By Alison Wassell
The way he enters the house sets the tone for the whole evening. If Len gets it wrong it brings on one of his attacks. He pulls the sleeve of his jacket over his hand and carefully lets himself in, taking care not to let his skin contact any part of the door.
He goes into the kitchen, where everything appears to be in order. Just to be sure he submerges the dishcloth in bleach in the bowl he keeps beside the sink. He opens the fridge and checks the ‘use by’ dates on everything. He discards some day-old tomatoes, which are disturbing the symmetry of things.
In the bathroom, one of the towels is slightly out of alignment. Len’s heart begins to pound. He adjusts it, then washes his hands in water almost too hot to bear. He shakes them dry, to avoid contaminating the towel. He examines the windowsill. All the bottles are pleasingly equidistant. He begins to breathe more easily.
The tour of inspection is almost complete. Len takes several deep breaths before pulling down the loft ladder. As he climbs he pulls his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. The smell is getting worse.
She’s still there, in the special bag he brought home from work. He runs his hand almost affectionately over the plastic. She wasn’t a bad person. It was just that she left the top off the toothpaste once too often. Then there were the hairs in the sink. She had to go. It’s a shame though. He misses her.
Len descends the ladder and scrubs his hands again. He changes his clothes, then goes downstairs to boil himself an egg. He cuts his toast into ten soldiers of identical length and width. He eats at the table, then dabs delicately at his lips with his napkin. He washes his dishes straight away and returns them to their rightful home.
He cleans the remote control with one of his special wipes before pointing it at the television screen. He fancies a quiet night in.