At The End Of The Path

First there was a hedge. It was a dark night and the hedge was dark and thick, and he passed through the opening in the hedge where the gate of the picket fence swung open. The gate swung closed again with minimal effort. Before him was the front garden, streaks of silver emitted by electric lighting from the house playing on the surfaces of the bushes and beds, with two main points of shining yellow ahead. At the end of the pathway these points became windows. He had reached the house. It was cold. He was so glad he had made it.

A woman stood by the phone in the hallway. She was wearing an apron and her hair was in curlers. She leant against the wall, with her hands on her hips, and watched him come in. He closed the door, nodded in her direction, and said: “Through here?” She grunted.

He made his way to the sitting room and sat down on a lounge chair near the coffee table. He took his coat off and opened the briefcase on his knees so he could better see inside. As he rummaged the woman said, “Cup of tea?” “Thanks,” he said.

The light was bright in the room and he spread out the plans on the table and placed objects at the edges to keep the plans from rolling up. He found a paper weight made of amber and a pencil holder shaped like a bear. They did the job.

The woman came back in and put down his cup and saucer. He glanced up and was surprised to find her wearing only a slip, with skin coloured stockings clipped to her garter belt, and a fresh coat of lipstick on her lips. Her hair was still in curlers. “Anything else you’d like?” she said. She pouted. “I’ve been waiting. I put my face back on for you, Geoff.”

“My name’s not Geoff,” he said. “What is this?”

“Oh, sorry, what’s your name, then? Barry? Come on Barry. You know what I’m suggesting.”

“That’s not my name either. Look, who are you? What are you doing?”

“I’m Doris. What does it look like I’m doing?”

“Look, I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not Geoff or Barry or anybody else you might have been expecting …”

“You don’t have to be like that. We could still go in the back, and …”

“No. No we couldn’t. There isn’t time. I mean, I have to go. I really have to go. Right now.”

And with that he bundled the papers back into his bag and put on his coat and made for the front door. In the darkness he had misread the house number, and his contact would be waiting for him. It was painstaking to plan a bombing and this was an elementary mistake. He left without saying goodbye to Doris, who wondered how many customers she would have the next day. She thought about the tea and wondered if she was putting enough arsenic into it now she had changed brands.

Published in: on April 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment  

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