April the Last

Andrew Leon Hudson

"Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever."
Charles Lamb

It’s a cliché, but when I wake up at first I don’t know where I am.

I only know I'm desperate for tea.

I fumble for my glasses on the bedside table, squint when I can’t find them, then recognise the little framed photo of our parents by the lamp and it all comes back: Joanie’s birthday party. I’m at my sister’s place.

I roll out of bed, still dressed from last night. March 31st, but not any more. The alarm clock by the photo reads half ten, and I groan. I must be last up: whatever happens next will be at my expense.

I don’t have to wait long. Joanie is sprawled on the bedroom floor, arms and legs twisted into a comedy swastika. She missed being a fool by twenty minutes, and now every year makes sure someone else is one. This ploy is a favourite but she never could play dead worth a damn, even as kids. At least after thirty years she’s learned to keep her eyes closed to avoid the blink reflex.

I lean close, take a deep breath and blow on her face. Her eyelashes flutter.

“See you downstairs, faker,” I tell her.

Tom’s dead in the hallway, or so he’d like me to think, the clown. I have to admire the detail: all his clothes on backwards, even the shoes, which is a pretty good touch. I’d almost believe his head had been twisted around to face backwards, if we didn’t go through some variation on this rigmarole every year.

My specs aren’t in the bathroom either, so I have to aim hopefully.

“Excuse me, Tom,” I say as I step over him to go downstairs, cistern gurgling behind me.

In the lounge, there’s blood everywhere. At least, that’s how it looks to my 02-20 vision.

“Keep it up as long as you want, guys,” I call. Let’s see how long they maintain the pretence when the frying starts, shall we? Better still, when the tea is brewing...

I pick my way through to the kitchen, trying to avoid the puddles soaking into the carpet. It’s a long way to go for a prank, but who am I to moan? It’s not my house, not my cleaning bill. But they get me via my compromised vision when some spatter I overlooked slides under my foot, oily and warm. “Gross,” I moan, and peel the sock off, tossing it at the TV without looking any closer.

The kitchen floor is cold against my bare sole. I flick on the kettle, get a mug down from the shelf and toss in a teabag from the tin. I grab the milk from the fridge door, and a carton of eggs and two packs of bacon from behind the fake Edward head, which I presume to be—appropriately enough—a decorated cabbage. Not very convincingly done, as far as I can see.

Which isn't far, admittedly.

I clatter a frying pan out from the back of the cupboard and stick it on the heat with just a splash of oil. The steaming kettle clicks and I pour, splash the milk in early the way I like—Joanie would spit—then I tear the bacon open and drop in the first four rashers. It's like an instant round of applause floods the kitchen.

While the bacon sizzles I check in the pantry and find half-empty bottles of HP and Heinz. Can’t believe Joanie and Duncan only have white bread though. Hands full, I nudge the pantry door shut with my knee—and that’s when I notice the doubly hazy figure, beyond the frosted glass door to the back garden. That must be Dunc. Short-sighted as I am, it’s obvious he’s wearing something on his head. I roll my eyes, then grip the bread bag in my teeth and open the door.

It’s a Tim Curry-style demon mask: curling fibreglass horns, matching red body paint, furry loincloth, fangs, the lot. Nice try, dickhead.

“Have you got my glasses?” I mumble through gritted teeth and plastic.

“FEEL you yet the TORMENT of the EONS?” Duncan booms from atop disguised high-heels, gesticulating like the talented kid in a school play. “SUFFERING in a CEASELESS INSTANT, WAITING for YOUR turn to DIE?”

Pffft. “You should have let Edward do it,” I tell him, “your acting sucks,” and I shut the door in his face. It’s not locked or anything, he can come in when he’s ready to give it up. I head back to the crackling pan and lay out slices of bread on the work surface.

“Do you want brown sauce or tomato?” I call, but he doesn’t answer, the moody bugger, and I squirt a splodge each on to the halves of my sandwich-to-be. I flip the bacon over with a wooden spoon from the pottery jug, mouth watering as I do, then I fish the teabag out of my mug and drop it in the sink.

And then, just for a moment, I feel weird and dizzy—enough that I have to lean on the counter to steady myself. Like when you're reading in the back of a car and it does a lazy swerve.

But just as quick it's gone. Must be the missing specs. I didn’t drink that much and I’ve got no hangover, but I never go without my glasses if I can help it. When Joanie finally comes down she’d better have them on her.

To help recover I take my mug and a loud slurp of tea—bliss—while I wait for the bacon to blacken. The tasty scent fills the kitchen and, I have to say, this is almost the best bit, really. The anticipation. As good as the eating. I’ll do the eggs in the fat when it’s done. Lovely.

I take another sip of tea. The mug looks as full as the moment I poured it.

A nice, hot brew: the very definition of English Heaven.

I could do this forever.

© Andrew Leon Hudson 2017 All Rights Reserved

Date and time of last update 19:11 Wed 22 Feb 2017
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