By Simon Morrison
Location: Heathfield Road, Davenport
The knock on the front door was finger-light; Miles almost missed it from back in the kitchen. He finished pouring water into the kettle – perhaps a little more, now the man was here – returned it to its stand and then, wiping his hands down on his trousers, walked to the front door.
‘Pest control, I’ve come from the council.’
‘Yes hi, I was hoping it was you. Come in, come in.’ Miles opened the door a little wider so the man could step through into the hall. Before pulling it shut he took a look up, then down, his road, the blossom on the trees, the cars on their drives, then followed the man back into his home.
The man was of smallish build; five six, maybe seven. Blue overalls and grey, wiry hair that needed cutting back – perhaps by a horticulturalist rather than a barber. His beard erupted like a tangle of spiders. He had already shuffled down the hall so that Miles hadn’t been able to study his face. Miles liked to get a fix on people’s faces, and make some connection – crack jokes, talk sports – whatever was needed to get them on side. With no eye contact, any connection would be brittle, ephemeral. Miles was suddenly aware he was still in his night time attire: an old T-shirt featuring a band that had faded along with their transferred image, grey jogging bottoms from an abandoned gym regime, backless slippers. He was at home a lot more these days, following the redundancy. The day’s elasticity stretched to his wardrobe and grooming as much as his diary.
‘I’ve just put the kettle on, would you like a brew?’ Miles was already in the cupboard, reaching for mugs and tea bags, the clatter of domesticity. ‘My wife’s into all that herbal stuff. Camomile and peppermint and Lapsang Souchong and God knows what else. But then again, she’s not here so it’s builder’s tea for me. Would you like a…’
‘…No thank you. I’ve had my lunch, not so long ago.’
Miles replaced one of the mugs. ‘A juice then, or water?’
‘No really, I’m fine.’
The man’s face was already wedged into the space beneath the kitchen cupboards and surfaces as he prodded around, moving toasters and bread bins. Miles had planned to tidy up a little more, but the dishwasher had packed in only that winter and what with the kids and one thing and another … . He stopped himself, aware he was constructing an apology to Morven; crazy, when she wasn’t even here. No need to apologise inside your own head, he thought, breathing out, slowly. The sun chose that moment to tip through the north-facing window, throwing a yellow beam on a crumb crime scene.