This is another way he remembered her.
Her laughter flowered the living room walls causing colours to bloom here and voices, like hot-air balloons, also. Her face framed at the hatch, asking from the kitchen, who’s for dessert. And some of them claimed to be stuffed, but thank you, and some of them, groaning, held up a palm. And one by one, all at the table declined. But Knott, having been here before, and knowing this routine like the back of his hand, thumbs make-believe braces, leans from the shadow of the mantel, enquires of the rumoured dessert.
“There’s pear gateau,” she says to the room. “But I will have to defrost it first.”
Perfect. I’ll wait.
But this time, this time she doesn’t hear him, and the silence, albeit brief, is deafening, until Jif Nylon, sensing something, suddenly raises his glass to the ceiling and making much ado of wobbling his head hither, thither, gathers the table with his sign-writer’s eye, chin-chins her at the hatch with a wink and rouses, with merely his tongue, his liquid demeanour, the others to join him in verse. Much singing of glass ensues and they all begin ringing a drunken choral; a quite joyous tribute to her name: Jif Nylon and Lawrence and Laurence and Debbie and Dipper and Hester – a coffee bean dachshund by the name of Talulah, pupped at her breast.
But Jif Nylon notes, almost at once, that Martin doesn’t bring song to the table. So he pats down the celebration and begins to berate him. And then Lawrence berates Martin Kettle, too. And then Dipper and Debbie and then Hester, and even Talulah, the coffee bean dachshund, shakes her head. Laurence, finally, also stops singing and the simple song sinks to the floor.
“Sing up, Martin Kettle. Sing!”
Martin explains that he has the voice of an angle, a groan rolls out all round the table, causing his cheeks to rose. He grins his graveyard grin and excuses himself and the song begins all over again.
She encouraged them out to the little backyard just by opening the living room door and shooing them with a friendly flutter of fingers. They collected there and cigarettes were smoked. She wanted to dance, and remembering that Knott, several years back, had weaved a string of fairy lights into the ivy that clung to the brickwork, reached her hand into the unknown spaces of the wall.
She fingered blindly the stone and the ivy and whatever else was there, and quite suddenly she found the small plastic switch, and this caused her to laugh. The wall blossomed. The pinprick stars and the tiny lights at the wall all began to slide away and she felt herself slide with them, becoming suddenly the sad centre of this universe. Jif Nylon, sensing something, appeared at her side, all idiot face and painted palms. “Hey, no crying on your birthday,” he said and this made her splutter. She slipped out of his grasp and for something to say she said that she would check on that pear gateau.
Martin was stood over the Decca, the arm of it in his fingers. As she passed him he cupped, briefly, his brow and wished her many happy returns. She stood in the kitchen and, thinking herself alone, dabbed a tissue at her eyes, wiped her nose. Thought herself stupid.
He watches her framed at the hatch and the silence, albeit deafening, is brief.
bar room trill (mercurial)
Once upon a time…