D A R E N . K I N G : A I R B A G
It is happening a lot lately. I keep losing things. Not in the usual way but
in a new way. I put something somewhere and when I then look there it is not
there. Money, notebooks, credit cards and debit cards, cat food that I have
just bought, other things. The thing that I have lost most recently is my
front door key. When I left for work this morning I dropped it into the pocket
of my new blue jeans and the pocket is now empty. I push my hand in further
and find a hole in the bottom of the pocket. I push my hand in further until
it reaches my knee. I am searching around the knee area when a policeman approaches
and says: Lost something have we sir.
Yes, I tell him. I have lost my front door key.
Perhaps theres a hole in your pocket.
It would seem that way officer. It would seem that way.
What are you up to now.
Touching my knee.
Curious behaviour sir if you dont mind me saying.
Must be here somewhere.
What sir, the policeman says. Your key or your knee.
My key, I say. Knees do not disappear. I am not a medical man but I am well
aware that knees do not disappear.
Glad to hear it sir.
Not yet anyway.
I said not yet officer.
Yes I did hear you, the policeman says, but Im not
altogether sure what you meant.
I have lost so many things recently, I explain to the policeman, that if body
parts were the next thing to go I would not be surprised.
Ha ha sir very funny, the policeman says, rocking on his heels.
Ha bloody ha. You brighten up our day you do. People like you. With
your idiosyncrasies and whatnot. Brighten up our day.
The policeman and I are strolling along the street, past where the house I
used to live in used to be before it was knocked down, towards where the house
I still live in still is.
I ask the policeman what I should do when I get home.
Well what do you normally do.
I normally use my front door key, I tell the policeman. Same as everybody
else. Same as you would do. You do have a house I presume.
No need to be cheeky, the policeman says. Im all for
a spot of humour but no need to take the biscuit. Im all for brightening
up a dull day but. No need to take the cake. I do indeed have a house. An
Englishmans home is his castle. And an Englishmans front door
is his drawbridge. If you catch my drift.
I tell the policeman that I do not catch his drift.
Play on words, the policeman says, removing his tall blue helmet
and scratching the area on the top of his head where his hair once was but
no longer is. Play on words. I was toying with the notion of an Englishmans
home being a castle. You are English I hope.
I tell him that I am.
Glad to hear it, the policeman says, otherwise I would have
kicked seven shades of blue out of you. Now where was I.
I remind the policeman that he was explaining his play on words.
Ah yes. Glad you were paying attention. Else do you know what I would
I ask him what he would have done.
Kicked seven shades of blue out of you. He scratches his head
where his helmet was but no longer is and says: Yes I was toying with
the notion of an Englishmans home being his castle. I took it a bit
further to suggest that if a house is a castle then its front door is a drawbridge.
I suggest to the policeman that it would more likely be a portcullis.
Point is, the policeman says, how are you going to get in.
I suppose I will have to force my way in.
What was that sir.
I said I will have to force my way in.
Breaking and entering sir, I dont think so sir.
But it is my house.
If you lay one finger on that house, the policeman says, replacing
his helmet on his head, I will have the cuffs on you before you can
say unlawful arrest.
But I live there. I pay the mortgage. It is my house. How else will I get
in without a key.
You live alone then I take it.
I explain to the policeman that I live with my wife and a cat.
Then surely sir your wife will let you in.
I tell the policeman that this is unlikely.
Annoyed with you is she. Probably cutting the limbs off your suits as
we speak sir. Better hurry home sir before she starts work on the household
I ask the policeman to explain this.
Joke sir. Based on the habit annoyed wives have of cutting up their
husbands suits. I took it a bit further to suggest that if a wife were
angry enough she might take the scissors to your moggy.
I explain to the policeman that the cat is her cat and that her scissors are
blunt. Then I run home.
Entering the house is not a problem. We have no front door. I step in through
the place where the front door once was but no longer is and walk through
to the back of the house. My wife is in the kitchen, just as she always is
at this time of the evening on a weekday. I step up to her and kiss her on
the cheek, just as I always do when I come in from work. I ask her what she
Dont criticise me, she says with a sigh. I dont
think I can take it.
I did not criticise her and tell her so.
