Tale D For Dragonfruit

Larry was sure that, with all this snow, no one would notice one more frozen to death elderly woman.

Now don’t get him wrong, Larry LOVED Dilly. No doubt about it. They had been married for forty-five years. She was his life’s plus one. His first.
Perhaps, if he didn’t lose a bit of weight, his last. But unfortunately for Dilly, none of this was going to stop Larry from murdering her dead. Indeed, unfortunately for Dilly, her death had come down to a numbers game. When Larry totted up the reasons for her to live and the reasons for her to die, there were simply more in the ‘KILL’ column and less in the ‘SAVE’.

SAVE #1: The Family

Larry was a retired window fitter, having left We See Through You last year at the ripe old age of 65. He had married Dilly at 22 and the window business had provided them with enough income for Dilly to stay at home and look after their two tall, if somewhat simple, children; Larry Junior and Ernest John.

There had been no need for Dilly to search for extra work, particularly once the double glazing craze took off. Larry Junior followed his father and also became a window fitter, working for the rival company Window of Opportunity.
Although their tagline “God never closes a door without first giving us a call to make sure we’re available” had seen them alienate some of their non-Christian customers in the last ten years. Earnest John had sadly become a writer. To cover their embarrassment they just told everyone that he was on disability benefit.

SAVE # 2: Their History

Dilly had spent about 2,288 weeks of her entire life cleaning his home, washing his clothes, cooking his dinner and getting up at seven just to watch him eat his cornflakes. She had slept beside him almost every night since he was 22. She held his hand and wept with him as he buried his parents. She had sat with him in the cold hospital corridor as he waited to identify his brother’s body (It wasn’t him. Matthew had just gone on a spontaneous package holiday to Crete without telling anyone).

SAVE#3: Effort

Every week of 1983, she had saved money to buy him a Starsky tan leather jacket and had pretended that people had shouted ‘You there, look butch’ rather than ‘You with the hair, where the fuck is Hutch?’ as they walked down the road. Now that is true love.

SAVE#4:

Dilly knew where everything was.

For forty-five years Larry had not had to search for a single thing, even answers. Dilly was all over where stuff was.

Dilly?
What?

Comb and Dax?
In the kitchen.

Dilly?
What?

Glasses?
On your head.

Dilly?
What?

Probiotic Yoghurt Drink?
By the door.

Dilly?
What?

One Down – Species of flowering tree, mulberry family, native to Malay Peninsula.
Breadfruit.

Dilly?
What?

That racist article I was reading last week about something?
Page 18, it’s cut out, highlighted and in your pile.

Indeed he did wonder what/how he would find stuff once/ if she was gone.

SAVE #5: The Initial Future

Dilly and Larry were excited about his retirement. It would open up a new chapter in their lives. They would be like childhood sweethearts again. Long evening walks up the Wetherspoons on the Holloway Road. Making love during the afternoon with Loose Women on in the background. Larry would finally have time to focus on all those things that he had always wanted to do but had never had time.
He would learn to play the ukelele, write his crime novel; A Cleaner Criminal, trade his van in for a moped and grow an Italian looking goatee. He would get a ‘Facebook’ account to keep up with the lads from work. Maybe even try out for the over 25s in the X-Factor and become next year’s Wagner.

KILL #1: The Disappointment

But four months into retirement, it began to dawn on Larry that the life pony he was riding was not, as he had previously thought, on a gallop to the saloon in Fun Town. It was rather on a slow trot to the horse butchers where Dilly was wielding a knife ready to make a kebab of him.

Now did he love her? Yes, he did. That could not be denied. He loved her like a monkey loved swinging from trees. But when Larry’s world changed course last year, Dilly’s didn’t. At All. And finally seeing the world that Dilly had lived in for the last four decades while he had been at work, was a complete and utter revelation.

KILL #2: The Dawn of Reality.

