Shooting in the Dark

Shooting in the Dark by John Baker

Book: Shooting in the Dark by John Baker Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Baker
her arm, and I could hear her stools splashing into the water.
    I gave her an hour, an hour and a half. If necessary I can be patient.
    We have a tall chair in the kitchen. It is too tall for the table. When you sit on it you have to lean down to reach the cornflakes. Miriam was sitting on it. She had a woollen cardigan over her shoulders, fastened with one button. Her arms were bare.
    I took a breath and she looked towards me.
    ‘Bad day?’ I asked.
    She nodded. ‘You could say that.’
    ‘I don’t think I contributed towards it,’ I said. ‘But you’re making me suffer.’
    ‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘If I have a bad day, everybody else should as well.’ She smiled quickly. She went to the bathroom and returned almost immediately. ‘You’re as crazy as a two-bob watch,’ she said, handing me the hairbrush.

    Sam’s late wife had left him a house with five bedrooms. He had plans for it; he’d had plans for it ever since Dora died. But his ideas about the house never materialized. The first thing he’d thought of doing was moving out and giving the place to a housing charity - Shelter, one of those. Because what did he want with a great rambling place like that? And Dora’s ghost was forever there.
    Next, he was going to take in homeless people, fill the place with life, give it a reason to exist. There must be lots of other kids like Geordie, who needed a helping hand, somewhere they could get a little shelter. People needed a base, somewhere they could begin to be whoever it was they were supposed to be.
    The latest thing was that he’d advertise the rooms, let them off to whoever wanted them. People who wouldn’t be dependent on him. People whom he wouldn’t have to bail out on a Saturday night, and whom he wouldn’t have to hassle to clean up the kitchen.
    But now he’d come round full circle, and was thinking of moving out again. The place was an emotional burden. He felt guilty about taking up so much space. Should have moved out in the summer when he wasn’t busy, instead of laying about in the long grass in the garden and watching the tourists littering the medieval streets, wondering when he was going to slip and buy some hooch.
    Saturday today. Most of the day off. His surveillance stint didn’t start until five o’clock. He’d been to a midday AA meeting at the Friends Meeting House and walked into town, had a look at the people. It was cold, but he bought a packet of fish and chips in Petergate and took them to a bench in King’s Square. The fish was hot, and when he broke through the crust of batter he burnt his fingers on the white flesh. There were a dozen or so others in the square, mainly tourists. Two Norwegians, a lone Japanese woman, and a young American family, most of them tasting real fish and chips for the first time in their lives and some wondering why they’d bothered.
    Sam wasn’t drinking at the moment, hadn’t touched a drop since Dora died. He didn’t want a drink today, and if that changed as the day turned towards evening, it wouldn’t make any difference. He’d ignore the craving, talk to Max, his AA sponsor. If Max wasn’t around, he’d talk himself through it. He was working, and there was the woman called Angeles. There were reasons to stay sober. If you looked hard enough, there were always reasons. The gospel of a hopeful cynic.
    There’d been a blind woman at the AA meeting, Sally Stone. She’d said that her blindness and her alcoholism were the same. The only way to live with either was to accept it as a fact. Her alcoholism meant staying away from booze. If she didn’t, her life fell apart. And her blindness meant that she had to use a cane or a dog to get around safely. As soon as I begin to ignore the fact that I’m blind,’ she said, ‘then I get hurt or in trouble.’
    Yeah, there it was, coming out of somebody else’s mouth, somebody else’s experience. You have to take the treatment, and treatment primarily involves not taking a

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