He leaned back in his chair and yawned. This is when it darts for him, swerving at his face. ‘Mwuurrh’, came the noise from Charles’ mouth as he ducked out the way and flapped his hand. He shuddered. It was only small and made no sound, then it flew off behind his head into the large bedroom. He turned back to his work, but it was not going well. Any distraction would be welcome. He squeezed the muscles in his gut and sphincter to test the need to defecate, but he could detect only a small morsel. He was fine for another hour or so, until the muesli began to work inside him. It was a biting March day in his west facing room, which received little sun, leaving it chilly. Charles shuddered again, more at the thought of the cold, and looked round. It crawled across the huge expanse of the bed, its quick blackness startlingly clear and alive against the white of the duvet. It stopped. Then it carried on, and stopped again. Maybe it had chanced upon a miniscule piece of faecal matter, unseeable to the human eye. Or maybe it had been seeking it out all along. This is, after all, what they do, their food and drink. Farting in bed and trapping the smell under the covers had long been an activity he had enjoyed. It had been six months since he had been able to subject anyone to this delight, since he and Cathy had parted, bereft. In those first numb days Charles had enjoyed having the whole bed to himself, a small compensation, but after a few days he grew cold, and he missed her, with an ache. It had been around three weeks since he had washed the covers. But although alone he was not unclean and he never ate in bed. He hated crumbs in it, rubbing against his skin. If he felt one, he would make her get out, even throughout her pregnancy and stand, bleary eyed, the duvet scrunched up around her, as he took the sheet off the mattress, and shook it out before putting it back on, inside out. He reached over and slapped the edge of the bed with his hand. It shot off, dashing itself against the window several times, before settling on the wooden window frame. It didn’t have the same energy they sometimes have, that frenzied, manic desire to escape. Nor was it fat and green-backed like the kind that buzzed and darted from one end of a room to the other - the variety that made him feel physically sick. As they go, it was tolerable, quiet, polite. It seemed to know the room well, having explored and understood its dimensions, the design. Charles had not seen it the night before when he had read at his desk. It must’ve found its way in when he had woken up and gone to piss, then had breakfast, standing up in the kitchen. Given its size it could only have been a youngster in its short life cycle. Was it that, or was it underfed? Did they vary in size this much? He had no idea. Either way, this little one, sat upon the flecked paint of the windowsill, looked tired now, fed up. Perhaps it had been in here all night, at first desperate with hope, whizzing around Charles’ sleeping body. Perhaps it had even landed on him, crept along his face once or twice, hoping to find a meal, before he had shooed it away, unknowingly. Now it had given up, come to understand its plight and realised it may never get out alive. In one last vain flourish it twitched and settled on the wall next to the window, but he hadn’t managed to get very far. He must be exhausted. It hardly mattered, now was his chance, a sitting duck on the flat surface of the wall. The little fella had been distraction enough. Poetry, despite some claims, did not write itself. There was no time for sentiment. Cathy had gone, and was not coming back, she had made that clear. Life goes on, until one day, it doesn’t, and your time has come. That is all. He needed something that would not catch in motion and picked up the nearest thing, Waiting For Godot. He rose stealthily, testing it in his hand, but it was too flappy and afforded him no grip. He slid out a thick volume of Plath instead, a far better heft, then crept towards the window, careful not to disturb the air, Plath poised. He didn’t move, resigned, waited. He wouldn’t know what hit him, would never know. He remembered what his late father had always said: “He could be somebody’s mother.” He could be. He was definitely someone’s child, even if, like him, he was orphaned. Suddenly, he was exhausted. What had he been through these past nine hours? He put down Plath and pushed open the window, the cold air and wind blowing in his face. The neighbour’s garden was two stories below. This was his chance, he was on the edge of escape. Release. But he was weak. At last he walked on to the precipice. ‘Come on,’ said Charles softly, ‘come on, you can do it.’ But he sat there, crazed with desire but spent, lacking the resolve in his body. Charles knelt down behind him on two knees. He needed help. He linked his index finger and thumb in a circle, ‘Fly!’ then flicked him out the window, pinging him, half flying, half falling. Charles pounced forward, but he couldn’t see where he’d gone. Maybe he had landed safely in the neighbour’s tree.
Charles slid the window closed, then went in his kitchen to make tea. He took a long time drinking it. Then he put his shoes and coat on and knocked on the neighbour’s door to see if he could have a look in their garden.