by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book I: Windmills Everywhere
Chapter 1: Over the Edge
part 1 of 2
Why didn’t she tell me before? WHY DIDN’T SHE TELL ME?
I’ve got to try Liz again ...
‘Hi, you’ve reached the residence of the exquisite Elizabeth. I’m still doing something very important right now, but you can leave a message if you’re feeling really lucky ...’
‘Liz, it’s Donna. Thanks for the birthday present. Better late than never! Interesting title. Finding a New You. Afraid that’s thrown me a bit. A lot, actually. Don’t ask. Oh, you can’t do that right now, can you? Hah! Anyway, I haven’t felt up to reading the blurb or looking inside yet, but I will. Later. And ... well, that’s all, I guess. No need to call back if you’re busy. Speak to you soon.’
And the bottle’s empty. How did that happen?
Take a fresh new look at yourself ...
Whatever made Liz choose this for me?
Pull an easy chair up close to a long mirror. Sit down, raise your legs, and pivot carefully around until you’re facing backwards. Then slowly edge upwards. Hook your knees over the top of the chair, and pull yourself up until they’re taking your weight. Then unroll your body until you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. Now just relax and focus on what you are seeing ...
Crazy idea! Better put the glass down first .......
So what? It’s just an upside-down, right-to-left version of ...
Aaaarrgh! It’s not me after all! Ha-ha-ha! It’s ugly! Like a weird old garden gnome with a pointy hat and a manic grin and a huge fat chin and a straggly black beard and one big toothy eye. Maybe if I shift position ... Ouch!
Stupid book, it’s made me twist my hip. What’s it called again? Finding a New You. Oh dammit, Mother! WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME?
* * *
Better dig out something to eat.
One measly card and a health-endangering book! And even they came a day late. Last year I got four cards. I didn’t expect one from Tim this time, of course. Silly idiot. But Helen really could have remembered. Mother certainly couldn’t ...
Good old Liz. I can usually count on her. She’ll probably call back later.
Now, red or white? What goes best with warmed-up quiche?
Good job I didn’t fancy red. Not bad, this Chardonnay. And it makes the quiche taste warmer.
I definitely look nicer the right way up.
And Graham, you’re looking pretty good yourself tonight! Very cool! In fact, unbelievably cool. Almost too good to be true. Far too good ...
Wait a minute, something’s wrong here!
No, this can’t be right! Graham!
* * *
Friday 24 April
Haven’t kept a diary since I was fourteen. Always used to begin them on my birthday. But they usually petered out after four or five days. Wonder how long this one will last? At least I’ve broken the pattern by starting it a day late!
Very ordinary day at work. Nobody remembered. Who cares? TGIF!
Liz remembered. Bless her. But she never called back.
I pulled out that photo of Graham again this evening: the one I took of him at Helen’s wedding. It was really funny ... he looked an awful lot more attractive than he used to! Gave me quite a shock, actually, and then a silly sort of palpitation (hey, Mr Darcy lives!), and then a real sense of confusion ...
Don’t know why I felt so confused, though. He’s lovely. Why have I been remembering him with a big nose and crooked teeth? Probably easier that way. Oh, it did hurt. But I really shouldn’t have dumped such a good-looker!
It’s nearly three years now. Poor Donna.
Well, that was the last bottle. Must get a few more in tomorrow.
And So To Bed, peeps. Hah!
* * *
Must sign those documents and write the final letters this morning. That should be an end to it all at last. Then maybe I can have my life back again.
Nice cup of tea first, though, and do the crossword ...
Stupid boy! He’s delivered the wrong paper! Never done that before.
Hang on ... everything else looks normal. Usual typefaces, all the regular features, same puzzles. But the banner definitely says The Independent. What’s going on? This is just like ...
No, it’s ridiculous. Must be a printing cock-up. Or an April Fools’ joke. Bit late for that! Close your eyes, Donna, take a deep breath, and start again.
