You’ve been reading about the cuts and Icelandic banks but you only put two and two together when you’re given your cards and see the state of your pension. You call and see Beattie – a steamroller of social action – who laughs repeatedly and is lost for words. You are 58, she reminds you, and not cheap. “Alma,” she says putting on Bi-focals to read your statement. “You’re lucky you’ve even got that.” She makes you another a cup of tea and lets you weep on her settee.
A week passes.
You’re awarded a spray of tropical stalks to thank you for your 34 years of service in the Town Laundry. There is no porcelain figurine, though you’ve dusted the hearth ready, and not everyone’s found the time to sign your card. You hang around the staffroom with your new coat on – that’ll have to go back to the shop – until your manager, Colin Nicholson, for whom you’ve developed a soft spot, sees you out with an awkward back-patting that reminds you of how Clive pets next-door’s Jackrussel before starting to sneeze for the rest of the day. Colin wishes you luck and calls you a stalwart, but you don’t give a monkeys for being one of those. He smiles – like a hammock between palms on an Hawaiian beach is that smile – and tells you again that retirement is all about you. Go be you. Do things for you. Enjoy being you.
“But that takes bravery Colin,” you say. “And I am not brave.”
You’ve been working all your life – from the minute you left school at 15 and walked into Meakins with your mother where you took up the stool aside of her and filed down the ridges from freshly fired pots. And, in the scheme of things, there are worse things happening in the world. Iraq. Syria. You hear of whole families shacked up in B&B’s. And don’t forget Ethel two doors down in the grip of Alzheimer’s, phoning the police, last you heard, because she thinks her husband’s an intruder.
So you carry home two trays of food in a flimsy carrier bag along with the tropical stalks that have nicked the skin near your left eye: you’ve let a droplet of blood streak down your cheek like a tear. You then declare to your dumbstruck husband checking his watch that one of the things you’re going to do now you’ve retired is eat foreign food.
Clive tells you to call Beattie then try the new Asda. You watch him eat rice with a knife and fork.
You, he calls you. What are you going to do?
You both take indigestion tablets before bed.
You dream of white bath towels billowing on the line like the old nappies, a grandchild burbling in a pram that has your eyes.
You have it all clear in your head. You’ll take a room a day, the kitchen will take two days as the pantry alone is a day’s work, and you’ll start at the top and work your way down, room by room, inch by inch, until you’re satisfied that each room can do without you. Then you rub in a little rouge and put on jewellery – a clasp bracelet with dim amethysts, a drop pendant your mother wore to church – wear shoes that give you a blister. Asda is further away than you thought but you must watch the pennies now, and you’ve not yet a bus pass. You ask at customer services when there’s no-one else around. The lad looks barely out of school and his shirt needs an iron. He asks for a CV. You tell him you don’t have one. You worked in Meakins which ruined your nails and gave you a chest so you went to the Town Laundry where you worked until Friday. He jots down your number with a left-handed scrawl and warns you – “Tills are full of women just like you.” But you don’t look at the tills because you’re looking at his badge – Assistant Store Manager – and you want to tell him to scrub up, have some pride, some bloody respect – but instead you turn away and take a trolley: stack up on cleaning products and have to take a taxi home.
You wear your best apron and rip open a packet of yellow dusters with your teeth. That’s when it catches your eye: you’re not wearing your wedding ring and you don’t know where your wedding ring is. You do remember the day you accepted it. August 30th 1973. Clive Bunny’s just told your father his first lie: he’s going to be a train driver when you already know he’s failed the test because he can’t see beyond the end of his nose. He still drops to his knees and sings as much as he can remember of Roy Orbison’s Oh Pretty Woman which was, to your father’s tuneless mind, wholly unnecessary when you’re hardly a lass enjoying stacks of offers.
Because you’re one of two daughters bookending a much wanted son whose heart pumped anti-clockwise and then stopped. You’re the younger: a plain and daily Jane with a bowl shaped face and a squint never corrected and not long after your brother died you obliged Clive Bunny under army blankets: partly out of curiosity, mostly because your sister told you to – Clive Bunny is as good a catch as you’ll get. You’d felt filthy after, bathed until the water gave you a chill. You said no more until you were married: the dress pink, the darts unpicked, you’d felt blessed and soiled in one go.
You and him and her.
