Friday 28 December 2018

Switching Off

by Sheila Barclay

Orange Pekoe tea  

He woke with a snort as his pen and newspaper crossword page slipped from his hands.  It was just midnight.  His legs were stiff from their extended stretch on the foot stool.  The TV was still murmuring away.

As his head cleared, he focused on the screen.  Some sort of black and white documentary, a young couple, standing in a summer garden, the woman cradling a white bundle.  She places the bundle tenderly into a pram and smiles to camera. The scene switches to show the same couple, walking along a shoreline, a toddler between them, marvelling at the eternity of the sea and the beach.  The child was terrified but at the same time fascinated, confident in his parents’ love….wait, how did he know what the child was thinking?  His heart clenched, his mouth hung open as the pictures faded and re-focused in a fast moving sequence being played out – a shabby terraced house, London buses crawling through grey smog, a barking black and white puppy, his puppy, Teddy. 

 “It’s my life!” he shouted out, incredulous.  Hands shaking, he tried to change channels. The screen remained resolutely focused.  He was standing now in front of the screen.  The images changed, gradually illuminating the story in colour.  He bent over the television to turn off the plug at the wall.  He gasped, as his life continued to unfurl itself in front of him.

He edged back to his seat, uncomprehending, watching as scene after scene in his long life revealed itself.  There was no sense to it, just short glimpses of key moments: meeting his wife, Jenny, crying with her when they lost their new-born son, his nervousness when he started his Civil Service career, laughing with friends in the pub……happy days, sad days….his life.  He closed his eyes, but the images continued unrelenting in his mind’s eye.

 “Time of death, I’d estimate about midnight.”  The doctor turned to the young Police constable, “More circumstantial evidence than medical,” he continued.  “A good way to go – comfortably in his own armchair, a half-finished crossword, probably been watching TV all evening.”

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