The moose was lying there. I wiped its frozen eyes with my handkerchief and left it in the company of the moon.
It was either the brandy or the aspirin. I couldn’t afford both, and I wouldn’t need the aspirin until I had finished the brandy.
‘Just the bottle,’ I said.
That night I lay in bed and sipped the brandy. It was bad stuff. Judith fell asleep holding my arm, her mouth open. There were occasional popping noises as her tongue relaxed. I had been in bed for hours and still couldn’t get to sleep. My feet felt damp and the sheets needed changing. Snow had soaked through my boots while walking across the field to the moose and my feet were yet to warm up.
A shower seemed the best thing to do. It was 3am but that didn’t matter. Judith was out of it. I stood under the faucet and noticed mould on the ceiling. I was supposed to take care of things like that. I had a little notebook of jobs that needed doing around the house. I got out of the shower and dried off. The towel was still soggy from the shower I had taken that morning. In the kitchen I found the notebook and wrote Bathroom Ceiling.
I got that late-night hunger, so I looked in the icebox. There was half a tuna sandwich which Judith hadn’t taken to work, so I had that. By the time I had turned the lights out and got back into bed, my feet felt damp again.
By 8am, Judith was banging pots downstairs and I could smell bacon. I put on my robe and ran Judith’s brush through my hair. At the table, I asked for coffee. Judith opened the jar and handed it to me. We were out of coffee.
‘I’ll get the brandy,’ I said.
During morning service, I joined in with the hymns but switched off at the sermon. I was looking out the window, at the snow and the trees and the people. Judith nudged me, knowing that I hadn’t been paying attention. Father Dylan nodded to his wife and Francine moved towards the doors, ready with the collection plate. Judith pressed her foot down on mine and I checked my pockets for loose change. Instead of coins I found my handkerchief and was reminded of the moose.
At dinner we ate without talking. Judith read the paper and forked vegetables and beef into her mouth. I got up and left the table to urinate. When I came back, Judith sneezed three times in quick succession and I gave her my handkerchief. The moose’s handkerchief.
‘Too much pepper,’ she explained.
After dinner, Judith added sugar and stirred her tea. The brandy was finished.
‘Perhaps I’ll go for a walk,’ I said.
‘Please do, Ike. I can’t tolerate you when there’s nothing to drink in the house.’
In my hat and scarf, I was a man hidden under wool. I passed the church where evening service was just beginning. A different couple sitting in our place. Bunched together on the street corner were four boys and a girl, passing around a can of beer. One of them recognised me.
‘Hey Ike, you got a smoke?’
‘Sorry son. Hey, any of you kids ever seen a dead moose?’
‘Want to see one now?’ I asked.
‘No,’ said the girl.
‘What’s that you’re drinking there, milk?’
‘It’s beer, Ike.’
‘Any left?’ I asked.
They all laughed again. A few years from now, they’ll have bladders like torn sponges.
‘What the hell’s wrong with you kids anyway?’
I kept going. Fresh tire marks on the road made walking easier. My woollen hat became scratchy and I had an uneasy feeling. My hands were turning blue inside the gloves and I had to keep taking them out to blow on them. I lit a cigarette and hummed Willie Nelson’s Time of the Preacher. I looked through the window of a nice, clean house. It was warm to look at. A woman with a huge neck was sitting alone with her back to the window, reading something. There was an untouched cocktail on a table next to her. I imagined drinking it very slowly. Feeling it go down. I stood watching for a while. She didn’t know a damn thing about it.
Lee Wright is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. He studied under Man Booker short-listed author Alison Moore and is currently taking an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. His short stories have been published by Headstuff and at fairlightbooks.co.uk
His reviews and series of author interviews have been published by everybodysreviewing.blogspot.co.uk