A year straggled passed. Then two. The phone rings. A woman called June who suspects you’re the wife. You tell her not to call again. You’re decent people, working folk, and besides, you’ve a little girl. She says – “So have we, duck” – and slams down the phone. To this day you’ve never asked Clive if she’s his.
You think about the wedding band Colin Nicholson is never without.
Some girls get all the luck.
You wear an old washing frock and set about your pokey little bathroom with its avocado suite and post-war cherry tiles. There are fifteen toilet rolls stashed to the side of the cabinet, four towels on the radiator, six bars of soap under the sink, and your wedding photograph, hung on the back of the bathroom door to remind Clive who you are. You’re also still waiting for a microwave, still hankering after a dishwasher, still hoping that your daughter will one day buy you an oven big enough to roast a 20lb turkey crown.
The weeping overcomes you. You sit down on the toilet and wonder what you’re crying about. You realise it’s the towels: the way Clive crams them onto the radiator after his shower so they stay all damp in the middle. You’ll see these things all the time now. You’ll know when he goes out and when he comes in, when it is he changes his underwear for you wash up to 15 pairs each week. You cry for another ten minutes then pull yourself together. You go downstairs and fry liver and onions for Clive’s tea.
You and him. And this is how it is.
You are cleaning your daughter’s bedroom. A 4ft square with an ill-fitting blind and terracotta walls that give the room a dirty glow. If you get down on all fours, which Clive once asked you to do, you see, in the right hand corner, Julia’s height chart: faded pencil lines showing her growth spurts from 18months until you forgot all about it once she’d turned four. You wonder how tall she is now. If she dyes her hair pillar-box red like she always wanted to do. You know she lives in Manchester where she went to study law. You know that she’s a divorce lawyer, a partner in a firm, quite rich is what you hear, and that she hasn’t set foot in this bedroom since Christmas, 1992: the argument like yesterday, the things said still raw. You clean the room so furiously it gives you sores. Then you go through the usual motions: return it to the state in which she had left it: unmade bed, cocked up blind, stone cold mug of tea idling on the desk, jaded posters of Debra Winger and boisterous women with snarls and dark black eyes; you’ve never understood your daughter’s life, Clive even less so, and yet you lie back on her bed and take the phone out of your pocket to call her, like you do, once a week, letting the phone ring until the answer machine clicks in and you’re forced to tell the ether it’s just mum.
You go downstairs and defrost the fridge.
It is cold in Iceland, you think. Life is frigid.
Clive is up early. Thursdays are a work day for Clive. Though he’s nudging 70, he’s still part of a gang of ageing trackmen who tend to a particular stretch of railway where old and broken and vandalised trains are sent to convalesce. He’s not paid to do this. It’s just somewhere to go. And after the incident, or the accident, or the moment, as Clive calls it, when life, for whomever he was, could no longer be lived: after he’d watched it happen, right in front him, near enough to call out to him, as he did, most nights, the nightmare living on, he’d been cajoled by an old doctor friend who’d thought a little tinkering about the tracks would do him good. And so he sups his tea early at the bedroom window and tells you – “It’s gone dark over Bill’s mother’s Alma. I’d get your washing done this morning if I were you. Cats and dogs out there by four.”
You pad obediently to the laundry basket, begin to sort colours from whites, socks from pants, his from hers. You find them just after you hear the backdoor click shut: a crotch-less pair of red rubber pants emblazoned with the words come in which could be ripped on and off with a not-very-sticky Velcro.
It’s never been just you and him.
You don’t want to think about women so you take a walk. You will go to the park. The wisteria at this time of the year is lovely. You start down your street. You no longer know everyone like you used to. Lives gone or moved away, your mother was this street, even when her sick bed was in your lounge, when she complained of the too-bright street lamps outside the window, that she could still see dust on your blinds: she fed everyone from the ration bags did mother, kept the miners going in Victoria Sponge. You miss your mother and you miss this street. You wish she’d hung on. You’d take care of her now. Like she wanted. It would’ve been nice to have something to do.
“I want to nurse,” is what you told them at school. Those nurses who nursed your brother were so clever.
