Above the bins a limp condom hung over a pipe like a dead slug.
I'd hardly noticed Charlie's transition from child to . . . to the age when . . .
He peered under the sink. "It's not mine," he said.
"Get rid of it."
I sent him to his room. I didn't want his help. I needed the time to think. To plan.
As I tidied, disinfected, scrubbed, and bleached, I drank three double shots of Rodney's Scotch, one for each hour, and somehow managed to put a meal together afterward.
Charlie ate it, then left.
Sleep, eat, leave. That was the pattern now. Sunday, April 16, 1995, was the day I realized I could no longer cling to the reason I'd stayed so long. My son was no longer a child. I'd filled this home with handmade quilts, chutneys, stripped pine, and wicker baskets. I'd built this nest twig by twig for Charlie, but he no longer needed it. Or cared for it. I wasn't sure if he cared for me anymore.
When the cotton wool left my mouth and the knot at the back of my neck unraveled after too much single malt, it was time to taste the musty oak in a glass of Shiraz.
I set wine, a slice of bread, and a wedge of cheese on the table and sat down to think some more. Then in came Rodney.
"You're back," I said. "How was the golf?"
He slammed his house keys onto the pine table I waxed every day and walked over to the microwave. "Is this my dinner?" He peered at the plate inside, then jabbed at the buttons to warm his meal.
Mephistopheles snarled and Marguerite wailed. I'd put on opera, Gounod's Faust, and I'd turned it up good and loud, really loud, to help me think. Rodney snapped off my music, switched on the TV, and proceeded to watch the history of the Wolves Football Club.
He stared ahead at the screen and twirled strings of pasta around his fork. The starchy ball wouldn't fit into his mouth, so he gobbled at it.
His hair stuck up in tufts and I tried to find it endearing.
I tried to love the sound of his voice. "Kick the ball into the bloody net, you great fairy," he growled, waving a fist.
I tried to yearn for the touch of those thin lips that bristled with a moustache the texture of coconut husk.
"Rod, look at me for a second." I searched for emotion in those milky eyes. "Charlie's party got out of hand."
His eyes floated back to the TV.
"Rod, they drank beer and more besides, and for some reason, they stacked the cans in the dishwasher and dropped an empty bottle of vodka into the fish tank."
"GOAL! And about sodding time!"
"At least, I think it was empty. Goldie seems none the worse, but Fred is swimming in spirals and Mabel is floating belly-up. A couple of our lamp shades are cracked, the brandy goblets are in pieces, and should we cut Charlie's allowance to pay for replacements?"
"The referee's blowing the whistle. Would you bloody believe it?"
"Isn't the game you're watching three years old? I'm afraid I smashed nine plates. Someone peed in the kitchen and you won't believe what else I found. Five broken canisters, four exploded light bulbs"
Reprinted from Cover the Butter by Carrie Kabak, pages 1-13, with permission from Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 20054 by Carrie Kabak. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced without permission.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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