It’s still wrong. How can I concentrate on writing those letters with this to worry about now?
Ah, I know what to do ...
‘Look, you delivered my paper as usual today, thanks, but there’s a problem with it. It’s The Times inside and out, as it should be, but it says The Independent on the banner!’
‘It’s got the wrong banner on the front page.’
‘You’re crazy, whoever you are.’
‘Excuse me! Could you have a look at some of your other copies, please?’
‘What do you think I’ve been doing since six o’clock this morning? There’s nothing wrong with any of them. Now stop wasting my time!’
Rude man. I bet he hasn’t seen a single newspaper today. Probably still in bed while someone else does all his work.
I need a coffee. Then I’m going to write those letters, dammit.
* * *
Sat 25 April
I’ve finished all the paperwork at last! I’ll post everything on Monday. May this entry in my new diary be the formal record of closure! Hah!
I’m going to study my beautiful first edition Fletcher again this afternoon – I want to get a really clear view of the differences between the Leptis Magna and Trier basilicas.
And I’ve been thinking, over lunch. I reckon I’m now the proud owner of a rather valuable newspaper. Like those rare, wrongly-printed postage stamps. Could make me very rich!
But I didn’t like the sensation I had when I did that double-take on it. I felt really scared and light-headed and sick, all at the same time. Just like I did yesterday, when I saw how good Graham’s looking in his photo these days. And I was stone-cold sober this morning, after all ...
It’s nearly midnight now. I started re-reading L’Etranger after dinner, but I had to put it down after the first page. Dammit, Mother!
So I decided to dig out a bit of weed (took a long time to find some ... thought I had lots left!) and a couple of Jimi Hendrix albums, and celebrate my good fortune with that misprinted newspaper instead. Must have drifted off. Don’t know where the evening went – but I think I probably enjoyed it.
Wonder whether Liz called while I was “out” with Jimi? I’ll check for messages tomorrow.
* * *
Feeling remarkably alert today. Must finish that chapter on the Basilicas this morning, then maybe I’ll go for a walk in the park this afternoon.
Sunday paper first, though. Can’t be bothered to make breakfast ...
Oh, I don’t need this. Another frigging error. That caption doesn’t belong with that photo! What’s the matter with these printers?
But it’s Sunday. It’s a completely different publisher. Can’t be the same printers, surely? And the title definitely matches the paper today! Better check it out, though.
Page three, five, seven, nine ...
Oh ... my ... god.
That photo on page eleven! Its caption belongs with the picture on the front page! Both of those people have been given the wrong name. That’s not fair!! They can’t have their identities stolen from them just like that. It shouldn’t be allowed! Who do these damned journalists think they are?
I need something to drink ...
Why am I in the bathroom? I was in my own room a moment ago. I don’t keep Mr Smirnoff in here ...
Where is it? I know there’s at least half a bottle left somewhere ...
Now I need Liz.
‘Hi, you’ve reached the residence of ...’
Damn! Why is she never there? What are friends for, anyway? OK, beggars can’t be choosers ...
‘Helen, it’s Donna.’
‘How are you?’
‘Busy. Always very busy!’
‘Right. Well, I only wanted a quick word ...’
‘It’s just that I remember you used to take The Observer. Do you happen to have today’s copy already?’
‘Yeah ... I was reading the magazine just now.’
Always busy, is she?
‘OK. You see the photo of Beckham on the front page of the main paper?’
‘No Mr Beckham on the front page, Donna. Just Elton.’
‘WHAT? OK, wait, wait ... whose name does it say in the caption underneath?’
‘Elton’s, of course! What else would you expect?’
‘Oh god. Bear with me, Helen. Please turn to page eleven.’
‘Donna, I am very busy ...’
‘Please, Helen. Do you see the photo of Elton on page eleven?’