At the end of your street sits a woman playing a recorder that’s been hacked off at the end. Her bleached hair is scraped up in a too-tight ponytail, her face worn and vaguely familiar, though you’ve never seen her before. At her feet is some sort of hat. Or an open bag. But you catch her eye as you walk past and she’s looking at you, asking you, anything, anything spare love? The accent is London. You wonder what the hell she’s doing here, begging at the end of your street. A voice from behind you – Would you like a peach? You stop, pretend to fiddle inside your bag. I’d love one. I ain’t eaten in 9 days. A peach would be smashin’. You look in your bag. You’ve a little money but you’re watching the pennies now because your pension’s in Iceland and when Colin says it’s not his fault, you believe him.
It’s the men you never know who tell lies.
You look down at the woman. You’ve known bad luck. And misfortune. And disappointment. And sadness. And loss. And all those other things that lead you to the pavement playing a recorder with a hacked-off end. But you’re hacked off too. So you give her nothing and go back home and cover the kitchen floor with newspaper because when Clive comes back from the tracks he is always filthy and you don’t like to see his boot-prints on your floor.
The woman at the end of your street begging stops you from sleeping. You think you can hear her playing the recorder like a child in a Christmas play. You tell yourself she’s begging for drugs not food and put cotton wool in your ears. Your mother always said you never listened. Especially to the rest of the world.
There’s a friend. Sort of. Pauline Roper. She pops in with news and brandishing photographs. Her daughter is pregnant again. Her other daughter’s just delivered her fifth. Nine grandchildren Alma, and you chew the fat like two old dears on a coach trip, spending a penny together at a service station and passing toilet roll under the door. Pauline asks you – what you doing with yourself now you’ve got all this time on your hands?
You look down at your hands.
“Look at my hands, Alma.” It’s your mother’s voice, pert and squeaky clean. “My hands have been ruined by work, but they kept us out of the poorhouse.”
Yes mother. I’d be nothing without your hands.
Your mother had taken in other peoples’ laundry when your father had failed to turn up his wages. “A creased man is no man,” your mother would say. “And his wife the last thing on his mind.”
It gives you an idea.
You’ve never suspected Pauline Roper but today, you do.
As Pauline talks you through the photos you think of your own. Many moons ago, you’d your own gallery lining the stairs. You’ve long put them from your mind, as there were many you threw away, and you think about what you have left, bubble-wrapped under the bed. You wonder when you stopped taking photographs then wonder if you still own a camera. Perhaps you threw it out after Julia left fearing there’d be no more stories to tell.
You want to ask Pauline – do you and Phil still have sex? – but instead, you ask – “Have you see that woman begging on the end of our street?”
Pauline hasn’t. She’s nine grandchildren and is still showing you photographs until thunk! You both look at the ceiling. Pauline asks – has someone died up there? You rush up the stairs to find a landing full of tumbled books and a warped set of shelves. Books that’d got Julia through her A’ levels – Maths, German, Law – what you’d paid for by squirreling away money in an old tea caddy you’d kept quiet from Clive who distrusts banks as much as he distrusts saving when everyday in his world is rainy. You and Pauline start to stack the books. That’s when you find them. Not many, just some, and stuck to the pages of old and heavy law books.
The pictures are only mildly erotic, the women, despite the positions, often very pretty, and though you’re not entirely disgusted by them, Pauline reminds you that you must never forget what a clever daughter you’d brought into the world.
“Is that why she left?” Pauline asks.
You pick up a German dictionary. Nein. You remember Julia using that word a lot.
Pauline leaves. You put the red rubber crotch-less underpants on the kitchen table. You spend a long time staring down at the rubber circle with the words come in printed sideways, then spend even longer ripping it on and off until it’s not very-sticky-Velcro completely loses its stick.
You think about the women. If any of them are still alive. You go into the lounge and shift the furniture around. Clean up old age and make room for grandchildren that’ll never come – I’m not dirty Mum, is what Julia had said. And neither are you. She had one suitcase at her feet. A rucksack on her back. You’d switched on the Hoover so you couldn’t hear anymore. By the time you switched it off she had gone.
But your house was clean.
It was clean.
You’ve been retired a week and have decided to go into business. Beat them Creases. You’ll take in other peoples’ ironing. You’ll put postcards up in the newsagents, maybe pop some through certain letterboxes up and down the street. You soap and scrub the hallway tiles as you think it all through then prise open the small hatch under the stairs which Clive had nailed up after you’d found that mouse. You use pliers and pull out the nails one by one. They are shiny nails. New nails. You prise the hatch aside and there it is. Clive’s suitcase.
