It was three days since Frank emptied the last of the poison into her food.
She still looked shaky but the colour was coming back to her skin. The damned stuff had not worked as well as he had hoped.
His mug of coffee tilted as she lowered it to the table.
“Careful, mum,” he said. “It’ll take you ages to clean that out of the carpet.”
He stubbed his cigarette out in the ashtray and shook his head.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that in here,” she said, glaring at the assortment of cogs and gears arranged neatly on the floor in front of him. He shrugged.
“I’m using newspaper.”
She tutted and went back to the kitchen to get her own drink. “I saw Helen at the surgery again, today.” Her voice sounded shrill, even from the other room.
“Yes?” Frank said, carefully greasing a metal disc and slotting it into place.
“She wants to do more tests. I feel more like a pincushion every day.”
“What is she testing for now?”
“I don’t know; something to do with heavy metals. I’m feeling much better, though. I think I’m over the worst of it.
Frank nodded. She certainly was. He looked up at the clock and sighed. Helen would be at the bingo hall for at least another hour.
The light of the television flickered in the corner of his eye as his mum began trawling through the channels. He began to place the discarded ends of rubber tubing into a careful pile beside his untouched coffee as he stripped the ends of the cables and wired the device.
“Oh, before I forget,” his mum said. Frank paused, holding the ends of the wires away from each other. He breathed deeply. “Margaret called earlier. She wanted to know if you could pop over there and take a look at her pipes.”
“From number forty-two?”
“Yes, that’s right. She wouldn’t have asked, but her husband won’t be back for another month yet. I think his ship is still somewhere near Gibraltar.”
Frank nodded. Her timing could not have been better.
“Alright, mum. I’ll just finish this first. Did she say what was wrong?”
“I think it’s that kitchen pipe again. I keep telling her not to pour old fat down the sink but she won’t listen.”
Frank put the last pieces in place and got to his feet.
“I hope you’re not going to leave that there.”
He rolled his eyes. “I was going to put it in the cellar. Could you get the door for me?”
She followed him out into the hallway and opened the cellar door. “It’s freezing down there,” she hissed as a fist of cold air rushed up to meet them.
“The heater’s broken,” Frank said. “I told you last week.”
“Oh, that’s right. Listen, can you fetch me a bottle of wine? Helen said she might come over after bingo.”
“Sure,” he said. She usually did.
He went down the stairs and very carefully placed the device on the shelf. It looked snug, sandwiched between two pyramids of jam jars filled with nitro-glycerine.
Frank set the clock and walked slowly back to the stairs.
He paused by the wine rack and picked out his mum’s favourite. As he climbed the stairs he slipped off the marigolds and left them dangling like a deformed pair of hands over the rail. He shut the door behind him and took the bottle through to his mum.
“I’ll be as quick as I can,” he said, giving her a peck on the cheek. Up close he could see the coarse hairs that sprouted randomly on her chin. The perfume she wore was sweet and cloying. He was glad he would not be home when Helen arrived.
She looked up at him from the corkscrew and smiled. “See you later.”
“Sure,” he said. He glanced around as he took his coat off the hook and nodded to himself. “Bye, then.”
He stepped out onto the dark street and lit a cigarette. It was a chilly night but at least the rain had stopped. The dark tarmac shimmered gently under the harsh sodium glare of the streetlights. In the distance a dog barked.
He began to walk slowly along the pavement, enjoying the tranquillity. Dylion Crescent was close to a mile long from end to end and formed a crooked smile on the side of the quietly industrial Devonian town.
scary sod indeed.
I'd be asking for pages via email on this one.
At some point, I'd need a damn good synopsis to make sure there's a plot lurking somewhere. Very black comedy is a tough sell, but I'd probably try to call it something else if I really loved it a lot.