Part two of two continued from “I am the Egg Man”…
A week after the day the concrete set, Walter was in the kitchen eating his egg, contemplating how long he’d been contemplating murder. The concrete footings outside had now gone off and the contractors were due today, to start building the new chicken shed, the one over which he and Andrew had come to blows a dozen times.
Walter had always been the more sensitive of the two brothers, the one prone to nostalgia and depression, the one who missed his father Herbert who’d built this family empire. A fine, strong man with principles even in business. His funeral, many years ago, was a huge affair, it felt like the town and its wife was there. At the wake there was talk of a statue erected in the square, which never happened but to Walter even the talk of it meant it stood. Herbert was deeply proud of both his sons and, Walter reconciled over his egg, he’d still be proud today – proud of how he and Andrew had taken the business forward, proud of the new shed, and proud that he’d spared Andrew any more pain.
The brother had become nobody, somebody sitting in the kitchen for his meals then shuffling to the stairs to spend his days in his room thinking God knows, if thinking at all. The brother who was handsome, fit and strong just like their father, the brother who was hardworking and passionate, no more. The sensitive side of Walter missed him. Once across the table was this other man, eating, talking, making plans, arguing, sometimes vying to bare-knuckle fight Walter or the world. Even recently, when the man was gone, he was still there, eating meals, picking his nose and eating that too, and though it made Walter feel sick, he was still his brother. And now there was just one plate put out, just one egg to boil. But the sensitive side of Walter also reconciled that the man who was once so strong then wasn’t, was lost, anguished, bewildered, in pain. He’d been so for years, since that first day when he said he’d made the deliveries to Rigg but came back with the van still full. For years he’d been on a downwards trajectory, for years he’d been suffering the pain of slow disappearance. And the thought of that answered Walter’s question, that he’d been contemplating murder for years.
After rinsing the pots he went round with the chicken feed then to load the van before driving to market.
“Any sign?” asked the old woman in the town.
“Nothing,” said Walter.
“I’m sure Andrew will be fine,” she said, sighing and squeezing his arm with a liver-spotted hand, “He’ll show up again like last time, like nothing happened.”
Thanking the old woman for her concern and kind words, Walter headed to the police station, where the officers who came to the house last week were talking respectfully about this becoming a grave concern. A helicopter was mooted again.
It was a nice afternoon in town after that; Walter shopped at Tesco for the food he liked and a microwave that would save him time, he walked down the high street to the square where the statue to his father stood in his thoughts, he looked in estate agents’ windows at the kind of house he dreamed of retiring to with a woman for company therein, he even thought about buying a television but resisted that for now. He had his computer for entertainment and his not inconsiderable collection of poetry books.
When the work was done, Walter returned to the smallholding, where a large truck was in the back yard and girders were being craned into place. There was drilling into the concrete, steel framing erected, the metallic din of progress. After checking the birds were untroubled, Walter watched for a while, spoke to some of the men, who said they’d have this finished within the allotted time. Everything was grand, tickety-boo, he heard one of them say.
In the house he ventured into his brother’s room, only the second time he’d done so in more years than he could recall. He left the bed unmade as Andrew had abandoned it, the mattress concave where the man had slept, but righted the chair that showed his struggle. After washing and shaving, he looked at himself in the mirror – still young in his head, fit, strong, handsome, the blepharitis that depressed him having a day off. Craving a woman.
By the time the men had called it a day, the steel framing of the new shed was already huge, magnificent in its way and in its way a statue and monument to Herbert. But Walter wouldn’t dwell for long, he was the man dressed in his suit, the only one he owned, justifying his actions like a new man, saying out loud to his father that now the monument was finally up it was time to sell, planning a walk to the village pub a mile away, one that would be busy, where people knew the egg man and he knew them, and could ask if anybody had seen his brother, and could have a few pints, perhaps a Scotch or too… where possibly he could one day find his bride. As he headed for the yard gate he saw it was a nice evening, warmer now, the trees in bud, the birds coupling therein and singing – all the sights and sounds of spring interrupted only by the throb of a helicopter in the distance.
First published by Simian Tales.