Jerry knows he isn’t unhappy. He knows that, despite the concern shown by Jamie, Jamie his twenty-something year old who moved to London a few years ago and who visits at least twice a year. He isn’t unhappy despite his doctor suggesting he may have depression and asking him if wanted any medication to cheer him up.
There’s a potato baking in the oven and some ragu waiting to be warmed up. And over there on the counter, a recently opened bottle of good red still half full. One clean glass awaits. Radio 4 is playing; a consumer programme soon to be followed by the news. Clean underwear is drying on the radiator. Everything is tickety-boo. Nothing is sad.
What he really wants, needs, is a motorbike. Plus all the accessories. He had suggested this to both Jamie and his doctor. Jamie had said no. The doctor had looked doubtful.
The leek and potato soup in the fridge is for supper. It’s left over from two days ago. Home-made. No artificial ingredients unless you count salt and pepper. Some salt, not too much. A decent dose of pepper.
The salesman is initially reluctant to let him sit on it but once Jerry produces his tattered bike license and some marginally less tattered black and white pictures of a younger himself astride an Ariel Square Four, he seems more amenable.
The man is impressed. “These German bikes are classy but don’t have the same je ne sais quoi as your Birmingham beast.”
Typical Radio Four daytime: they are talking about the use of injected fillers in facial cosmetic surgery and discussing the case of a woman who had a bad experience and is suffering from damaged vision. An expert says there are often problems. The interviewer says, “Scary”. The expert says there should be a register of qualified surgeons. A representative from the industry rejects the idea.
“Can I take it out?” he asks. “Get a feel for it? Burn some rubber?”
The phone rings. It’s someone wanting to speak about solar heating. Someone called Lisa. Lisa obviously needs the money. She speaks carefully and persuasively. She’s been well trained or perhaps she is a recently qualified PhD unable to find a job. Or perhaps someone doing a PhD researching cold calling in the domestic solar heating market.
Two blocks out Jerry thinks, “They are really very trusting,” and indicates to turn onto the motorway access road. He gives throttle and the bike responds. Margate, only forty minutes away. He shouts at the sky. He never thought he’d ride a Hun.
The needle on the Ariel touched ninety. The flesh and skin on his face flattened, distorted. His hair streamed behind as did Annie’s as she gripped him tightly around his waist and pressed herself against his back hardly able to breathe as the air was sucked away by the slipstream. She was ecstatic, her first ride in a year, since the doctor told them she was pregnant.
Someone is arguing that the troops need to be withdrawn. There are too many casualties and the war serves no purpose. The government spokesman blusters and flusters in response (he won’t last long). A member of the public is interviewed. A son has been killed by friendly fire.
The BMW purrs maturely, smoothly. Even at sixty there’s almost no vibration. Those bone fractures, well knitted long ago, feel nothing.
“Not yet,” he says, and turns off at the first exit.
The salesman is just starting to worry when Jerry cruises back in. “I thought maybe you had decided to go all the way south,” he half-laughs, “It wouldn’t be the first time.” Jerry removes the borrowed helmet and half-grins, says nothing.
The biker and the girl from the Isle of Dogs had said, “Let’s race.”
They had laughed, said yes.
It was an oil slick. Somehow he had lived. Not Annie, though. He had been thrown into a bush, she onto the concrete motorway surface. No helmets of course; that was then, this is now.
The newspaper is lying on the kitchen table. Half read. The usual stuff – the war, benefit cheats, celebrities, housing bubble, corrupt foreigners. On page five is a tomato sauce stain where the mixing spoon had rested. He had licked as much off as he could. Waste not, want not.
He hadn’t made the funeral. The Isle of Dogs couple visited him in hospital. His step-mum took Jamie in, three month-old Jamie.
He says to the salesman, “I need to think about it.”
The crossword puzzle is just about finished. Three across and eight down are proving difficult.
There’s always tomorrow.