28th April


‘That place,’ Mick said. ‘Christ, what a hole.’

‘Anyway, I was back up there last week, for work,’ Tom said. ‘First time in years. So I had to take a turn round the old haunts, didn’t I? Well, half the street was gone. Our building – completely demolished. You know what’s there instead? A health centre.’

Mick was laughing so much he had to put his glass down. There was something desperate about the way he laughed, Tom thought.

‘That’s brilliant,’ Mick spluttered. ‘Maximum points for irony, eh?’

When Tom went up for another round, Mick slipped outside for a fag. The pub was quiet but then it was a Monday. Tom checked his messages. Nothing from Geraldine. Not that he’d expected anything. Tom and Geraldine, for God’s sake. What future other than one of continual strife could there be for a couple with those names?

Mick was a mess. Tom would have to sub him all night, so would be responsible for them both getting pissed again. He didn’t know if he could go on meeting him like this, for the old times. What were the old times now? They were over. You either waded in alcoholic nostalgia or moved on. He wondered why he’d mentioned the flat. Why he’d gone back at all.

Mick came in again. He lifted his pint. ‘Thanks, pal.’

‘Good luck,’ Tom said.

‘Remember Paul?’ Mick said. ‘Who had the box-room for a while? Nobody ever went in. Just putting your head round the door was bad enough.’

‘He cooked his meals in there, along with everything else,’ Tom said. ‘He had one of those camping gas rings.’

‘Aye, his bed caught fire more than once. Whatever happened to him, do you know?’

‘He died,’ Tom said. ‘I told you before.’

‘Paul died? Bloody hell. Bloody hell!’ Mick’s astonishment was almost as forced as his laugh. ‘How did he die?’

‘Drink, drugs, everything,’ Tom said. ‘Actually, what happened was he stepped in front of a bus. I told you that. But it wasn’t the bus that killed him, not really.’

‘Bloody hell,’ Mick said. He took a drink. So did Tom.

‘A health centre, eh?’ Mick said. ‘That’s a good one.’

Reader: Matthew Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
Subscribe here for more stories & music