Aftermath

August 9, 2012

Joe tugged the ring pull on the cold can of lager he had fetched from the kitchen before taking a long draw on the cigarette that he placed carefully on to the edge of the ashtray. He glanced around the room, at the floral wallpaper, that his wife had picked with his sister at some cut-price DIY store and his brother-in-law had hung whilst he was on the late shift. He took a long pull from the can, not his first, though it was only six thirty and wondered whether he should have stayed on in the pub rather than letting Bob drop him home. Production on the night shift had stopped at four with a breakdown on the six stand that would take hours to repair. Without the six stand to roll the strip steel into thin sheets, there was no production so a quiet nod and wink and the boys went home.

Home, Joe snorted, it was always possible to get a drink if you knew where to go and when he had jumped into Bob’s car, they both knew a local that would serve a couple of thirsty workers, even at four in the morning.

The beer wasn’t great and there was no talent to ease the eye at that time, but he hadn’t found it difficult to persuade Bob to jump in for a few before heading home to bed. He supposed he could have stayed on in the pub until official opening time, it wouldn’t be the first time he had, but instead he bought a couple of dozen rolls and a newspaper from the van parked outside the pub. He had left a dozen on the passenger seat when he got out of Bob’s car and watched as Bob drove off, weaving occasionally before disappearing from view.

Joe pulled hard on his cigarette, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs and formed the smoke into smoke rings that floated up to the ceiling. The boys always loved smoke rings, but it had been a long time since he had.

The boys, he thought about Jed asleep and unaware whilst Miriam slept in the room next room. Graham, however, was asleep in the cold, dark, earth. Joe took another drink straight from the can, this time. A shapely brunette posed on it’s side, eyes twinkling and though Joe didn’t notice through his splayed fingers.

He had come home from work; no more tired than usual and perhaps he hadn’t closed the gate behind himself properly. Perhaps it was the postman who had left the gate open after himself, though he doubted that.

Miriam was busy with the new baby, Jed as he cried and needed fed so she was distracted and didn’t notice as Graham tugged down the door handle and took his walker outside.

The walker was made from lightly stained wood and red metal and contained a number of wooden blocks with numbers and pictures on them. Graham had loved it from the moment that he saw it and as soon as he was able to walk he was never without it.

If the gate hadn’t been open, things might have been fine. If the driver hadn’t taken a wrong turning and been in a rush that day, things may have turned out differently. Joe would never know, though in his sleep he would hear the screeching of brakes, and the dull thud, followed by a scream. He had jolted from sleep, the taste of stale cigarette smoke lingering in his mouth as he jumped from bed and stumbled, blindly towards the sounds.

Joe glanced from one to another, struggling to take in the scene before him. The driver, his face pale and anguished as he stared out of the window, Miriam screaming in disbelief as she clutched Jed to her chest or the twisted body that lay still on the ground, blood pooling from his nose and mouth.

Joe lurched towards the car, intent on dragging the driver out and pounding him until he woke up and realised it was a nightmare, but it wasn’t a dream. Frank, one of their neighbours had grabbed and held him by the shoulders.

‘Leave it, son. The ambulance and police are on their way. Let them deal with this.’

The day had passed in a daze, but the recriminations that followed lasted much longer. He knew he should have been thankful that he had one, living son, but the thought of Graham’s body, lying alone and broken on the ground wouldn’t leave his mind. He drank more and more, spending more time away from home, coming home only to eat and sleep.

He had found it difficult to talk about to anyone, until he met Maggie. She had smiled when he bought her a drink, even at his cheesy lines and when they drank together and ended up in her home, she listened as he blurted out the full story and held him with no questions asked. What a mess, he groaned, but there was nothing else for it. Maggie, who sat with him, drank with him, listened to him and who was pregnant, by him, needed him. He knew that he would soon need to tell Miriam and face the consequences of his actions. He emptied the last of the can and staggered to bed.

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