David woke up at the screaming of his phone alarm, and not long after, he wished he had not, and had instead remained wholly subconscious. He felt like a taxidermist had acquired his body while he wasn’t looking and stuffed it with mothballs and sawdust. He was both too hot and too cold but too weak and thirsty to do anything to prevent the shivering sweats.
His stomach lurched unpleasantly and his brain had been replaced with a cheese grater that was enthusiastically working on the inside of his skull. On a positive note, however, David was at home and all of his clothes had returned with him, safely attached in all the right places. The poorly-taxidermied man groaned and rolled over, trying to evade the piercing wail of his alarm, but it was to no avail.
After pausing for breath, his phone started again at an even higher pitch and sounding decidedly more human. David rolled again, landing with a heavy thump on the carpet. His head hurting worse than ever, David looked accusingly at the sofa, mentally throwing image of a burning skip at the leather, to make clear what would happen to it if it dared betray him again. His phone was still trying to attract David’s
attention – “David? David are you listening to me?” it asked accusingly. He blearily turned his head to the noise, trying to keep the world as still as possible. It was not his phone. It was his wife, and she could not be put on snooze. David had married her twenty-odd years ago, when they were still young and in love. While
he could remember little of the actual nuptials (this was mainly, but not entirely due to the three whiskeys before the vows, two port toasts, an entire bottle of champagne, and an open bar), he was half-certain that at some point during the ceremony she had sort-of loved him. Then, as newlyweds they travelled about the world, experiencing the wonderful life of two people who had to not fall out entirely because they
were now contractually obliged to be bound together for at least one year, or until death do them part. David did not like his in-laws and they did not like him (“he’s just not our sort, dear”), but what they did like was the idea of grandchildren. Eventually they had broken their daughter down enough to consent to motherhood. Much to her dismay, she conceived quickly and gave birth to twin boys. More stuck with each
other than ever, the Knepps found all sorts of inventive ways to provoke each other. At first it was little things like voting for different political parties, then working late and digging up patches of the garden that had just been planted in by the other, then it was committing adultery and routinely returning home very drunk.
It seemed that David had managed to use this last tactic a little too effectively, for his wife had gone beyond angry to furious without release. “David! David I swear, this is the last time, damnit.” Mrs Knepp stared at her husband a little bug-eyed. She had been incredibly attractive once (which was why David had married her, he once admitted to a sympathetic
landlord in Woolwich), but her blonde hair had faded and become dry and frizzy. Spending too long under a sun-bed had given her a strange colour, like the colour of tea with thrice-used tea leaves, and she used a cheap brand of make-up to hide the wrinkles that had formed thanks to all that cosmetic burning.
“I’m sorry, love, I am. It’s not my fault, please just…” David tailed off, removing one hand from his head to wave in her general direction. This display did little to impress. “It is eleven o’clock,” she hissed, “and you are acting like a teenager. No, worse actually – the boys have good enough sense not to be sick on the doorstep.”
“I said I’m sorry, please…” “Every time, David. For fuck’s sake.” “I know, I won’t do it again.” Mrs Knepp snorted at her husband. His ability to convince her was about as bad as his receding hairline, and both did little to garner any appeal of any kind. “Whatever. I’m going out.”
“Where are the boys?” “Out.” She had disappeared behind the wall, fetching her coat, bag, and keys with a viciously loud amount of noise. “Where are you going?” “Fuck off.” David heard the front door slam. “Okay love, bye,” he said
to the air, adding, “have a nice time.” There was no response, which was David’s preferred form of reply. Silence meant quiet, which meant less headache. Less headache meant fewer regrets and self-pitying on his part. He struggled back on the sofa to try to fall back into the healing cocoon of sleep. The silence lasted all of five minutes before being interrupted by a loud and angry
ringing of the doorbell.