Tim Dowl­ing

Plus Coco Khan

The Guardian - Weekend - - News -

Late morn­ing. I am deal­ing with a mid­day dead­line by drink­ing cof­fee in the kitchen and fret­ting: I don’t know what to write. My wife calls me into the next room for an ar­gu­ment about the k kitchen ceil­ing light. It’s not the bulb, I tell her. I changed the bulb. As she speaks, some­thing on the tele­vi­sion catches my eye. I sit down to watch. I no­tice long shad­ows on the walls. I glance at the d c clock: it’s 5pm.

I fly into a panic, search­ing the house for my lap­top. I check to see why no one has rung me, but my phone is not in my pocket. s

I open my eyes and the world goes dark.

It dawns on me that I am ly­ing in bed. Re­al­ity fil­ters in: the par­tic­u­lars of the dream – the loom­ing dead­line, the lack of an idea, the dread, the blink­ing kitchen light – are all true. Only the time is wrong: it’s 5am, not 5pm. All this is to come.

I fear that if I shut my eyes im­me­di­ately, the dream will re­sume where it left off, so I get out of bed and wan­der through the dark house. I find an empty child’s bed­room – de­void even of fur­ni­ture – and sit down on the floor to make an early start on work, us­ing pen and pa­per. Still no idea comes. I look up to see an ema­ci­ated old man in a night­dress star­ing down at me. Some­one punches my arm and shouts my name.

“What?” I say.

“You’re scream­ing,” my wife says. The grey-dawn bed­room takes shape around me. “Yeah,” I say.

“You’re hav­ing a night­mare,” she says. “I get it,” I say. “Stop punch­ing me.” “Go back to sleep,” she says.

“I can’t,” I say. “I have to get up.” “Kitch is meant to come and fix the light to­day,” she says. “Are you in?”

“I’ve got dead­lines,” I say. “I’m here all day.”

At 5pm, I am sit­ting in the kitchen, dead­lines be­hind me, the faulty ceil­ing light flash­ing in its now-fa­mil­iar pat­tern: blink blink blink, five-se­cond in­ter­val, blink blink blink. Over the course of a week, the other ceil­ing lights have be­gun to dim in sym­pa­thy, to the same rhythm: dip dip dip, pause, dip dip dip.

My wife walks in. “I re­ally don’t how you can sit in here,” she says. “It makes me feel sick.”

“Where is Kitch?” I say.

“Stuck some­where,” she says. “But he promised he’d be here be­fore seven.”

Seven o’clock comes and goes. I wan­der through the house aim­lessly, lis­ten­ing to my wife on her phone. “Just ad­mit you’re not coming,” she says. “So we can get on with our lives.”

At 8pm the bell rings.

“Christ almighty,” Kitch says, strid­ing in. “All the roads around here are blocked off. I’ve had to…”

“What time do you call this?” my wife shouts.

“Glass of wa­ter, please!” Kitch yells. “Where are your tools?” my wife screams. “You haven’t even got any tools!”

“They’re in my van!” Kitch screams. “Which is parked a mile away!”

“Go get them then!” my wife shouts back at him.

“Stop shout­ing!” Kitch yells.

“You stop shout­ing!” my wife screams. Kitch turns to me. “Glass of wa­ter, please, mate,” he says. “She doesn’t seem to be pick­ing up on the re­quest.”

Kitch fol­lows me to the sink, where I fill a glass. “I have got this with me, just in case,” he says, pulling a light­bulb from his pocket.

“It’s not the bulb,” I say. “I changed the bulb.”

Kitch drags a chair over.

“I told him it wasn’t the bulb,” my wife says.

As Kitch climbs on to the chair, I can see what will fol­low as clearly as if I had dreamed it the night be­fore.

He un­screws the ceil­ing fit­ting and swaps bulbs. The blink­ing ceases. “Next,” Kitch says.

My wife turns to me. “How hugely em­bar­rass­ing for you,” she says.

I take a long, slow breath. “I’m choos­ing not to see it that way,” I say.

“Aren’t you?” my wife says. “I am.” “Pure hu­mil­i­a­tion,” Kitch says.

“I know I changed the bulb,” I say, clos­ing my eyes and hop­ing that, when I open them, I will be in bed

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.