Friday Fast Fiction
Now they sleep in separate rooms in single beds each tucked in with a monogrammed teddy bear.
He likes to cuddle his, keeping it warm, tucking it carefully under the bedclothes. He calls it Ready Teddy, and his favorite game, especially in summer, is to hold his teddy bear by one back leg and say in a loud voice “Ready, Teddy, GO!”
At the word “GO” he hurls his teddy bear skywards and takes great delight in the fate of a sleeping fly, pinned against the ceiling and squashed. His delight doubles if one of the pointed waves of ceiling paint impales the fly and leaves it squirming there, buzzing impotently. This means target practice and he hurls Ready Teddy, “GO, GO,” skywards again and again until the unfortunate fly, falling like a condemned angel, tumbles back to earth.
She still follows the same ritual as when they were sleeping together in the same bed. First she pummels the pillows, fluffing them up with sideways movements of the hands. Next, she lays them on the bed and beats them flat. Then she picks them up and plays them like a concertina, pushing them together then stretching them out again. As for her teddy bear, she likes to discipline it, to beat it into shape. Once upon a time, it made noises and let out little squeals and squeaks, but the constant violence has silenced its sound box.
When they slept together she often took her teddy and beat it against her husband’s head. He would wake from the deepest dream head a-throb, ears and cheeks stinging, as she flailed him with her teddy and struck him blow after blow. When his headaches grew worse, they decided to sleep apart. He felt it was better and safer that way.
Last night, she sleepwalked into his room, and sat on the side of his bed. She clasped her teddy by the feet, a rabid Rottweiler with a rag doll, and thumped her teddy’s head against her husband’s face again and again.
The sleeping tablets had made him drowsy and slow to wake. His wife kept up the barrage until he finally woke, eased the teddy bear from her grasp, and walked her back to bed
On the way back to his own room, he checked into the bathroom and examined his face in the mirror. Blood seeped from his nostrils. He had bruises under his left eye and his cheeks glowed red where veins had broken near the surface
Next morning, he sat at the breakfast table, his grandfather’s First World War magnifying mirror in his hand, and examined his face. The ice pack had taken effect and he looked less damaged now. He reached for the color correction cream in the packet beside him and read the directions with care. Then he placed a tiny drop of the magic serum onto the paintbrush and worked the correction cream over the marks on his face. He watched them disappear one by one. Now he would be ready to face the world.
He stared into the magnifying mirror gazing deeply into his own eyes. Was that how it had happened? Or had their first child really fallen downstairs, banging her little head on each wooden step at eighteen months old?
The inquest had been inconclusive, his wife held blameless. They had remained childless after the trial.
Was that a blessing or a curse?