As you and Clive sit down for your tea, you think about the contents of the suitcase and how some genes aren’t meant to be mixed. There was only a few days worth of clothes in there. A train timetable. His mother’s wristwatch stopped at half past four. Clive had never been able to pack properly if he’d ever packed a suitcase before, so you repacked it with a few extras because you don’t want people talking or for Clive to think that you hadn’t looked after him right until the very end. Then after you’d repacked the suitcase, you’d got out your sewing kit and set about replacing the Velcro on those red rubber crotch-less pants with four little black press-studs sewn on so tight that it’d test the patience of anyone who desired to ever come in again. You’d then put them in the suitcase and put it back where you’d found it, even hammered in the nails.
The weekend is long. You go to the Chemist and buy painkillers, good ones, indigestion tablets, olive oil and cotton buds. You ask the Chemist for an ear syringe. She asks if it’s for you and you lie and say yes because your world is not falling apart. She shows you how to use it but you’re not really watching. You’re looking at how many different condoms the Chemist sells.
You go to the newsagents to cancel your evening paper. The newsagent says – not you as well – and blames the paper-girl. It’s not the paper-girl. You’ve just retired and can now walk and buy the paper yourself. As you leave, you see your postcard in the window: Beat them Creases. Let Alma Bunny Reduce Your Wrinkles for a Tenner!
You’d thought it clever: clever with words. Now it looks plain daft.
You ask – “Has anyone noticed my ad?”
The newsagent tells you it’s only been up five minutes. “But you can do mine if you like,” she says.
She takes you upstairs. You didn’t know the newsagent had a life above the shop. She takes you into a kitchen with yellow walls and asks you to wait as if you’re about to encounter royalty. You hear an ironing board clanking. She shouts at someone – where’ve you left the iron? A teenage girl dumps an iron on the table for you. Neither of you speak. The girl’s hair is pillar-box red and her nails are scuffed with black varnish. The newsagent arrives with a basket heaving with clothes. She plugs in the iron and says – “Tenner, right?” – and you have to agree because that’s what you said though you know Clive will scold you for not charging by the weight.
You iron for three hours with a view from the kitchen window. You’re not offered a cup of tea and you can hear that woman begging on the pavement outside the window, her hacked off recorder playing a repetitive ditty that sends shivers up your spine. You iron a uniform that is the same as Julia’s was. Burgundy pleated skirt. White shirt. Burgundy v-neck. You remember how Julia would lose her tie. How you’d buy her another only for her to lose it again. You remember ink on the shirt cuffs. Blood once. Her jumper stretched by yanking – someone’s yanked this, you’d said. Like you’ve been in a fight. You can see the look on her face. You have no idea what it’s like being me. She was tall enough for Goal Shooter. Clever enough for a scholarship. And yet the teachers called her quiet. You’d frown and say – “She never shuts up at home” – which wasn’t true. She’d asked for a lock on her door at sixteen. You’d refused. You liked doors ajar. And draughts. You used to sit in the kitchen below and think how quiet she was with her friend upstairs in her room. You’d go up with mugs of tea. You’d find them the next day idling on the desk stone cold.
Homework. Studious. Debra Winger on her walls: the teachers had called her quiet, which she was. That was all.
You go back downstairs to tell the newsagent that you’ve finished. She goes up to check before she comes back to hand you a tenner from the till. But she doesn’t get round to thanking you because she’s a customer who wants a lucky dip.
You go home. Clive is out. You do something silly: you swig from the sherry bottle and call Pauline. She’s not in either. You could put two and two together but Pauline will have nine grandchildren soon and because you’ve had a sherry you tell her answer-machine that isn’t fair.
Homework. Studious. Debra Winger. She was just quiet, that was all.
You check if the suitcase is still there. You count the times when you’ve packed a suitcase and wondered where to take it. You wonder what you’ve done with your wedding ring. You go upstairs to sort out your own laundry but you can’t be bothered. By the time Clive comes home you’ve drank half a bottle of sherry. You shout at him – “Why didn’t you make her stay? She’s still our daughter. Our little girl.” He looks at you as if he no longer knows you, turns his back and goes back out. You smash the sherry bottle on the floor and then step into the shards with bare feet because the pain in your heart is not enough.
