Charles glanced up at the clock, it was nearly midday. Any second now the telephone would ring as it had for the past ten years, twelve noon every Wednesday. His hand hovered over the receiver like a gunslinger in a wild west shootout. Sure enough, as the clock hands met, a shrill ringtone echoed around the room. His stomach tightened as he lifted the handset. As always, their conversation was littered with ‘how are you’, ‘are you looking after yourself’, ‘hasn’t the weather been awful’. Many other banal and meaningless phrases passed between them. There were numerous pauses, words drying up. During one of these breaks, Charles grabbed his opportunity to say, “Look Betty, I’m sorry but I don’t think I can visit you this Friday. Snow is forecast and you know how much I hate driving in bad weather”. Charles waited for a response, he could hear shallow breaths, then a gulp. “But you must come! It’s my birthday!” His eyes glistened. He’d forgotten. Charles quickly gathered himself and apologised. “Of course, Betty, how silly of me to forget, I’m doing this all the time lately, of course I’ll come. Is there anything special you’d like?” The call ended with the usual mutual, ‘Love you, miss you’. Although, in truth, Charles did neither.
Friday soon arrived. There were a few familiar faces waiting outside the main entrance. No one spoke, just a few cursory nods of acknowledgement. Charles waited for his turn to enter. The uniformed woman passed a metal detector across his body. She indicated with a flick of her wrist that he could move on. Charles stepped forward and momentarily glanced up at the sign, ‘Welcome to HM Prison Styal’.
Charles whispered quietly, “I’m not sure I can do another five years of this.”
Issue 6 & 7
The Stories & Poems
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