Extract: Apple of My Eye

Arthur’s spade vibrated painfully in his hands as he tamped down hard on the recently turned earth at his feet. The shiny steel blade glinted in the moonlight every time he lifted it. A rechargeable lamp gave just enough light to work by, but it was fading, and he was glad he was nearing the end of his task. His hands were sore, and his right knee complained about all the heavy work. He was too old for manual labour and he made himself a silent promise that, once the tree was planted, he was done with gardening; maybe he’d get someone in, in future. Arthur mopped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeve of his checked work-shirt and stabbed the spade into the mound of freshly dug earth. That was it for tonight, he thought, time for bed. He clapped the dirt from his hands and shuffled towards the cosy orange lights that spilled from his little cottage at the other end of the garden.

               The door to his bedroom creaked open and Arthur stepped through, unbuttoning his shirt and stretching with a groan. As he bent forward to remove his trousers, his back creaked like the tired hinges of the bedroom door and, as he straightened up, a twinge of pain sent him shuffling to the edge of the bed, hand pressed against this lover back. He perched on the edge of the mattress and thought about his socks. If he leaned down and his back gave out, he would end up sleeping on the floor. He ignored his socks and pulled back the bedcovers, swung his legs up, pulled the puffy duvet up to his neck and collapsed into a fitful sleep.


The woman watched him sleep from the darkest corner of the room, her nightdress was wet and covered in dirt. Her hands hung loosely at her sides; fingernails blackened by the mud jammed beneath them. Lips tight, she mumbled in the dark, her words unintelligible until her mouth opened wide and she screamed into the darkness.


back to short stories