5th May

The News

She picked up the letter again. She must have read it twenty times already. What did it mean? It was addressed to her, the information was about her, but it didn’t mean anything. How could it? She felt perfectly well.

But there it was. She read it again. They’d done these tests and here were the results. They’d copied the letter to her doctor. Why hadn’t the doctor phoned? You shouldn’t get that kind of news by letter. So perhaps it was a mistake. If she phoned the surgery perhaps the doctor would say, ‘No, I’ve not received anything about this.’ And it would prove to be some bureaucratic error. These things happened.

But the wording was so stark and official. She couldn’t decide if that made it more or less likely that it was a mistake. That the letter had been sent to the wrong person, or shouldn’t have been sent at all.

Jim was at the pub. She’d not mentioned it to him over their tea. He’d gone out probably thinking she was being a bit quiet, a bit distant. She’d tell him when he came back, if he wasn’t too drunk. Or in the morning. Maybe she’d phone the surgery first, to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake.

At ten o’clock Jim still wasn’t in. She put the television on for the news. The main story was about a factory building in Bangladesh that had collapsed, killing hundreds of workers. For days rescuers had been finding survivors buried in the wreckage but they’d given up now, even though many people were still missing. Cranes and diggers had been moved in to start pulling the rest of the building down. Eight storeys full of businesses making cheap clothes. Thousands of people had worked in there. The footage showed a mass of grey concrete blocks, rubble, metal and cables, dotted with bright colours where bits of fabric were caught in the ruins. She saw a crane bringing down part of the building like a landslide, and thought of all those missing people, their bodies being rolled and crushed and broken all over again, like dolls. She couldn’t bear to look. She switched off.

Reader: Kate Molleson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
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