When I found the car keys in the fridge I wasn’t surprised. They’d been there before. But when I went to make a cup of coffee only to find that all the teaspoons had disappeared from the cutlery drawer I thought sod me; this is a first.
“Alan,” I called. “What have you done with the spoons?”
“What?” Alan was in the next room putting finishing touches to a charcoal drawing of our granddaughter.
“What about them?”
“Where have you put them?”
“Haven’t touched them.”
Typical, I thought. He’s put them somewhere.
“You’ve put them somewhere, Alan. Think. Try to remember.”
“I’m sure I haven’t done anything with the spoons.”
“I think I am.”
“What do you mean?”
“Is it possible you’ve moved the spoons, like the car keys, and don’t remember what you’ve done with them?”
“Well… I suppose it’s possible.”
They turned up in the rubbish bag, revealed by an unfamiliar metallic scraping noise as I carried it out to the bin.
A week later, Alan disappeared.
I had expected to find him outside weeding around the shed which we’d both agreed needed doing as soon as possible because it looked a mess. But, finding the nettles, dandelions and shepherds’ purse undisturbed and, in fact, no sign of activity whatsoever, I feared the worse. Dashing back into the house, I grabbed a coat and a hat and set off down the road to look for him.
He couldn’t have gone far.
Although Alan hated shopping he was a regular customer at Mr Bahnwali’s convenience store where he bought occasional newspapers and, once a month, collected his copy of The Artist which he’d ordered especially. I decided to try here first only to discover that my husband, disappointingly, hadn’t been seen. Then to add to my frustration, I allowed myself to get annoyed by the shopkeeper’s silly comment about my hat.
Didn’t he realise the seriousness of the situation?
Hurrying on towards the centre of the small market town in which we live, with its sparse midweek population of elderly folk and others with nothing better to do, I became increasingly unsettled by the indifference of the world around me. What’s more, I was very worried for Alan and I was weary and lonely with the burden I’d acquired by default.
“You just don’t know how it’s going to end,” I was thinking. “You just don’t know. Everything’s tickety-boo then… funny expression… tickety-boo. Tickety-boo, tickety-boo. Then, bang, out of the blue it’s all gone pear shaped. You just can’t see it coming… You never know…You never know…”
My progress had ground to a halt by a bus stop where I suddenly realised that I had been talking aloud to myself and the queue of pensioners and mothers with toddlers was staring in my direction with expressions ranging from concern and fear to amusement and mockery.
“It’s all right,” I said, recovering a bit. “I’m looking for a husband. I mean my husband… It’s all right.” And I carried on down the street.
I was beginning to wonder whether Alan had perhaps not wandered off at all and maybe I should have searched the house a bit more thoroughly as he might have had a fall in the downstairs loo, when I was distracted by a 3 for 2 offer in the window display of Drugsavers. But, while gazing at their shop front, I saw the reflection of Oxfam on the opposite side of the road and it reminded me of the other place he might have gone.
He loved the books, you see.
“They have an excellent collection,” he’d say, as he unloaded another pile of tatty so-called art books onto the already groaning shelves.
Personally I think he just liked ogling the nudes.
Anyway, rather than wandering aimlessly about the town, it occurred to me that I needed to get a bit more focused, as they say. So I turned around and started to cross the road.
Those buses! You don’t hear them coming! Luckily, the hand of my guardian angel grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me back.
It was Alan.
“So there you are!” I exclaimed. “Where have you been?”
“I’ve been looking everywhere for you,” he said. “And why are you wearing my hat?”
“So that’s gratitude for you!” I thought, but I didn’t say anything. “Shouldn’t upset the poor old chap.”