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Shifting Shadows
Shifting Shadows
Published by Nemonymous
Shifting Shadows


"We'll need a belt as well as some braces," she said.

I looked askance at where my wife Rose was sitting. What did she know about a man's need for a belt and braces? Sixty years of marriage and she still thought that anxiety was a word you set in spelling tests. And security as a job someone did in places we never at our age went to any more.

If one thing fails, then you have the other to hang on to, I always tried to explain, a bit like marriage itself, the belt and the braces of self and unself amid the shifting shadows of precarious time. So imagine my surprise when she suggested both methods of holding up the trousers as a metaphor for double banking the fire with coal and wood, with the help of the updraught of a stretched-wide newspaper in front of the flames. Dangerous, looking back on such ancient domestic fire-making practices. I often got my metaphors mixed. I could never keep up with conversations nowadays, because I had to remember what someone had said at least a a minute or so before I tried to remember it - and that was becoming more and more difficult.

What had happened, was that the electricity had gone out, and all the house-lights with it. And by belt and braces, she meant a torch and a candle. We had to climb the stairs to bed, a veritable challenge more characteristic of Everest these days. Especially in an unexpected darkness. I imagined those shifting shadows of my life now transposed to the landing, especially if lit with a candle.

"No, not a candle," I said. "A torch will do."

"We need one to find the other," Rose counter-claimed. "Otherwise we will find neither."

I nodded as if I understood. Except it was too dark to see me nodding. This was a rum do, I thought. Both of us sitting in the darkness, thinking the other one would go to find a candle. Or a torch. Whichever was more readily to hand.

Needless to say, our preparation for such an eventuality had turned out to be pitiful. As we realised at the same precise moment that the belt had failed and so had the braces. But having just written that, I'll probably forget it later. My own flickering inner light was blighted with shifting shadows. And I mused as I watched them for a while or imagined watching them as we continued sitting in silence. Good job I would again recognise her voice as I had no other evidence about with whom I was sitting in the sitting-room. Sitting side by side or opposite each other, I could not remember. I stretched out my hand in all directions and fumbled with a vertical elasticated strap over someone's chest. Didn't feel like my wife's chest. Must be mine, then. Though the waist and its threaded belt felt far too huge to be anyone's at all. Must be a giant, I thought. I resisted feeling beyond the clothes. The light would be back soon.

And it was then I heard a movement in the corner of the room, a shuffly, shambly friction. And the sudden blooming of candleflame amid new shifting shadows, and a face lit up. I squinted to see if it was my wife's. I was sure it was her face, the one that had been lived in for longer than anyone would care to think. My own face was weathered, too. I wonder if she could see it from where she now stood, with that relatively distant candleflame. If it was her at all. Which it must be. It would be an intruder otherwise. An intruder wearing braces.

I laughed to myself. Strange what shifting shadows can do to the mind. And I thought of my own trusty torch that I thought I carried about with me at all times - for just such an eventuality. Its pinprick beam ever primed. But all I'd feel would be my mobile phone which I had never been able to use properly ever since my son gave it to me and showed me how to work it. It might even have its own beam, I now suddenly remembered. Strange what one remembers, and what one forgets. I believe I forget more than I remember, but I am never sure.

I suddenly stood up with a creaking of pain, without apparent volition, to feel better about my person and to seek whatever double security of well-being I could re-establish. And my trousers immediately collapsed around my ankles with a silence from which any friction had already escaped.

"The light is back on." Rose's voice. But I didn't hear it. The root of the fitment had come away from the ceiling. And the rest of the lightshade hanging beneath had fallen with it. The visibility had become its own shifting shadows out of my sight up there, risen there automatically like swathes of bright heat and smoke. I couldn't even remember, meanwhile, whether I was still alive. Only the feeling of someone's fingers loosening the pinions of my clothes. So I could escape through them. Then loosening the sinewy belt and braces holding all the baggy skin to the bones. I was to be cared for by my better half to the very end, I thought - even as I remembered the sensation of it all ending but not quite ending yet. "How do you spell anxiety?" asked the giant, before the mobile broke into light, having already started to vibrate.
7 Thanks From:
Dr. Locrian (08-13-2017), miguel1984 (08-14-2017), mongoose (08-13-2017), ramonoski (08-13-2017), Robert Adam Gilmour (08-20-2017), yellowish haze (08-13-2017), Zaharoff (08-13-2017)


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