CREATIVE Mary-Ann Constantine

NWR Issue 113

Pencil Case

How did it go, love? she says, and he nods and shrugs the way he does and goes upstairs to his room and takes the pencil case out of his bag and puts it in its place on his desk. He puts the other things in their places too, and then sits hunched over on the bed with his tablet and disappears into another world, absorbed and invisible, only shifting position when he becomes aware of his aching arm.

How did it go? she says again, carefully spooning peas and mashed potato so that they do not touch on his plate, and he shrugs and eats, and they let the telly do the talking.

Afterwards he takes the plates and dishes and cutlery over to the dish- washer, which he loads carefully, everything by size and rank, the knives and forks and spoons in separate sections of the basket. His job for the last five years. She drags the ironing board across the room and sets it up so she can see the screen properly, and changes the channel to the pro- gramme she has been waiting for, and starts on a pile of school shirts. The chemical smell of clean laundry is so thick it catches in the throat. He sits at the cleared kitchen table and turns his laptop on.

Friday, she says. Bet you’re glad, love. You can give it a break tonight.

He nods, makes an effort.

Yes, he says. Having a break; I’ll do my city.

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