One fine, bright Saturday morning – a Saturday morning just like any other – Pete walked into Ethel’s Greengrocery in pursuit of his usual Saturday purchases: green peppers, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, asparagus, organic meat stuffs (from Horrington’s farm down the lane), a pint of milk and two tabs of acid. After collecting his items, Pete reached the payment area where Ethel was sat filing her nails, as was usual per her Saturday morning routine. Spying the acid amongst the more conservative groceries, she began a familiar and tired conversation; one which Pete had no patience for.
“C’mon now, Pete,” said old Ethel, “what’s the acid for?”
“You’ll mind your own business Ethel.”
“Nobody in the history of this village has ever seen you tripping balls though, Pete. People talk, you know?”
“Let them talk,” said Pete, packing his purchases in bags and pocketing the acid, his face as grim as a prison plughole. “I’ve got no care for their gossip.”
“But if it’s not for you Pete, who is it for?”
Pete looked Ethel in the eye, a warning dancing in his eyes, and the sweaty old lady understood.
“Right you are, Pete.”
Pete left the shop and made his way home. He walked down the lane he had walked up ten minutes before. The crows were still pecking away at the stag’s carcass that lay at the edge of the road, only now the once majestic creature was missing three of its teeth. There was rumour abound that the weird family that lived up the mountain, past the woods, had trained these birds to steel the teeth of creatures so that they could fashion marbles from them. Pete believed such tales when he saw the evidence, and not a moment before.
Pete walked further, and saw his house emerge on the horizon; its red window frames looked like they might need some paint soon, but the golden ’47’ on the front door caught the sun beautifully. Pete handled the acid tucked in his trouser pocket and, happy that it was still there, walked on.
Once he got inside the house, he began his usual post-shopping ritual: he made a cup of tea; he opened the patio doors of his living room to let in the gentle breeze that danced through the woods; he turned his armchair towards the open doors and placed his tea and his acid on the side table next to the chair. He was ready.
“You want to know why I have the acid, Ethel?” Pete said to the air, tears forming in his eyes and his hand twitching with emotion. “It’s the only way I can talk to my dead wife.”
In the next room, Sandra, Pete’s wife, answered the phone.
“Oh hello Ethel! Did he buy more acid?”
“He did Sandra! What ever is it for? He looked ever so serious – I just wanted to check that everything is okay.”
“Oh yes, it’s fine Ethel,” said Sandra, shaking her head and smiling. “You see, Pete has done this around five times over the years. He buys the acid to talk to his ‘dead wife’ – meaning me of course.”
“Oh what an awful thing to say!” said Ethel down the phone, and Sandra could hear her clipping her toenails, as was usual for this time per her Saturday routine. “Why ever would he say that you’re dead?”
“I made him cancel the sports channels on our TV subscriptions,” said Sandra, chuckling. “Last time it was cutting down his drinking. He basically says ‘you’re dead to me’ and goes into this state for a week or two.”
“What a great fool he is Sandra, I feel terrible for you!”
“Oh don’t Ethel! It’s great; it keeps him out of my hair for a fair few days. Besides – he can only trip balls for so long.”