'Shout' by Alison Wassell
‘For God’s sake Donald, make a bit more noise.’ This is the last lucid thing his wife says to him, grasping his wrist and pulling him close. Donald has crept through life making as little impression as possible. He perches on other people’s sofas, afraid of the indentations his buttocks might make. He has a fear of the articulate and opinionated and goes to great lengths to avoid them. He changes seats in cinemas and creeps out of restaurants before ordering.
‘Well, they liked the sound of their own voices,’ he mutters, once he is a safe distance away. Being loud, or ‘making a show of yourself’ is, for Donald, a cardinal sin. Nobody has had the heart to point out that his is a show that nobody would pay to attend. Decisions do not come easily to him. Even small ones.
‘What do you think?’ he asks his wife, holding up two pairs of socks in slightly different shades of navy blue.
‘In the grand scheme of things, does it matter what colour your socks are?’ she exclaims on a busy Saturday in Marks and Spencers. She has already, unbeknown to Donald, been for tests. She laughs hysterically. Donald flushes an interesting shade of crimson, a colour he would never dream of wearing. His eyes flicker around the store as he wonders who has heard. Nobody has. Nevertheless, Donald replaces the socks and hurries his wife away without making a purchase.
‘Thank you, Doctor,’ he says meekly, weeks later, as the consultant explains that there is nothing now to be done. If only it had been caught earlier, he muses. Donald’s wife has been presenting symptoms for years. Donald, not being one to make a fuss, offers no recriminations.
Donald goes on holiday alone for the first time ever. The trip was booked months ago, before his wife took ill. He made a promise to her, in those last hours. At the hotel he shows his booking documents. The receptionist’s smile shrinks as she taps at her computer. She goes to seek advice from her line manager. Donald is shown to a tiny room at the end of a seemingly forgotten corridor. The promised sea view is replaced by a view of the hotel car park, and the bins.
Donald storms back to reception. Being unused to storming, he does it badly. His hand trembles as he bangs the bell on the desk for attention. When no-one responds he thumps the counter several times. He invites unsuspecting guests to view the hovel they have put him in. He tears his booking forms to confetti and scatters them in the foyer, sinking to his knees as he howls out his grief. Someone from security leads him away.
Chastened by an hour in the police station he drives home. Climbing into bed in his striped pyjamas he runs his finger along the frame of his wife’s photograph, which sits on the bedside cabinet.
‘I made a noise for you,’ he says.
First draft previously published online Write-invite.com April 2015