Remains of the Day

Ryan Nielson

Alan doesn’t feel 40, doesn’t feel middle-aged. But as of today, that is what he is. Sitting in front of the spreadsheets his mind bogged down in pixelation earlier than usual—just after the obligatory morning tea shout. Mike, the national Parts Manager, had chirped through a mouthful of flaky sausage roll, ‘So what you got planned at the bachelor pad tonight?’ then changed tack without missing a beat when it looked like he was coming over maudlin. Mince casserole for one. Nothing, really. None of your bloody business.

At ten past five Alan braced himself for the wind and jostled into formation with the other umbrellas. If he’d waited around there probably would have been a few work drinks on offer, but he couldn’t face the forced joviality. Not tonight. They’d been there for him after the breakup, but right now he felt a bit adrift, like he’d somehow been too honest, too down, not contained enough.

Turning right into Manners Street he splashed past a huddle of teenagers outside Burger King and found himself wondering how they’d be spending the evening. He briefly considered driving to a vantage point above the fog to clear his head and mark the day with some sort of significance, a set of resolutions. But a hot meal held more appeal.

Back at the flat, Gingerbear was quietly staking out the goldfish bowl from his usual spot on the windowsill. ‘What do you do all day cat?’ he said aloud, and vaguely wondered if the fish saw a new cat each morning. In the kitchen he spooned chunks into Gingerbear’s yellow bowl, opened a bottle of Shiraz and leant into the heat of the stovetop. What a crap day, and there’s going to be mince casserole for miles. He hoped the leftovers would still taste good for tomorrow’s lunch.

One glass turned into one bottle, and the late show weather lady looked far too chirpy for that time of night. ‘I’ll put my head out the window if I want to know about the weather’, he promised, and poked a finger at the ‘off’ button.

When his head sunk into the pillow he thought: same as ever, the good days pass quickly and the best you hope for is a memory. Better not to worry, surely, he concluded, head throbbing with the glow of his 40th birthday epiphany. He reached an affectionate hand down to Gingerbear, and dreamt of two pale green eyes watching him from the gentle rise and fall of his stomach.

Alan woke with a start just before the alarm went off—and thumped it before it had a chance to bleat. He got ready for work as quick as he ever had and slammed the door behind him, forgetting the leftover casserole on the bench. Gingerbear didn’t, and, with little ceremony, dispatched the remains in an unmarked grave somewhere in the back garden.


Ryan Nielson (ryann[at] sweats it out as a freelance writer and editor in Wellington, New Zealand, working on a variety of publications for local government and various organisations.

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