Doing this writing lark for a little while now, I have been reworking a few of my earlier stories. Here is Part One of a piece called :
‘I’m not sure Thanatophobia can be classed as a real phobia. I mean everyone fears death don’t they?’ Marion wiped down the work surface with a cloth.
Mr Eberstark glanced up from his newspaper, ‘Do they? I’m not sure that’s true.’
What did the doctor say?’
‘She said she was referring me for counselling.’
‘At your age? Seems a bit daft – but I’m sure she knows what she’s doing. You’re bound to think about it more though aren’t you. How old are you again Mr Eberstark?’
‘I’m ninety-one Marion.’ He straightened his tie and brushed a stray hair away from his forehead, ‘have you done behind the breadbin? You always forget to do there – that’s where they breed you know – it’s the heat from the washing machine.’
‘Four times this morning Erik, just as you told me.’
The knuckles on Marion’s hands were raw and cherry coloured. Erik watched her as she scratched them.
‘This is very strong bleach, it would really help if I could wear those gloves.’
‘No! You can’t. I’m allergic to the latex,’ he said.
‘But you don’t have to touch it. You could go in the other room.’
‘Everything will be contaminated Marion, I don’t know how you can even ask me.’
‘Well that’s me done Mr Eberstark. I’ll pick up some more antibacterial spray on my way in tomorrow. Shall I take some money out of the bag?’
‘Don’t forget to use the spoon,’ Erik said, stepping out of his kitchen slippers, into the pair he wore in the hallway.
‘Daft old Bugger,’ Marion said under her breath as he left the room.
She carefully unsealed the zip top of the money bag and flicked out two pound coins from the plastic, with the spoon. One rolled onto the work surface and she had to rescue it before he heard – she couldn’t face wiping it down again.
‘I’ve taken two pounds – I’ll bring your change round tomorrow.’
She wasn’t sure if he’d heard, she was just glad to be out of there.
As she closed the gate of number 53, a figure came up behind her.
‘Bloody hell Maureen, you nearly gave me a heart attack.’
‘What are you scratching at?’
‘It’s that silly old fool inside. I don’t know how many times I’ve scrubbed that bloody kitchen and bathroom and it’s spotless. I’ll be doing it again tomorrow – mind you, if he’s daft enough to keep paying me -you’d think at his age he would have passed caring.’
‘That’s Germans for you. Everything in its place, ship shape and Bristol fashion.’
‘OCD more like. You know he even changes his slippers when he goes from one room to the other. I mean, who else do you know who has a different pair of slippers for each room? The man’s obsessed.’
Maureen looked over her shoulder to make sure no one else was nearby. ‘You know why he’s like that don’t you?’
Marion fastened the buttons on her coat. ‘I’ve told you, he has OCD. That and he’s a bloody hypochondriac.’
‘No I mean why he’s so obsessed with cleanliness.’
Marion had her own ideas about this, but was always keen on a bit of village gossip. ‘Go on I’m all ears.’
‘Well I heard Old Joe Rogers from the Bird in Hand, saying that he used to work in one of those concentration camps during the war. In Hungary I think. Joe reckons he was one of the guards and that all the filth and crap and stuff, sent him a bit doolally.’
‘Nah that can’t be. They rounded them all up after the war. Most of them would be dead by now anyway.’
‘Not Erik. Joe said he claimed asylum by saying he was Jewish and he had some forged papers or something, which managed to help him get to England. I don’t know how true it is mind you.’
Inside number 53, Erik had changed into his lounge slippers and was sitting on his plastic covered sofa. His head felt heavy and he could feel it slumping back, so he arched his body forward so that his hair didn’t touch the back rest.
Sometimes, his back hurt and he imagined what it would be like to let himself lean backwards, but he knew if he did there would be consequences. There were always consequences. So he forced himself back upright whilst he listened to the evening news.
A news report from Hungary, showed hundreds of migrants trying to board trains to Germany – cramped bodies fighting each other to secure a space. Young men climbing over children and babies- old people needing help to board the trains.
He’d witnessed this before. He switched off his TV set and went to bed.
Erik often struggled with sleep. He was able to compartmentalise negative thoughts throughout the day, by keeping himself busy, but the nights had always been a challenge for him. He would often play through scenes from his past, straining his memory to recollect the conversations. His words. Their words. He needed to understand them.
More recent events were always overshadowed by those of his distant past – a past which both haunted and excited him in equal measure. Sometimes he merged the fantasy and fact, distorting the truth to suit his mood.