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Everyone says Hi, but not many mean it, he thought. The girl at the counter said it and just looked at him, his face with his lines on it, hers with a set smile right out of a training manual. They always say Hi; the predictive tongue and lips and the word so common it’s automatic and banal.
My wife said that her family called and the usual. They were sorry that they couldn’t have stayed longer and they wished us well and if we needed anything and they’re only a phone call away. And they said Hi.
I’m off work for a while, and they might be tempted to call and check up and say Hi but they won’t, because there’s not much more to say once the Hi and How are you? are out of the way.
Everyone says Hi, and everyone means well, and some try to do well, too, but it’s really best if people just leave me alone. They must have enough practise by now.
In the park, there are kids playing football, literally in front of one man and his dog, and there’s a couple more on the swings; a teenage boy looking bored sits in one seat and a younger girl with a baby doll that speaks when you press a button. I hear its voice that seems disjointed to reality, but I can’t go near them to hear more even if I wanted to. I walk around the edge of the park, past bins and drying trees, in a long semicircle that stops as I approach the busy climbing frame. I turn away and go back to the brick archway entrance and out.
I hope it rains for some reason and it will, given long enough, and I eat something on the walk back to the house and the front door, which for some reason I feel won’t let me in, but it does.
She’s getting in the shower as she probably slept in late, though the TV is on without the sound, next to the cards on the shelf and the silent clock. I watch pictures of people’s heads as they flap their mouths. There is the smell of food in the kitchen and the small bedroom’s unopened door upstairs.
We were planning to go down the library to get some books out and discuss things in a quiet place. I go to the pub as the shower upstairs gets turned off, gently saying Bye from downstairs. I waste another evening, another chance. I say Bye when everyone says Hi.
It was getting dark, the night here to end the day. He went to the car. He opened its back door and unbuckled the small plastic seat that was there and took it out, and he took it to the bins, leaving it out for the dustmen to collect. He went back into his house in the cold, pausing only to look up briefly at the stars and then the different bedroom windows facing out from the brick work. He got into bed without waking her, and when it was dark and enough time had elapsed he stopped himself thinking, crying, and over-thinking and held her sleeping hip gently with his hand and wondered what was going to happen next. This fragile life now, with the days like splintered glass on rice paper and so much self-pity drawn from the love of another. The days and weeks would come, and he wondered about their personality and nature, but the future is unspoken.
robert o turner
Robert O Turner is the pseudonym for a writer from the UK. Having written lots of short stories and flash fiction for personal enjoyment and frustration, they decided to actually send one to be read and prodded at, and possibly enjoyed. They have been published in Litro magazine.