'The Clock Struck One' by Sarah-Clare Conlon
I didn’t know why the men were welding the fence, but my two cats were enjoying watching the sparks fly. The odd-jobbers were oblivious; intent on their task. Four hands working as one, four eyes hidden behind goggles.
The old bat in the flat opposite was getting her fill of the action too, leaning over her balcony and flouncing about, trying to be noticed. Always attention seeking, that one. She’d even put on bright red lipstick. At her age.
Still, this gawping made a change from her non-stop box-watching – practically rattling the panes out of their frames day and night, the blue glow flickering against the otherwise dark world. Why she couldn’t get curtains was beyond me. It was supposed to be in the rules, but no one seemed to bother her about sticking to those. Same with that fake leaded glass she’d had put in.
Maybe she slipped the warden a hefty tip at Christmas. Why else could she get away with all that tat hanging outside her French doors – the baskets with faded plastic begonias, the gaudy fairy lights, the tacky wind chimes? God, I could have strangled her with the bloody things. Their constant jingling set my teeth on edge and played murder with my nerves. Noise pollution, I’d told environmental services. We live on a hill in Bolton – do you think it’s never breezy around here, or something?
I was getting myself worked up again so I turned away from the metalwork and went through to the kitchenette to make a cup of tea; settle me down. As the bag steeped, the cats shot in, mewling and circling my feet. But they ignored the milk I put down and kept up the racket until I realised that was all I could hear.
I went over to the lounge window and saw the men standing further away, staring, protective eyewear pushed back on their heads. I looked down at the newly embellished railings – extra spikes, to keep out riff-raff. I imagined the old bat tripping and falling, getting hideously impaled. I waved across and lowered the blind.