- Vol. 04
- Chapter 06
I continued to visit Uncle Edgar every day after Mother died. He continued to repulse me. Without her, my old home had taken on a different personality. Somewhere along the line, its soul had flown to somewhere brighter.
At every window, curtains hung listless and weary. Cushions sagged and drooped, as if the very life had been kicked out of them – much like Mother. Silently, they sighed their demise and accepted their lot – much like Mother. Even the efforts of the lightbulbs were half-hearted.
But my mother never was.
He sat in his chair in his splayed tartan dressing gown and stained blue pyjamas, and waited to be served.
‘Here you are, Uncle Edgar. A nice boiled egg and soldiers.’
I laid the cushioned tray across his knees. His eyes flicked in my direction as he stabbed a finger of toast into the yolk and shoved it between his thin lips, chewing noisily as his rubbery face gnashed on the food. I removed the tray when he had finished.
‘Thank you,’ I said pointedly.
I wiped his face. He shoved me away and scowled. Then he pushed himself up and out of the chair. I heard his bedroom door slam.
I let myself out.
Why was I doing this? Stepping into Mother’s shoes? I had always hated the man. Uncle Edgar, the chauvinist. Uncle Edgar, the arrogant. Uncle Edgar, the bully.
At lunchtime, I returned. He was back in the chair, still in his dressing gown, his chin as prickly as a cactus.
‘Hello again, Uncle Edgar. I’ll just get this soup warmed up for you.’ I didn’t place it on his lap immediately. Uncle Edgar turned his head towards the tray. ‘And, what do you say?’ I asked, raising my eyebrows. His voice was gruff. ‘Give it to me.’ ‘Give it to me… what?’ ‘Stupid bitch,’ he muttered and turned away. ‘OK’. I took the tray back to the kitchen and poured away the soup. ‘See you later!’ I called, and slammed the front door.
He wouldn’t starve. He could feed himself. He was lazy. Mother never said it, but she must have thought it. He had that woman running in rings around him from morning to night.
At dinner time, I let myself in. ‘Fish or chicken?’ I asked. ‘Fish.’ ‘Fish what, Uncle Edgar?’ His two fingers took off from his lap and swooped up into a ‘V’. ‘Oh, you don’t want anything. See you tomorrow then.’
And I continued to play the game.
Bit by bit, Uncle Edgar seemed to disappear. I watched Uncle Edgar’s cheeks darken into hollows, his bones sharpening and his dead eyes sinking like pebbles in wet sand. I knew that underneath those blue pyjamas, a jumble of bones protruded into his loose, withered bag of skin.
The flies came. The flesh shrivelled. The skeleton dried and fell into a pile of sticks on his armchair. They say it eats away at you…guilt. Sometimes, though, a little help is needed.