Monday, 20 October 2008
“If it captures anything, it’s an essence of mankind; an inkling of a moment’s despair transfigured over hundreds of pages, infecting each and every character it comes in contact with like a plague rat.”
Deborah was half listening. She hadn’t heard what book he was talking about. She guessed a classic, Dickens or Dostoevsky perhaps. It could have been; he liked picking on them. She almost bothered to point out that it was fleas rather than the rats themselves which spread bubonic plague. Not worth the effort to do more than nod or mumble an agreement, though. Better still to look out the window and sigh low enough that he couldn’t hear her.
What strange things pass through those wires, she thought. The truncating junction of collections of cables, attaching themselves to unseen abodes: she stared hard at them, like she could understand them, like she could see the sparks and waves that flowed within their casing.
Patrick had been talking, all the while. His little sparks and waves had become all too lost in tiresome evaluation. He had become a bore, before he’d really grown that old.
She turned around and regarded him in his rigid brown pullover and smart trousers. He looked like he was about to go and lecture, but it was Saturday. Saturday, for God’s sake, Patrick. But Patrick didn’t remember Saturday.
He saw her looking at him and was pleased. So she had been paying attention. He liked the feel of eyes paying him attention, even if they regarded his clothes and not his face. Clothes maketh the man.
“I’m just going to make a phonecall.” He half whispered this, like he was already on the phone and didn’t want the person on the other end to hear. He pointed at the telephone he held in his left hand, as if she might be too stupid to know what it was. For some reason, he swapped it to his right hand to make the call.
She turned around, back to the window, so slowly, like the air in the room had thickened and started to set during the last ten seconds. She slumped her chin back onto her waiting palms, arms resting on elbows, elbows on window-sill.
Now she could hear exactly what those sparks and waves meant, exactly what they were transmitting via their metal tendrils. Downstairs, the washing machine was kicking in to its final earth-clattering spin cycle. She got up, because she knew it was almost over.