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Knock Our Hats Off Contest Winner
Digby Beaumont
Honorable Mention Fiction

On Finding Your Neighbour Dead: a Guide

 

Say, “Fuck me,” over and over until you notice he’s lying with his bathrobe open at the waist. Close the bathrobe and throw a sheet over his head.

Call emergency services then wait in his living room. Sit down, pick up the Anglers’ News magazine from the sofa, stand up, look out the window, glance at the unopened mail on his coffee table, rub the back of your neck.

Ask yourself, Would it kill you to go back in there and keep the old boy company?

Don’t be surprised to find him on the bedroom floor exactly as you left him. Remove the sheet and ponder the question, Now what?

Hearing is the last of the senses to go. You’ve read about this. Try starting with an ice-breaker. Glance at your watch and say out loud, “So, what do you suppose is keeping that ambulance?” Notice how ridiculous this makes you feel.

Stick to the solid ground of statements from now on. “You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here. It was the bath. You left it running. Water leaked through our kitchen ceiling.” That kind of thing.

You might want to add a few details. “My wife saw the leak first. I was ironing her favourite white blouse. I told her to go—I’d take care of it—or she’d be late for work.” Though beware. Bring up the ironing part, and that will set you off on a rant about your recent redundancy. Stop mid-sentence and say, “I realise you wouldn’t have chosen me for this.”

Mention the black and white photo on the living room sideboard, the one of him and his late wife on their wedding day. Use words like “wonderful” and “pretty” here. Say, too, that you couldn’t help notice the ancient dog collar on the mantelpiece, with “Ernie” etched on the tag. “Who knows,” tell him. “Maybe you’re about to meet up with your wife again, and take old Ernie for a walk. Wouldn’t that be something?”

By now, the words will be spilling out. Tell him about your life. Your dreams. Your disappointments. Your loneliness. You’ll be amazed what comes into your head. This is important: Try to get the whole thing talked out, before the sound of the ambulance siren starts drawing near, before you see that the thing lying there isn’t him at all.

 

 

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Digby BeaumontDigby Beaumont’s short stories and flash fiction appear in journals such as Slow Trains, Toasted Cheese, The Rose & Thorn, Every Day Fiction, Monkeybicycle, Pindeldyboz, Opium Magazine, The Linnet’s Wings and 34th Parallel, as well as in the anthologies Small Voices, Big Confessions, Late-Night River Lights and City Smells. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. He has worked as a nonfiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Brighton, England.

 

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