MR MERTON • by Tapes

The three night staff helped Mr Merton back to his room. He didn’t resist, he didn’t speak. He just smiled as he climbed into bed and curled up.

“That’s the third time this week we’ve found him just standing in the kitchen,” Julie said at shift changeover.

“Well, he’s new here, it’s probably an upset for him. They don’t like change at his age,” Betty replied.

“I think he’s creepy,” young Helen said.

Betty rounded on her. “Helen, that poor man’s had to put up with so much tragedy in his life, so much loss. You should be more sympathetic.”

Helen flushed. “Sorry,” she said, but Betty wasn’t finished.

“Then just as he gets settled into a place, there was all that…” She paused. “All that trouble at The Meadows.”

There was silence as they remembered. It had even made the national papers. Eleven residents out of fourteen dead in a two-month period. The press called it the Killing Meadows.

“So, I think we can forgive Mr Merton for looking,” Betty crooked her fingers into inverted commas, “creepy.”

Helen nodded, shamefaced.

Betty sniffed.

“Good,” she said.

Betty left a note for the day staff explaining that Mr Merton had been up in the night and that he should be left to sleep through breakfast.

Lying in his narrow bed and still clutching the medicine bottle under his pyjamas, Mr Merton allowed himself a chuckle.

“Stupid cows,” he thought.

Nothing on earth would have induced him to go down for breakfast that morning.

Tapes, also known as Mark Tomlinson, is a 49-year-old father of four who dabbles in short fiction and will continue doing so until he gets it right.

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