Flannel

by Josie Standbrook

The gear stick is rammed into “Park” as I throw my head onto the steering wheel and kill the engine. My eyes close and all I can hear is the proud fornication of a couple of foxes in the bushes. For a few seconds everything seems serene and I am smiling crookedly to myself. I sense sudden illumination from within the house but I don’t look up. There is no need. I know what is coming. He is stomping across the drive towards the car. Still I remain as I am. His hand yanks at my door handle to no avail.

“Open the bloody door.” The window muffles his voice. He sounds so far away. I suppose he is really. I cannot hide in here for ever; it is time to face the music.

I fumble the lock clumsily and flick it open, not realising that I am leaning right against the door until it is pulled open and I am vomited from the car onto the gravel below. My legs remain inside, under the steering column, but my hands react on reflex and seek stability, left one grappling the seat, right one smeared against the inside door panel. Eyes are open now but see nothing. My back cannot support the weight of my upper body and I become winded as my spine crashes against the hard, cold ground. I can see him now. At least the outline of him. He kneels down by my side, clad in his shrunken dressing gown. There is the distinctive warm taste of blood in my mouth, I notice. Have I been shot?

“For God’s sake. Look at you. What have you done to yourself?”

I gargle my bloody reply as he scoops me up like a soft ball of rum & raisin: “No idea.”

He pushes the front door open with his bare foot, carries me to the sofa quickly. I close one eye and use the other to focus on his face. I can’t recall it having ever been so ashen. Something really bad must have happened. He leaves the room. My ears follow his footsteps to the kitchen where he sobs into the running water of the tap. There is an awful lot of absinthe in my tummy and it aches. The aniseed sting claws at my throat and makes me recall a period of uncontrollable sickness. I would cry but I’m in enough discomfort as it is. He returns with a bowl of water and a flannel. I can smell TCP: God, its vile. He drops his head and cries a little. When he looks up again he resembles a little boy who’s lost his mum.

“Your face… it’s all broken.”

The world stops swimming for a few moments as I employ my shaking fingers to probe my features. I find two front teeth missing, my left cheekbone utterly shattered and a bottom lip as fat as a Cumberland sausage. Oh dear, that immaculate white flannel is going to be ruined.

Josie Standbrook is a short and sharp writer-cum-radio presenter with an adoration for that which provides instant gratification.

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