“Thanks for Asking” by Jake Kendall

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The miniature ‘n’ Perry had just drawn was a thing of beauty. The best he’d written all day. Perfectly proportioned with the line just distinct from the graceful curve that followed. A word processor could not have produced better.

No pressure of the subsequent ‘t’ then!

He laughed aloud at the thought before the invariable pang of self-doubt forced him to take a drink from his wine glass to steady his nerves. He returned to the task in hand; beginning the t, dragging his pen down a millimetre before the tiniest of flicks completed the bare shape of the letter. He finished his masterpiece, crossing it with a delicate mark worthy of Jan van Eyck.

It had taken all day to complete this opus. Holed up alone with it Perry had ignored his phone as it buzzed and vibrated steadily throughout the day. No doubt it was his friends asking if he wanted to go for a beer, asking if he was ok, or if he could do with some company. That kind of thing.

Well he didn’t, thanks for asking. Mark had made it abundantly clear that Perry had become shitty company over the last few weeks – screaming as much in Perry’s face as he stormed out their flat. Mark left on Friday, leaving Perry for forty eight hours in an empty flat with nothing but a sea of old photographs for company. That’s when the concept came to him.

Perry stepped back to admire the handiwork. In this photograph he had chosen the word ‘slag’ in the top half of Lindsey’s eyes, ‘cunt’ in the bottom.

It is exceptionally difficult to write in the whites of eyes. The space is tight on both the horizontal and vertical axis. The first dozen attempts were ill-thought out and sloppy in execution. Lindsey is a bitch, not a ‘bitc’. The failures lay ripped to shreds across the floor.

Luckily for Perry, twelve years can generate a lot of photographs. Hundreds of images of Lindsey’s face to practise on. They covered the walls of their living room and kitchen, grinning and pouting their way across Europe and the UK, beaming down from birthdays and Christmases past. She had such a cheerful face. How could she claim to have been secretly unhappy for years?

He had waved his thirtieth birthday photographs at Mark on Thursday.

‘This one is from last year. According to her, that’s about the time she first thought about breaking up. Look at her arm around me. Look at that smile. Does that look like the smile of a bored, depressed woman to you? Or perhaps instead the smile of a lying cow who would shag some alpha-prick in Marbella the first time she goes abroad with the girls, and then have the nerve to blame me for it? Well – which is it?’

‘Mate. Take the red pill, take the blue pill I don’t care which. Just take something to calm yourself the fuck down. You’re being weird and obsessive right now.’ Came Mark’s harsh and thoughtless reply.

The joke’s on you Mark, I’ll show you obsession, Perry thought as he drank the last of his third bottle of Malbec that day. He held it in his mouth and stared back at the smiling face of the girl who hurt him until a hot flash of anger compelled him to snort phlegm into his mouth. He spat deep red bile at the photograph but the gloopy concoction was too thick. It fell way short, dribbling down onto his own shirt instead.

Perry realised then how drunk he was. He tried to sit calmly on a nearby stool but missed and went crashing to the floor, where he caught his lower back sharply against the corner of the coffee table. He lay there for a while silently starring up at the ceiling processing the shock and the pain; reflecting how dangerous it was to be this wasted alone.

He heard a key enter the door and the relief and shame washed over him. Mark would be freaked out by the state of their flat for sure. But by morning perhaps Perry could get him back onside by admitting that he was taking things worse than he initially thought. Perhaps it would be a good idea to diffuse the anger by pretending to be more hurt than he was. Perhaps he should shut his eyes, play dead and feed his housemate’s concern. Yes he thought, let’s do that instead.

The door clicked open.

‘Hello? Perry?’ Came the unmistakeable sound of Lindsey’s voice from the hallway ‘I’ve tried calling you all day. Mark asked me to come round and check up on you. Gave me his key. He said you were beginning to worry him….’

 

Jake Kendall writes tragicomedy from his hometown of Oxford. His words can be found in the Cabinet of Heed, the Mechanics Institute Review, Idle Ink, Burning House Press, Coffin Bell Journal and Here Come’s Everyone. He rambles into the ether and self-promotes shamelessly on Twitter – @jakendallox