On the Edge
much; otherwise, he’s really quiet, but when he drinks, he shouts and shouts until he’s so tired he goes to bed without any supper and is soon fast asleep and snoring like a pig—if you’ll pardon the expression. I wish he was more like you, quiet and polite, I’m sure you’d never shout like that or threaten anyone. The trouble is that when you get married, you’re young and full of hope, you’re not thinking clearly, because when you’re going out with someone, they only show you their best side, they might even be pretending to be good. You only really get to know the other person once you’re married. Our mothers know that and tell us it’s always been the same, exactly the same, but we young people take no notice, love blinds us and we don’t want to listen to the voice of experience because we’re stupid enough to believe we’re the very first people in the world ever to fall in love, as if we’d invented it. You’re different, though, I think that if you had got married, your wife certainly wouldn’t have been disappointed, it’s a real shame you didn’t marry, because marriage would simply have confirmed to her that she was living with a good man, why, you’re almost like a father to me, more than a father really, because my father didn’t care about us, about me and my brothers and sisters; on the contrary, he sent us out to work and got all the money he could out of us so that he could go off with his friends and spend it all on drinks in the local bar. Sometimes he wouldn’t come home for three or four days, and you can imagine the state he was in when he did come home, he’d be completely out of it, his clothes in shreds, stinking of other women, high on cocaine, and with all the money gone. You’re exactly the kind of father anyone could possibly want, and the other gentleman, your father, even though he doesn’t talk now, he’s so tall and slim, he must have been very handsome as a young man, and I’m not saying that because you’re shorter and stockier, I mean everyone’s different, but he’s so distinguished-looking—there he is not saying a word, we don’t even know what he might be thinking, my sense, though, is that he must have been very kind and polite too, you can tell from his appearance, his presence, and even though the poor thing can’t speak, you can see his good thoughts in his eyes, in the way he looks at us. You can see his kindness. You must have been a lovely family. It’s just such a shame your Mama isn’t still with us, but, of course, if she were alive, she’d be as old as your father, so better to let her rest in peace, don’t you think? I’m sure she deserves it. She’s waiting up there in heaven for you all to join her.
    What do these people want, what do they expect a man to do when the fridge is empty? In day-to-day living, you’re constrained by your kids, by your wife; if it wasn’t for them, you’d do all kinds of crazy things, but when you’re in really deep trouble, when you reach that final tipping point, the very opposite happens: it’s precisely your wife and kids who make you do the crazy thing that, before, they seemed to be stopping you from doing. The same people who saved you become your downfall. You ruin your life because of them. You’re capable of taking a rifle and stealing the day’s cash from the local butcher just to be able to put some chicken breasts in the fridge, have a few chicken bones to make stock and a bit of blood pudding for the stew; sausages, hamburgers, cheese triangles, yogurt. To get a packet of Ariel for the washing machine, diapers for the baby. I don’t know exactly what I would be capable of doing to you people—to you, the ones who’ve got everything—but I do have a rifle at home. I have the right licenses, so the crime of illegal possession of weapons wouldn’t appear on the sentence; homicide, murder, premeditation, execution, they might appear, but not illegal possession, because I do have

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