denouement

…the untying of the knot made up of too many people involving themselves in everything

The daylight trickled into the room through various chinks in the curtains. Odd things in the room were lit up, whilst the majority of the room was left in relative darkness. A rather sizable shoe, its toe pointing upwards, its sole covered in mud, was the object in the room which was most illuminated. However, to whom it was attached wasn’t as yet revealed. A patch of morning light also caught the pale fingers of someone’s hand, the wrist of which extended from beneath a blanket. The fingers were long and thin, a ring on the index finger indicating that this person was most likely a woman. Apart from these few revelations, as well as the illumination of other random objects, the back of a chair, the curve of a football, a pile of books on the floor, there was nothing else to see.

But there could be heard the sound of several people sleeping – one, perhaps two people, breathing steadily but quietly, which could be heard between the rise of two distinct snores, one shrill the other a deep base sound. The sudden rise in volume of one of these snores, the shrill snore which was accompanied by a half whistle every second or third cycle, accompanied by the sound of a heavy fall from a small height (the first sound of movement) indicates the beginning of this final scene.

The frightened look on Henry’s face which filled a pool of light, a look of fright which he was accustomed to adopting, on waking in a strange place, on waking at home in bed, on opening his eyes to see that the world was still there after any period loner than a couple of seconds in the dark, on being exposed to any extreme of any kind, bright light, complete darkness, shocking red, a flagrant disregard for the rules of society, on being told any piece of news he wasn’t previously advised of, on being asked a question by anyone in a position of authority – this frightened look signified nothing. However, his breaking into a string of voluble and harsh swearing did indicate that something might just be the matter.

The next source of autonomous movement, movement reflected in the noise it generated, the jerky movement of a dying animal or a malfunctioning machine was suggested by a series of sudden and sharp noises, was to be revealed in a shock of light once the curtain was tugged from before the window – it was Smith, stripped to the waist, leering at what was revealed before him as his eyes adjusted to it. It was a picture of three people hiding from the light, the hands of one, pale, long and thin fingers holding down a cushion in an attempt to block out the light, the bare feet of another, their pale skin standing out against their dark hair, and the backs of the hands of another, pressed against his face, seeming to gouge out his eyes in an attempt to escape the light or what it revealed.

Apart from another string of curses from Henry, there were smothered moans and whimpers rising from beneath cushions and blankets, moans and whimpers which suggested more than merely a disinclination to enter another day, or the usual notes of pessimism and apathy which could always be heard dripping onto this floor, hanging off the curtains and simpering in the dark spaces between the sofa cushions and beneath crisp packets. Something had happened. There was something wrong.

Why were all four of our main actors waking on a Saturday morning in Oscar’s living room? Why was Henry sleeping in his suit? Why was Helen not sleeping in her own room, protected from such undesirable elements as Smith’s leering eye, Oscar’s voluble snoring and Henry’s crazed looks? Why was there a smile on Oscar’s face, otherwise twisted by squinting and frowning, when at last it emerged from beneath the pillow, a crumpled magazine and a dust encrusted violet blanket?

“Stop moving!” Henry called out in a harsh whisper. “What are you doing? Get down on the floor!”

Smith either didn’t understand or didn’t care to understand.

“The car could still be there!”

Smith walked over to the front window and pulled open the curtains there too. The greater illumination of the room served to illuminate the greater degree of distress marked on Henry’s face, who now fell to the floor on his hands and knees and scuttled up to the front window, beneath the dinner table and peered cautiously over the window sill between the buckled slats of the Venetian blinds at the street outside. His sharp intake of breath indicated that there was something there on that street which justified a sharp intake of breath.

“My God Oscar, they’ll not give up. They’ll never give up. They’ve got me and they’ll never let go.”

Seeing Henry on the verge of tears, past the verge of hysteria, and looking as pitiable as he ever look, crouched over on the floor in a wrinkled suit, his hair standing up, his face unshaven – the very picture of a dishevelled and broken man, was still not enough to stop Oscar smiling. It even caused Helen to break into a smile, thus leaving behind the scowl which presided over her face ever since it emerged from beneath a blanket.

Once everyone was around the coffee table, in one form or another, either curled up on the floor or on the sofa, wrapped up in blankets or naked to the waist, Oscar took the floor in order to unravel this whole mystery.

“The car with the blacked out windows is Smith’s new car. It was following Henry and I, not because Henry here had skipped school and called in sick, using the pathetic lie of some exotic disease which must have being lying dormant in his system since a family holiday in the Caribbean twelve years ago. The fear you feel Henry, my good man, at least that which is attached to that vehicle with the blacked out windows and your lying to school, is entirely groundless. You have successfully deceived Didsbury Grammar – well done.”

Henry’s sigh of relief was a little too desperate, redolent of a man gasping for air after a prolonged period under water.

“Now if I could turn to Helen,” which Oscar now did. “The key from your room is in Henry’s pocket. He was afraid of your callous disregard for other people manifesting itself in your switching on every light you could once you gained the privacy of your room, in order to give the game away to the private investigator Henry had thought to be sitting outside in the car with the blacked out windows. I’m sure that he’ll return it to you directly.”

The look of pure hatred on Helen’s face didn’t seem to be of the variety to be so easily assuaged by the return of any object not dripping in someone’s blood.

“As for you Smith, you have been the willing participant in a grand scheme to sow chaos and confusion in the mind of one already chaotic and confused. You will go straight to hell.”

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