He flicks the rolling news channels at 4.37am, hoping
to catch a breaking natural disaster or some war crimes:
something that might lick a crackle of feeling. Maybe
he’ll get a dog. Something big and slobbery that needs
walking and feeding and grooming and sticks throwing.
Plastic bags in coat pockets like a responsible owner.
A good citizen, utilizing those red bins in the park. Severe
weather warnings on the telly – torrential rain lashes the UK.
High winds crashing ancient trees on motorists. All helpless.
Last night, a voicemail from Mum, twittering about Christmas.
Words quick-tripping: a clockwork toy mother, over-wound,
spinning skitter-circles, to an inevitable slowing, wearying,
with that sigh, a gutter clogged with Elnett and cooking smells.
“You’ll have to have the sofa – you won’t mind, will you love?
Dave and Clare have the spare and the kids are in your room.”
His room? Twenty years ago, yes. Of course he doesn’t mind.
Doesn’t want to go there at all. But to not would mean questions.
Burst river in rural Wales. Mud sluicing rancid through homes.
MPs express sympathy. Devastated residents. Outraged faces
on the screen. It’s good. More real than her hesitant cheeriness,
her creased brow in the words. A tea towel wrung in red hands.
“We strongly advise you not to travel,” says the TV. Austere.
That’s better: he thumb-strokes the remote, subsiding back
on the sofa. The possible dog would soon be whining to go out.