Clive comes into the kitchen. He finds you dismantling the deep-fat fryer. You tell him – homemade chips. You can’t beat homemade chips – and that’s how you spend the day: sorting through parts, cleaning this, dusting that, wondering why it all won’t go back together and fit into place until eventually, you tip the whole lot into a bin-bag and leave it on the street for the rag and bone.
“Finished?” asks Clive.
“Finished,” you agree.
You buy biscuits. The celebration sort. Belgian chocolate. It’s like you’ve never been away. It’s takes less than five minutes for you to don your tabard and help out the temp who’s struggling with the jet-spray on the industrial iron. Colin appears. He’s a lenient sort who carries no weight and he shouts you a vending-machine cup of tea. He thanks you for the biscuits. You say you’ve been overrun with retirement gifts and you knew this was a good home. “For the biscuits,” you add, as he tells you next time you’ll need to sign in and wait at reception.
“Had there been a fire, no-one would’ve known you were here to be saved,” he says.
“Wouldn’t you have saved me?” and that is your voice Alma. Your voice.
“Alma,” he says. “You shouldn’t even be here.”
It comes out of the blue. “Please Colin. Just a few hours. I miss… it.”
He looks down on you like he can barely see you. “Alma,” he says. “Give it a few weeks and we’ll be the last thing on your mind.” He smiles. “And you’re wearing your slippers.”
You look down and then flee. You don’t remember how you got to your street but the begging woman stops playing her recorder and asks if you’re ok. You keep on running, get home and throw those tropical stalks in the bin because they’re a pathetic bunch. Past salvaging.
There’s a woman at your door. She has a wicker basket and is talking into a mobile. You don’t recognise her but she’s seen your ad. You slap on your best smile and say – “Hello. Beat them Creases.”
She points at the basket. “Any chance you can do it by five?”
You nod then she’s gone; still talking to whomever it is on her phone.
The basket is crammed with clothes. You count 23 shirts. You need coat-hangers. Because once ironed, those shirts cannot go back into that basket. You realise you haven’t thought this through. Tools of the trade. Props of the professional: so you remove your own clothes from their coat-hangers and most of Clive’s because there was 46 shirts in the end. They’d cleverly put one inside the other.
The woman returns at 4 on the off-chance that you’ve finished. She calls you a Godsend and pays you with a bag of 50p’s. It breaks your heart to watch her sling those shirts on the backseat without a thought for the work that you’ve done. She’s also 50p short.
Pauline Roper comes round dragging a large basket and asks if you do mate’s rates. “I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about you,” she says. She clocks the other baskets in your kitchen that have replied to your ad. “Well some of us are doing alright,” she sneers.
You tell her this one is on you. For old time’s sake.
You go to the newsagent with a new postcard. You need to replace the last one, you say, because some of the details are wrong. The newsagent looks at the card and smirks. “Putting your prices up already?” she asks. “You’re getting ahead of yourself.”
You put the new postcards in the bin on the way home and find someone has left a washing basket on your doorstep with a note: from number nine. Nine grandchildren, and Nein: you know don’t know anyone at number nine when you live at 133. There’s no phone number either. Instead, they call you. At 9pm. Clive answers. He doesn’t know anything about ironing and puts down the phone. He says – “Ruddy sales, at this time of night” – and you still don’t know why you’ve not told Clive about your business: that you know there’s a second daughter, and that you know. You know. So you tell him for the first time – “I know.” But he’s either not listening or he can’t hear a thing because what he says in reply is – “I thought we was ex-directory. You should call BT and complain.”
Number nine’s basket was all baby clothes. You keep one of the baby-grows and put it in your knicker-drawer because you like how it looks so pure. As you go back downstairs, you pass your own laundry basket which is very full. You’ve not washed your own clothes for almost a fortnight but you’re a businesswoman now and you are busy. Busy, busy. And here is someone else at your door.
No-one from number nine has come to collect the clothes. You worry about the baby, there’s a nip in the air and any icy wind from the west, so you go and knock. It’s Pauline Roper’s pregnant daughter and she’s not long moved in. She can’t pay you either because her dole doesn’t come through ’til Monday. You tell her she can owe you then tell it’s fine. “For the baby,” you say. She says – “Thanks” – and – “Always knew your Julia was a dyke. Don’t that explain a lot?”
You rip open your knuckles on the way home by dragging them against the walls. Then you pack away all Julia’s books into cardboard boxes and leave them on the street for the refuse.
