Friday 12 October 2012

Touch Wood' by Kristen Bailey

I died in a supermarket. Fingers grasping a glossy yoghurt pot from the top shelf. Raspberry emulsion splashed across my suede moccasins. Cath was going to kill me. That would never come off. I felt the hard grit of the floor against my cheek. Dean was ‘Here to Help!’ He didn’t. The pain straddled me. The room was on dimmer switch, voices sounded like they were underwater. Then nothing.


‘Can I interest you in reincarnation? The green option.’ I read the small print. Please note that the deceased cannot choose destination, sex or religion. I decline. The heaven brochure looks nice; a bit resorty though and I burn in the sun. I decline again. He leaves me with my status report. ‘Non-denominational; strong moral compass; excellent candidate for the Fate department.’


It’s like reality TV.  Cath would have been in her element. You watch, wait, twiddle knobs. He’s lost his job, you give him a girlfriend. Her dog dies, she finds a tenner. The coffee’s good. One day, I’m on fate watch for Jeff, 49, likes curry, garden gnomes and corduroy. ‘I tell you that girl will be the death of me.’  My switchboard starts flashing. My manager comes over.  ‘Ooooh, he’s testing fate there.’ I flick through my manual.  ‘Section 5: Supersititions. Old Wives Department. Real characters, you’ll meet them at the works do next week.’ Jeff does nothing. I urge him to reach for the coffee table. Touch wood. Nothing. He dies three weeks later. His eighteen year old daughter reverses over him in the driveway. She takes a gnome with her too. It breaks his bleeding heart. Jeff comes to work in my department. Nice bloke, we often have a pint together.


It had been a pissy grey Sunday.  ‘Says here if it’s arm pain, it could be your heart. We should think about changing your diet. Low fat yoghurts and stuff.’  I looked up from my paper.  ‘Cath, if I do die, I don’t think it’s a yoghurt that’s going to do it.’

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