‘Huh? No. But there is a pic of dear David. And before you ask, it says his name in the caption, as if I needed to be told. What’s occurring, Donna? Hey, did I just hear you scream ...?’
‘No! No. Sorry, no, Helen. There’s ... there’s a little cat-fight going on in the garden. But I am a bit shocked. You see, in my copy, those two photos are swapped around ...’
‘Right. Sounds to me like you’ve been working too hard since I last saw you, Donna. I suggest you go for a long walk in the fresh air ... or better still, find yourself a man! Look, I really have to get on now – but we must do lunch sometime. I’ll call you. Bye-eee ...’
Huh! Thanks a bunch, Helen. Really helpful. You don’t give a damn about me any more, do you? Well, see if I care.
And I don’t need a man. I need Mr Smirnoff ...
* * *
Just woke up. Feeling awful. Should get some dinner. Can’t be bothered. Maybe a sandwich. And a drink ...
Just fell off the sofa. Onto the other hip. Stupid woman. Doesn’t hurt too much.
* * *
‘Vanessa? It’s Donna. Look, I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it in today. I have a rotten headache and I hardly got a wink of sleep – there were people making lots of noise outside till the early hours.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that, Donna. OK, not to worry – the project shouldn’t suffer as long as we lose only one more day. I do hope you’ll be back in tomorrow, though ...’
‘I hope so too, Vanessa. Thanks.’
OK, that’s her sorted. Now I can get back to sleep.
* * *
Three o’clock. Still feel awful. But I need lunch. Then I’ll do a bit of reading.
What now? The titles on both spines have been swapped over! They can’t do that to my two favourite books! What the hell is going on? I’m getting scared ...
What am I doing in the hallway?
This is ridiculous. Novel titles don’t get swapped. Nonsense! I’m still hungover, that’s all it is. Stupid woman. And I’m not going back to check inside the books.
Well, maybe I will ...
Aaaarrgh! They really are wrong. Dammit!
No, it can’t be true. It’s just like a drunkard trying to open a door with the wrong key. That’s all it is. Laughable. Hah! Nothing to worry about.
But I don’t need shocks like this. And I don’t want to read after all. Where are my sleeping pills?
* * *
Tuesday, 5 a.m.
Up before the dawn. Must have slept since about four o’clock. Guess I needed it.
Had another of those strange experiences yesterday. Didn’t know whether I was coming or going. I think it was kicked off by something I imagined while I was rather tired. Can’t remember what it was, though. Just remember that feeling. Scary. Like falling into a well.
Wonder how long I’ll keep this diary going? Haven’t had anything much to say so far!
And So To Work. Vanessa will be amazed to find me there before her!
* * *
Well, that didn’t last long. I think she bought it. Good value, headaches, especially if you throw in a few other aches and pains as well. Anyway, I worked really hard for those four hours. Did almost as much as some people manage in a full day. And it was top quality. Always is. And she agreed.
So, twelve o’clock. What shall I do? Go home, I suppose. Don’t fancy the Tube on a nice day like this, though. I’ll walk. It’ll only take an hour or so ...
What’s that under the hedge? Oh, you poor little thing! What’s the matter with your wing? Is it broken? Will you let me pick you up? ... There, there, sshhhh, calm down ... oh, your tiny heart’s beating so fast! You can’t stay here or you’ll soon be some cat’s dinner. I’ll take you home and see what I can do ...
Well, I’m glad we’re here at last, little birdie. Not as fit as I used to be. Really feeling quite tired again ...
What?? Why has she repainted the front door? Wait, she hasn’t done that ... she’s changed it. It’s a completely different design as well!
What’s going on? I must be in the wrong street. ‘Hey, watch out, you fool!’ Damned cyclists, think they own the road!
I need to go back to the High Street. Need to check the sign. No time to spare. ‘Come on, Donna! Hurry up!’ ... ‘I am hurrying! Mustn’t drop the bird!’ ... ‘Run! Faster!!’ ... ‘Damn, now you’ve made me twist my ankle ...’
