told us that they were loooking for expreienced officers to pilot the robo cops, well my first reaction was thank you very much, but no thank you and then I just saw Patsys’ face, that slight, fleeting look of boredom when I described what I’d been up to and I thought, that would show her, prove I’m not as dull as she thinks, give us soemthing new to taljk about.
So, to cut a long story short, I said I’d give it a go, I’d take one of these machines out on the beat with me, give it a go and then the scientists turned up and it was a bit like Doctor Who.
Loads of white coats and computers and things that went ping and they followed me around on the beat and took photgraphs and every day when i went home i had something new to tell Patsy and we took to sitting over a glass of wine at the kitchen table and it was, well, nice.
Eventually, the chief scientist, decent bloke really, said they were ready and that Robo Cop [ it wasnt it’s real name. just a joke really, but it stuck] would do its’ first session on the beat the next day and that I should be ready, alert and on my toes.
At home I told Patsy, we had a second glass of wine each, said we were celebrating, didn’t meet eachothers’ eyes and when we went to bed I couldn’t sleep.
I just wanted the morning to come, get it over with, take Robo Cop out on the beat and I wanted him/it to fail. i wanted to come home that night, smile, shrug and tell Patsy that I wasn’t that easy to replace.
( to be continued)