You are covered in plasters and smell of antiseptic. You’ve ironed non-stop and made only £150.50. You think about those postcards with the new price and wonder what made you throw them away.
Homework. Studious. Debra Winger. Just quiet.
Some of us are doing alright.
You also told the bin-men to leave that cardboard box of books because it wasn’t meant to be there. Hang around long enough, you joke, and my husband would throw me out too.
After you say it, you wonder why he hasn’t. Or you haven’t. Why this empty cold marriage has been enough.
Clive’s got a headache and not going into work. You tell him he has to. You have four ironing baskets to get through which you’ve stashed in the coal-shed and you don’t want them going damp. “But I’m none too good Alma,” he says, and wants toast, tea, and a pill.
You go downstairs and have an idea. You crumble up one, then another for good luck, because the last time you used them they didn’t touch the sides. You put the ground-up sleeping pills in Clive’s tea then take up his breakfast with the newspaper. You tell him to get some rest. You’ll be as quiet as a mouse downstairs. Then you pat him on the leg.
It’s practically a bear hug in your world.
Clive sleeps all day. This is no bad thing because you get all the ironing finished and have them out of the house by six. By 8pm you check Clive’s pulse. You convince yourself that everything’s ok and set about syringing his ears because he’s either stopped listening or gone deaf. There’s another knock at the door.
You spend the rest of the evening ironing for whomever they are because, as seems to be the way, no-one ever tells you their name or wishes to pass the time of day. At 10pm a taxi honks. You use Clive’s best belt to strap the basket into the taxi because you don’t want all those lovely dresses spilling onto the floor. You ask the taxi driver where the dresses are going. “Manchester,” he says.
You are sick in the street. When you stop, you see the feet of the woman who’s been begging. She looks at you. You look at her. She says – “Are you ok?” – and asks where you live. “Want me to see you home?”
You say – “I’m fine” – and – “No thank you.”
She says – “A woman’s epitaph is ‘I’m fine’ but none of us ever are.”
You walk around on your own in the dark for a good hour before you go back home. Silly really. You would’ve enjoyed the company.
You check the side-effects of the pills and wonder if it’s an allergic reaction. Or maybe you’ve put Clive in a coma. In a panic, you call two 9’s but put down the phone before the third. You root through the medicine tub again because maybe you’ve mixed up the pills and ground up something else. That’s when you find your wedding ring. It must’ve slipped off your finger and dropped into the medicine tub one day as you rifled about for a cure.
But you have to call someone. So you call Julia. And when the answer-machine clicks in, just shy of midnight, you tell her everything. That you’ve been retired and got these stupid modern flowers and not everyone had signed your card. That some banking hot-shot invested your pension in Iceland thinking it was going to make them money that’d give them back what they’d contributed, except it didn’t work and you’re paying for it. So you’re ironing. Like your mother. So much you can’t think. “Because you,” you say. “You and the women don’t matter. It’s me that’s the problem. It’s me.”
You remember Clive and run back upstairs. You find him on the landing rooting in the laundry basket. You mutter – thank God – and – “What are you looking for Clive?”
“Alma,” he says solemnly, as if he’s about to come clean.
But no. He’s counting underpants. He’s no underwear left in his drawer.
“You’ve not been yourself awhile,” he says, putting the lid back on the basket. “But this, this is bloody silly.”
You take the stairs two at a time, stand in the hallway and shout for Clive. As he comes towards you, you’re surprised at how well he looks, how handsome all of a sudden, how lithe his legs, but because it’s about time you started being brave, you kick at the hatch under the stairs until the panel comes loose. “You’ve clean underpants in there!” you shout. “Underpants you can bloody wipe down!” And you pull the phone from your pocket and hand it to Clive. “Ring her,” you instruct. “If you can make your woman wear a pair of those rubber things you can accept your daughter for who she is.”
An astonished expression takes over his face. “Woman?” he repeats. “Christ Alma. Is that what you think?”
What you think is what you thought you knew for a very long time and you could put two and two together and make the frigid wife to a cold-hearted man wired not to mind. But you don’t. Instead, you watch Clive reach for the phone. “No,” you say. “We’ll take the train.”
He looks alarmed and then starts to weep. “Yes,” he agrees. “It’s time we took the train.”
You both take indigestion tablets before bed.
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