A Long, Dark Moment

Typehouse Literary Magazine

Day 359

As I write this, Jenny is with me at the window. I grip her hand and her fingers fidget for release. I sit tight to her, skin pressed along our sides. We watch a mad wind tease our rusting old motorcycle with memories of speed.

I have screwed all the windows shut and choked every vent with duct-tape, to keep out the chill. Now our breath trickles down the glass. Our reflection looks like one fat person.

A stranger, a woman, passes by. When she glimpses us, she hurries on.  It appears she sees a naked old couple as something to avoid.


Every gust of wind sends a prodding finger of draft through some missed gap. It disturbs my writing. I will fix that. 

Orderliness is my job, and writing the diary. I started 359 days ago. Day 0. You might think this odd, but it is my system, not yours.

If you are not orderly, then you live in chaos. This is the wild. If your thoughts are not in order, then you are wild. The wild have no soul. And if you have no soul, you truly die.

 “Remember the day we met? On the road, on that bike?” I say. “You had your thumb out but your golden hair and your golden dress were visible for miles. You held me so tight we were married before you got off the back.”

“Let me go,” she says.


Day 360

Jenny has slumped. She pads between front door and back door, repeatedly checking they are still locked. Her concern for our security swells my heart. Then she watches the TV. Or looks toward it. She switches it on, but stares at an old lacquered box next to it. 

The wind hurls itself at our windows. I have puttied up every crack. Now I will cheer up my wife. 

For us, there is no practical distinction between day and night, but we divide our waking hours neatly. Between canoodling and eating. Tidying and cleaning. TV and looking out the window. 

Sometimes, when we pass, I brush my wife’s belly with my knuckles. We used to pat each other’s bottoms, but old rumps need less attention. 

Today, during a vigorous bout of wall-washing – scrubbing mould from the corners – I sidled past my wife. I did not brush her stomach, however. I tickled her, digging deep to the ribs beneath her skin!

Jenny did not laugh, or even smile. She screamed and then wailed for quite some time. I worry that we are peeling apart. 


Day 361

Usually Jenny and I need conversation about as much as we need clothes. Conversation and clothing are for politeness. Politeness is for strangers. Strangers are wild. Strangers are truly dead. However, today, watching next door’s cat, ‘Schrodinger’, darting about the front yard, I attempted a joke.

“Why Schrodinger’s Cat?” I said. Jenny struggled. I had grappled her onto my lap. I could not stop, now. “I mean, why not Schrodinger’s… budgie?”

Was that a smile or a grimace? I thought a smile. “Or Schrodinger’s wife?” I added.

Jenny twisted off me and left the room. 

Most cats love a box. If you fed a cat right there, in its box, and cherished it, and if it had a WC and TV and home delivery, it would happily sit there until it died. And it would die, no two ways about it. 

It is a lovely thought though that, if nobody saw it, its fate would be undecided. A tossed coin both heads and tails, it would be both dead and alive. Caught in a long dark moment. Purring.


Day 364

I have nailed all the curtains shut, to keep us safe from bothersome strangers, but there is something wrong with our electrics. All our light-fittings crackle and have permanently dimmed to a flickering half-light

I found Jenny’s wedding ring in a box under the bed. I never noticed her not wearing it. She has taken to the spare bed in the box room and will not get up or leave the room, even though it is unlocked. When I slipped the key under the door, to prove her freedom, she locked herself in. I have not slept. I will not rest until I hold her, and feel her hold me too.

I waited in our room, listening at the door for her come to out and use the bathroom, when a sudden noise came from outside, not the hallway. The repeated cough of a kick-started, but quite dead, motor. I left my post, to check if someone was stealing the motorcycle.

Jenny stood astride it, dressed in her old leathers and helmet, stamping on the pedal. 

I called, but she could not hear me through the thoroughly sealed window. I banged on the glass and still she did not notice. I was mute to her. I shouted until I saw spots and my knees crumpled.


Day 365

I awoke to white noise. 

Breathing! I bounced around to greet my love. However, my bed was empty. Even of me. I had collapsed under the window. The noise was traffic.

Outside it was still dark, and my motorcycle lay on its side.

Jenny sat downstairs, waiting. Fully clothed, a full plastic bag on her lap.

“No more of your games,” she said. “Dress. We’re going out.”

You do not live with a woman for 30 years without learning when to shut up and do as you are told. So even though the idea made my head spin, I forced my limbs into stiff, scratchy clothing. 

Jenny held my arm as we walked across the heath and all the way up the hill. The wind jostled us and tugged at our clothes and hair. Birds and snack packets, carrier bags and leaves, all whipped about us. 

From the top of the hill the dim silhouette of the city looked like a cemetery. Jenny gripped my hand tight and trembled against me. I thought I saw her smile, so I turned, to catch it and to kiss her. I found only the plastic bag in my hand. 

I opened it, and pulled out the lacquered box. The one we kept on the TV shelf. I thought I might be sick, but for the sudden clogging of my throat. I had hoped to never see inside that box.

Still, Jenny had helped me this far. Now it was up to me. I swallowed hard, took off the lid and poured. Her ashes curled out into the wind. 

Jenny’s remains took to the air, light enough to ride an updraft. The rising sun lit her gold and she hovered for a moment, a brilliant ghost against the tarmac sky. Then she was gone.



© Copyright RM Graves. All rights reserved.

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