I didn’t really expect her to be dead.
Well, you don’t do you? Right as rain one minute, yapping away like she owned the place and then this morning — gone. If this was a hospital where the old biddies keel over every five minutes, or one of those places they shove you when there’s not long to go, you’d know then, wouldn’t you? Know that at least some of them aren’t going to be around the next day. But this place, well, just a glorified skyscraper. Place where ordinary folk live. And die, apparently.
Couldn’t believe it when Susie grabbed me first thing and says Old Evie’s gone an’ popped off. I just looked at her. What d’you mean Popped Off? And of course, being the spiteful cow she is, she gives me that look like I’m a total cretin and goes, Bleedin’ dead, ain’t she?
I could’ve smacked her stupid face for her. Talking about Evie like that. I mean, I know she wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but she’d more life in her than most folk. So at the handover when they ask for someone to sort her things out, I put my hand up. The other girls don’t like to do it cos it means hanging around and going through all her clothes and that. But I don’t mind.
The men come just before lunch. Two of them.
I thought they’d have a trolley or something, but the little fat one, he says they’ll manage. I take them up to the flat and let them in.
The tall one, I’ve seen him before, think he came last year for Mrs Armitage’s things. He has a list. A long list. Says this is all the stuff she’s had over the years, so naturally they want it all back.
He shows me the list. I tell him I don’t think Evie ever used a ripple mattress, and he just shrugs. Doesn’t matter if it’s not all there, he says. Often isn’t.
His mate, the fat one, he laughs. Probably end up on a car boot stall, he says. Or eBay. He obviously thinks this is hilarious and nudges the tall one like he’s expecting him to laugh.
No-one here would take anything, I say. I feel like I should have a go at him, but instead I give him an evil stare and hope he knows what I’m thinking.
Oh, yeah, I know, he says. Just, you know, some places…
We’re still standing in the entrance hall so I take them through to the living room. It’s a nice room, bright and airy. Lovely view. Looks out onto the park. I always liked it.
The tall one gets busy sorting through the bathroom equipment while the fat one sets about dismantling her chair. It’s one of those big heavy electric ones that lifts you up. It must weigh a ton cos he really struggles with it and I suddenly feel guilty and think I should offer to help. So I go over and I’m just about to say D’you want a hand? When he turns and breathes on me. Not sure what the smell is but it fair knocks me over, so I move back to the window and watch him struggle.
When he moves the base of it, there’s a square of flattened carpet underneath. Crushed and stained. All that’s left of her.
And I’m standing in the middle of the room and I can’t help but hear her voice. That high, whiny, don’t-fucking-tell-me-what-to-do voice. Not saying anything in particular. Just there. In my head. I can feel the tears welling up so I grab a tissue and blow my nose.
Got a cold coming, love? says the tall one.
I nod. Don’t forget the rails, I say.
We don’t take them, love, says the fat one. Adaptations, they are. Anyway, some other poor old dear’ll get the benefit. He starts heaving the two parts of the chair out into the corridor.
There are kids playing on the swings. I go and close the windows and for a while I just stand there and look. Evie would’ve liked this, I say. Blue sky, children playing. Her sort of day.
But they’ve already gone.
Colin Garrow’s short stories are forthcoming or have appeared in: The Grind, A3 Writing Maps, Postcard Shorts, 1,000 Words, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine. He currently lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes unpublished novels.