In the absence of an ironed shirt, I fish Monday’s blue and white check out of the laundry basket and, after a quick sniff, decide that it can be worn again. A different tie will complete the deception.
Stumbling downstairs, even the thought of breakfast makes me nauseous, so I settle for a quick cup of tea. Whilst the kettle’s boiling, I dash into the bathroom, piss copiously, then splash cold water on my face. After a quick shave (I cut myself twice), I stoop to run my head under the cold tap in the hope that this will remedy the hair that’s sticking up at the back of my head.
The kettle’s off the boil by the time I get back to the kitchen, but that’s okay, it just means I’ll be able to drink the tea faster. I gulp at it, trying to ignore the rollercoaster swoop this causes in my stomach. But the tea stays down, and I know that I’ll feel better by the time I get to work.
Keys in one hand, mobile in the other, I’m just about to open the front door when I hear the postman on the other side. He’s whistling tunelessly – this reminds me of my dad who, in his own words, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. There is some rummaging going on out there, then the slap of the faux-brass letterbox and a single white rectangle drops onto the doormat in front of me. Through the envelope’s cellophane window I see my name neatly printed in Times New Roman. A proper letter. I’m already late for work though – I must be, I’m usually long gone by the time the postman gets here – so I content myself with the idea of reading it in the office, and snatch the envelope up (my stomach groans again as I bend to the mat).
I don’t need to look at my watch to know I’m late when I finally arrive at work – Craig is sat at his desk, making a passable impression of someone working. Jenny’s chair is empty but her PC is on, so she must be around somewhere.
Alright chief, says Craig. I can hear a smirk in his voice.
I nod and grunt something in his direction.
Oversleep did we?
Something like that, yeah.
My PC chunters into life. I slump into my swivel chair, and feel the envelope in my back pocket rumple.
Jen appears with two steaming mugs – hers and Craig’s.
Oh – you are coming in today then?
Any chance of a tea Jen?
What did your last slave die of?
I can’t think of anything sharp to say to see this, but Jenny does at least take my mug – it peels away from the coaster with a dry, crisp sound as a ring of dried tea separates. Jen heads back to the kitchen without a word.
I claw the envelope from my back pocket and, using my index finger as an opener, slice it open. It’s the transfer papers for Mum, from Mrs Hannigan at Saint Margaret’s. Absently, I sniff the folded A4 but detect no trace of the care home manager’s perfume. I read the letter in patches, the throbbing pulse behind my eyes robbing me of any real concentration. It’s boilerplate text, of course, Mum’s name undoubtedly added by mail-merge. The last paragraph details the consent I need to give, and includes instructions for what I have to sign and send back to that effect. I’ll write that this afternoon, always assuming the hangover has gone by then. Right now that doesn’t feel very likely, though experience tells me otherwise.
The last paragraph mentions an increase in the direct debit from Mum’s account, and says that this will take effect from the date of her transfer to Saint Bernadette’s. I wonder, not for the first time, just how much of Dad’s money Mum has left. I suppose I ought to find out, but not today.
Jen reappears, and places my mug carefully down into its corona of dried tea. I try a smile and it must look better than I feel, because she beams back. It feels a long way off but I find I’m looking forward to dinner.