Nothing seems to go right. Look at this flan. She indicates an
empty plate on the worktop. Supposed to be blueberry flan. Look at it.
Hardly anything left.
What happened, I say. Did somebody eat it.
I look down at the cat. I bend down and examine its whiskers for blue specks
Everything I make always ends up a disaster.
But I like blueberry pie, I say. Perhaps you have dropped it.
There does not seem to be any blueberry pie on the floor so this seems unlikely
but every possibility needs to be explored.
Dont be daft. I would have stepped in it by now.
Perhaps you left it in the oven.
I take the oven gloves and put them on and peer into the very back of the
oven, where blue flames point up to the space where the blueberry pie might
be but is not.
Nobody ate it. Nobody ever eats anything I cook in this bleeding house.
Dont know why I bother sometimes I really dont.
We always eat what you make, I say. Everything we eat is made by you. Except
for when we get a takeaway at the weekend
Everything I cook turns out terrible.
Not at all, I say. Your cooking is wonderful.
Dont patronise me, she says with a sigh. I dont
think I can take it.
I was not patronising you.
Who do you think I am.
My wife, I say placing a hand on her shoulder.
Dont try to get round me, I cant stand it when you try to
get round me.
I am trying to comfort you.
I take the wooden spoon from her hand and place it on the worktop. Her hand
is shaking. I hold it and it makes mine shake too.
Come and sit down, I say. Come into the lounge. I have good news.
Bleeding cat needs feeding now. Always feeding that bleeding thing.
You do it. Im sick and tired of it. Never does anything for me. It should
do something for me for a change. Bleeding thing.
I let go of her hand and open the fridge door and take out the open tin of
cat food and close the fridge door and remove the improvised tin foil lid
and peer inside the tin. The tin is empty. I open a new tin with the new tin
opener but that tin is empty too.
Out the way, my wife says, pushing me out of the way and grabbing
another tin. She goes to take the new tin opener from my hand but the tin
opener is gone. What did you do with the tin opener. New tin opener
that was. Only bought it today.
I lost it, I tell her. It is happening a lot lately.
Youre useless you are. Bleeding useless. She opens the cutlery
drawer and finds the old tin opener, one of those old fashioned ones, and
opens the tin. She spoons some of the cat food into the plastic plate and
places the plate on the floor. She turns to the cat but the cat has gone.
Waste of time doing anything in this house.
Come and sit down, I say taking her arm and leading her into the lounge. I
have something to tell you. Good news.
We sit together on the couch.
I tell her that I have been offered a new job, that I will be editor of a
style magazine called Airbag.
That is good news, she says with a sigh. When do you start.
But what about your old job. Dont you have to give notice.
Airbag is owned by the same company.
Umbrella Publishing. They publish magazines.
What magazine do you work on now.
Clearance, I tell her. You know this. It is situated on the ground floor.
I am moving to the top floor.
And when do you start.
Monday. Today is Thursday. Tomorrow is my last day as sub editor of Clearance.
From Monday I will be editor of Airbag.
So let me get this straight. You work for a publishing company.
Umbrella Publishing, yes.
And youre my husband.
And who am I.
And will you stand by me.
When I go away.
Where are you going.
Away, she says with a sigh. Will you stand by me.
I will stand by you, yes. I will always stand by you. You are my wife. And
I love you.
She stands and walks back to the kitchen. I better get the dinner on.
I remain in the couch, where my wife just was but no longer is, wondering
what she means when she says she is going away. I sit here until I can no
longer stand it, then I stand and walk through to the kitchen. Something brushes
my leg. When I look down I see that it is the cat. I bend down to stroke it
but it has gone. I stand up and stand behind my wife. She is flicking through
a recipe book. She turns the pages looking for a recipe but all of the pages
are blank. I wont be coming back you know.
When I go away.
What do you want for your dinner.
Nothing is easy. I find cooking difficult. I find everything difficult.
Would you like me to cook.
Your cooking is terribly. I will cook. Just promise me you will eat
You dont have to like it, just eat it.
I will eat it, I say touching her on the arm. I may even like it.
Dont touch me, she says with a sigh. I dont
think I can take it.
Daren King is the author of boxy an star.