The C Word
Brendon had never liked mobile phones, so when the lock-down happened, he became more isolated than most people.
He’d never had internet or a computer. He was too old for all that nonsense he said. Why would he need to sit in the house all alone pressing alphabet keys, like a child playing with a toy? He was happy to sit in the pub instead, having his meals cooked for him and the washing-up done. His friends came and went. Brendon was easy-going and funny, strangers always said hello, other lonely people sat with him for company.
It’s not that he drank a lot. He just drank all day. Paced himself he liked to say. It’s my own style of pacing. It’s called erratic pacing he would joke on those days when he lost his counting ability after a few too many. The staff knew him. They liked him. He was no trouble. Sat at the table by the window left of the fireplace in the Station pub, he played scrabble, or cards, or dominoes, or even solitaire – there was always someone who would happily share a game with him on the quiet days. From Thursdays the pub was packed with young people and music. Why would he ever need to be at home he’d say?
Brendon did his laundry on Mondays come rain or shine. Angie had called it Monday blues. Ten years earlier, he’d worked out that if he built a bit of a ‘clothes port’ – a covered area in a convenient location of the garden, once the clothes were hung out to dry, he wouldn’t need to worry every time the clouds threatened rain. He could leave the clothes to it, whatever the weather. He could imagine her now, poor Angie, she’d be fetching the washing in and then taking it out again. Why hadn’t he built the cover for her, back then? She was a hard worker that one. What was it that kept her busy all day he wondered? He changed the bedding and pushed the vacuum about while the washing machine noisily did a shuffle around the laundry.
room. He occasionally even mopped the bathroom and kitchen floors, but after he’d put the clothes out to dry, he was done. Monday afternoon, all housework completed. Damn the C word. It changed his life.
Drinking at home took a little getting used to. At first it was restful. Sitting in the hot sun. Opening the first bottle. It was music to his ears: that click as the lid bent back, the fizz of relief from the beer as though a fat stomach had been released from a tight belt, and then that tinkle as the lid fell onto the concrete slabs. Angie had wanted the slabs taken up and replaced with something nicer. She loved to make work. The beer bottles were too heavy to carry home. Two packs of four, then four packs of four. Then the second trip to the shops and the stagger back. Then the looks from people. Why can’t they mind their own effing business?
Brendon didn’t have a car, and he was too wobbly these days for the bike. If they could deliver, he would place a regular order and pay up-front on a
Monday afternoon for a week’s worth of alcohol. The Twenty-Four Hours Supplies shop on the High Street agreed to do it, though it was not a service they normally offered. He was a regular customer, so it would be just a favour for him. They were lovely people. It was a convenient set-up – on Monday’s and Fridays they left a supply in his porch, which was left unlocked for them. But soon the rations had to be increased, and then it was decided they would deliver a bulk order once a week, which increasingly got bulkier, until the Monday when Brendon couldn’t get out of bed. The supplies suddenly stopped.
It took a couple of days on the wagon for Brendon to recover. Thirst, hunger, and the shakes finally brought him to his senses, or maybe it was the rain banging hard on the roof of his clothes port. The clothes had hung there for two weeks, undisturbed. Where had the weeks of endless hot sunshine gone? He looked at Angie smiling at him, and he smiled back kissing the glass and losing his balance. She always had that effect on him. Yes, the earth did move, he said loudly. He left a sticky mark on the glass from his lips which had slimy white lines of spit and plaque from days of drinking and sleeping with his mouth open. His teeth had furred, and thin white threads of spit hung between his lips as he laughed. Effing C word. He put the photo frame down, wobbled and fell back onto the sofa.
Brendon was sober for nearly a week. He showered, toasted stale bread, and watched television for the first time in days. No change. The news was grim. He switched it off. One dead person was about all he could handle. He ventured out into the rain, bumped into one of his oldest friends, Eban, who greeted him with an elbow to elbow touch as they laughed and joked and Eban coughed into the crutch of his arm. Then they queued for nearly an hour outside the bank and talked of old times. How many years since Angie? He said he tried not to count but it was twelve years eighteen weeks and two days. And hours? They looked at each other eye to eye and burst out laughing, accidently spraying spit until other people in the queue scowled at them.
Brendon had had enough time to establish quantities and costs and now he wouldn’t need to keeping popping out every Monday afternoon to pay for supplies. He’d pay for goods in cash, on delivery. It proved a point: You didn’t need phones or internet to survive. Brendon took out two thousand pounds from the bank, agreed his order at the Twenty-Four Hours Supplies shop before going to King Kebab for fish and chips. He was tempted to walk past the Station for a look but decided against it.
Brendon drank away the next few days. He felt under the weather. His first order arrived on the following Monday afternoon. They took the envelope of money from the porch, as was agreed. He dragged the supplies into the living room, where they remained. He could hardly walk. He was out of breath. He lay on the sofa with a bottle of whiskey, the photo of Angie, and the urn in which she was kept.
It was two weeks before anyone noticed Brendon’s absence. The supplies arrived in the second week but there was no envelope with money, so they didn’t deliver anything in the third week. The alarm was raised on the fourth week when the shop assistant decided to call on Brendon and found the groceries from a fortnight ago still in the porch.
Post-mortem: Brendon was an extremely vulnerable person. Pancreatic C and C-19