Oh, this just isn’t fair. I am in the right street. I knew I was! Right, I’m going back. Must have been looking at the house next door. Idiot!
Ouch! OK, take it slowly, Donna. Don’t make your ankle any worse.
So ... 41, 43, 45 ... 47. Yes, that’s the right garden. I’ll take a quick peep ...
It’s still the wrong door! I’m not having this! Where’s my phone? Won’t be too easy with my hands full. Sorry about this, little birdie ...
‘It’s Donna. Why have you changed the front door?’
‘I beg your pardon, young lady?’
‘Why have you changed the front door?’
‘I heard you perfectly well the first time, Donna. And I haven’t. Of course I haven’t. And I think you’re being very rude. It’s not like you at all.’
‘But the door’s red now, Mrs Yarrow. And the glass panel’s a different shape!’
‘No, you’re wrong. And I can see you wandering around outside – hey, be careful, Donna, that car nearly hit you! – so I can assure you you’re in the right place. But I suggest you go straight back to the High Street and get your eyes examined. And when you are ready to return, please try to behave a good deal more politely. Because if you speak to me like this again, I shall be forced to give you a month’s notice – and I don’t want to have to do that.’
Stupid old woman, criticising my eyesight! Must be losing her memory. Anyone can see it’s a completely new door.
And it’s a very nasty door. I’m not going anywhere near it till it’s back to normal.
I’m really sorry about this, little birdie. But I can’t carry you around with me all day. I’ll put you under this hedge ... there you are ... and you’ll just have to take your chances with those cats after all.
Right, I know where I’m going, and it’s not back to the High Street.
‘So where’s Joey today?’
‘He’s got the day off for a funeral. I’m standing in.’
‘Know where the vodka is?’
‘No, they don’t teach new barmen that sort of thing ...’
‘Very funny. Cut the wisecracks and get me a double with orange.’
‘Nice to meet you too ...’
‘... so the crazy woman swearsh blind she hasn’t changed the door, and then she sendsh me off to the optician! Whadd’ya think of that?’
‘Ezactly! And she makesh me leave my poor little birdie on the pavement to get eaten by a cat!’
‘And ... You’re not lishtening to me, are you?’
‘I’m trying not to ...’
‘Thought you were shupposed to be a barman. Gimme another double.’
‘I’ll give you a single, for a very good tip, but that’ll be the last one. Then either you start drinking coffee, or you leave ...’
Coffee! Useless kid. Who needs coffee at four in the afternoon? OK, turn left here, I’m pretty sure ...
Yeah, that’s where I left the little birdie. Pity.
Try not to look at the front door, Donna. Take a chance. Gotta crash. Find my keys. Got ’em. Now find the lock. Hey, the door’s the right colour again!
* * *
Woke up at ten last night, utterly famished! Stuck a TV dinner in the microwave. Then crashed as soon as I’d eaten it.
I really don’t know what to think about what happened yesterday lunchtime. I do know those same awful dreads hit me when I saw the front door had been changed. Just can’t understand why Mrs Y needed to do that – and then had it replaced again!
Feeling remarkably well today. But I can’t drum up any interest in work. So I just called Vanessa and told her I need another day at home. She wasn’t very pleased. Said it was time to see my doctor now. I said he’d probably tell me to take the rest of the week off. She couldn’t argue with that, of course. So she just told me to get better soon. Then said she was now going to be very busy, and cut the call.
I don’t need to see the doctor.
Picked up a voicemail from Liz last night. Said she’s been away for a week, only just got my message. That’s an easy excuse. Why should I believe it? She wants me to call her back. I’m not going to bother. She wasn’t there when I needed her. I have my pride. And anyway, that made me remember the book she sent for my birthday. Finding a New You. Thanks a lot, Liz. Oh, Mother, why?
I’m going to read some proper books today ...
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd