7th April

The Blue Plaque (2)

Douglas and Aileen stood in front of the blue plaque, together but separate, each trying to make sense of what they were seeing: his name on it, the authoritative statement that he had lived at that address for three years, and the unavoidable inference, from the dates given, that he would be dead in another two. Aileen rang the bell a second time.

‘It must be some kind of joke,’ Douglas said while they waited.

‘So you keep saying. I don’t find it funny, Douglas.’

‘It’s nothing to do with me,’ he snapped back. ‘I’m not amused either, by
the way. Anyway, I thought you had to be dead before you got one of these things put up.’

‘Not long to go, apparently,’ she said.

‘How many times do I have to tell you? It’s not me.’

‘It’s you all right. Who else could it be? The only question is what you’ve
been doing down here for the last three years. On your business trips.’ She did not so much say the word ‘business’ as spit it on the pavement.

Douglas lost his temper. ‘For Christ’s sake, stop talking as if we’re in the middle of one of your stupid paranormal novels. This is either a sick joke or a complete coincidence. And obviously, if it’s the former, it’s wrong on two important counts. First, I’ve never lived in this house, in fact until five minutes ago I didn’t know of its existence. And second, I’m not dead, nor do I intend to be in two years’ time. So will you please get those facts into your infantile little head?’

He felt infuriated, justified and terrified. What made him so angry was that it was just like one of her novels. If he could only hang on for another page or another minute, he would wake up and it would all be over. It probably was anyway, after what he had just said about her writing.

They heard steps behind the grey door. A woman, less glamorous than Aileen but considerably younger, opened it. Although she raised her eyebrows, she did not seem particularly surprised.

‘Oh,’ she said, ‘it’s you.’ And then: ‘And who’s this?’

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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