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Reaching the point

My Dearest Little Sister,

Mum tells me you’re heading back into the desert for more fieldwork soon. Dig something special up for me, eh? And don’t you dare come back until you’re done. You hear?


Listen, Sis.  I’ve got this thing I have to tell you. I’ll try to say it straight – not dress it up in fancy words. Easier to hide behind, I guess, but not so to-the-point. And, look, I’ll try hard not to wander off the track. But if I do, you’ll have to understand. Okay? Right. The point is this . . .

I’ve reached The Point. I know it.  And Eddie knows it. And Eddie knows I know it too.

Take last Thursday, for instance, when Eddie had to work late. Nothing unusual there, you say? As if I need reminding. The hours that man works are legendary. But try to remind Eddie his father died at forty-three. Dropped right down dead beside the butcher’s block, did Reg – his face mashed in the fat-flecked sawdust when Eddie found him, stiff and cold – just like those silent pared-down beasts that hung there in the cool store. And Eddie only thirteen.  Shit. There’re some things no kid should have to see.

Anyways . . . So, Eddie’s working late, right? And I’ve fed the kids and left his dinner in the fridge, stacked above the stew he’d been too tired to eat the night before. Homework time has come and gone – with just the standard dose of argy-barge, but nothing that’d shoot the blood pressure up too high or prompt the little tic beside my eye. And the kids have even helped me wash the dishes . . . okay, you sprung me there, of course they didn’t, but you never know. One day perhaps . . .

They’re watching telly. I know, I’ve read the books about the zombie brainwaves the damn things spawn – but the plain truth is that, in the end, I’m just too goddamn tired to care.

You know what I mean by tired? No, not that ‘oh, for an early night’ genteel kind of tired. Hell no, that’s nothing. Picture this. I’m standing on the beach. And every second that I stay upright, it’s like this devil wind is tearing at my flesh. Stripping me bare. Sandblasting every shred of moisture – life – right from my bones. Until all that’s left of me is this bleached-out husk, buried under tonnes of sand. That’s tired, Sis. That’s Thursday night. Shit, truthfully, that’s every night. And day.

So I’m in bed, at ten past seven, and I’ve got the hot-water bottle in the small of my back to help ease the pain. I’ve tried to read, but my arms just won’t hold up the book and, anyway, my brain’s too fucked to take it in. ’Scuse my French. But have you ever tried to process the rules of nomenclature when your neurons act like Alzheimer’s is the next logical step?

Rachel comes in and stretches out beside me.

‘Y’okay?’ I ask. The thing with Rach is, I know she wants to say something when she arrives like that – but I’m not allowed to make it obvious I know.


‘Good mmm, or bad mmm?’ I’ve grown used to this teenage oral text messaging. (By the way, Sis, did I ever tell you my theory about teenage boys? That the reason they start to mumble when they hit puberty is that their balls are connected by some invisible cord to the roof of their mouths – so when they drop their mouths get drawn down tight as well?)

‘Are you going to die, Mum?’

Shit. That’s the other thing about teenagers. They’re so damn abstracted nine times in ten, but then they’ll just bowl you out.

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