'Peter's Armageddon' by Shirley Golden


Peter claims he’s working in the shed. But when Brenda brings tea and looks through the window, his workbench is empty, oil-stained and sawdust-ridden. Golden oldies play to no one from their once-loved cassette player. Sometimes, she leaves the steaming mug on the cracked step, but more often than not, she tips the contents into his wilting fuchsias.

He talks about digging and supplies, how to maintain power, live “off the grid” and escape from urban rot. He returns to the house late, his fingernails clogged with soil. He says they’ll both need shelter because “it” is coming. She rolls her eyes and doesn’t ask what “it” is. The news creates a hollow look in his eyes, and words fire from his lips towards the TV. She changes the channel if he allows it; otherwise, she goes to bed.

Neighbour, Kevin, is a godsend. He brings After Eight mints on a Friday whilst his wife attends Yoga classes and practises Ujjayi breath. Brenda opens a bottle of wine and they speculate. They think Peter’s digging a bunker. Drinks in hand, they follow the path towards the light leaking from the shed and hesitate by the step. Brenda tugs up ivy, sprouting from the cracks. Kevin presses his ear to the door, and they giggle.

Peter grips the spade, breath held, on the other side. He’s sensed it coming. It’s behind Brenda’s gaze, and in the resistance of her lips; it’s the soprano in her voice when she greets Kevin. It’s imbedded in those sniggers, bleeding through the door. When they lose interest, and stagger arm-in-arm back to the house, Peter lowers the spade and switches off the light.

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