Larry came to see a side to Dilly that he had never known existed. Daytime Dilly. Weekday Dilly. Nine to five Dilly. What Dilly does during the day when Larry is at work Dilly. The last year had proved to be an eye opener. Larry had worked Monday to Friday 9 to 5 for the last 48 years. He left Dilly at 8.30am every morning and arrived back at 5.30 where he would be greeted by her adorable toothy grin, some kind of meat, one type of vegetable, an un-intimidating type of starch and an evening of shouting at the television.

It had never really crossed his mind what Dilly got up to during the daytime while he was at work. It had never really crossed his mind to consider that his wife had continued to live in those hours while he was away. It had never really occurred to him what sort of person develops over what must have roughly been 112,000 hours marriage where he had not been present.

It had never really crossed his mind that retirement would not just be like the evenings, but all day long.

No.

Retirement had been like taking Pandora’s box to Iraq.

KILL #2: Lack of Dementia to justify her personality.

At the start it had been like watching a silent episode of National Geographic.
She was fascinating. But in the same way that Big Brother became less of a social experiment and more a vehicle for people from the Midlands to get on telly, watching Dilly became less about observing and getting to know her better, and more about collecting a series of small things that were now ultimately going to lead to her death.

Dilly was sixty-six and did not have dementia. She had just been left unmonitored for forty odd years and now had a stack of ridiculous unmovable life habits as a result.

KILL #3: Gate-gate.

His first realisation of this was three weeks into retirement. In Larry’s line of work, you spent a lot of time in other people’s homes. The golden rules were: never leave footprints on the carpet, a mess in the toilet or….the gate open. A closed gate made the house look tidy and un-robbed. A house with a swinging gate was like a teenager with an open mouth; it looked stupid.

Larry had never noticed his own gate before. Why would he have? He had left home every day, walked out the door of their Semi-D and closed the gate behind him. When he came back every evening, it would be open. But that was alright. He was coming home anyways and he would close it behind him before searching for his keys.

Nowadays, as he sat at the kitchen table looking out the window, it was a different ball game. Dilly treated the gate in the same manner as a jockey and racehorse do the stall: leave and never look back. She would head out to ‘the shops’ (which meant two to four hours of various activities) and would leave the gate swinging open with wild abandon. He would stare out the window watching it flail back and forth in the wind like it was trying to mate with the attached wall.
The creak of the un-oiled hinges tore at his ears.

He wanted, nay, NEEDED to go out and close it with every fibre of his body, but that would involve him getting up from the kitchen table where he was ‘reading’ The Daily Mail and doing it. He tried to mention it to her and she laughed as if he had just asked her to make him an invisible sandwich. What gate? Grrrr!
‘WHAT GATE?’. Even the Asian student who delivered their junk mail for various pizza promoting reasons closed the gate on his way out. God he could KILL her.

KILL #3: News

Larry suspected strongly that Dilly did not know a war in Iraq had happened
when she asked him if they were still ‘hunting for Obama’ at the
breakfast table. Most of her opinions were formed from watching Judge Judy episodes
circa 1998. GOD he could KILL her.

KILL#4: The Mouth.

Despite being what people in the industry called ‘fat’, Dilly ate more air than she did food. Her quota of oxygen to cereal was about 3:1. This, matched with teeth, suction and two cheeks, meant that the sound of her eating was akin to a memory of being stuck with a loud cow in a silent field. GOD he could KILL her.

KILL #5: For inside not for outside.

Dilly’s reward for a hard day’s cleaning was to sit on the couch braless in her wedding dress with the zip open at the back (she was no longer the slim cricket she was on the day of her nuptials). Larry felt that the act spat in the face of every framed photo in the house. Dilly said that it gave her an idea of what it must be like for The Lost Boys in Peter Pan. GOD he could KILL her.

KILL#6: Dozy Bird.

Every morning she left stale bread in the back garden for Doxy the pigeon to eat. Of course Doxy the pigeon had long died and was now replaced by a hungry young rat family, meaning the family back garden was now a no-go area. Like a Disney movie on acid. ‘Fantasia’, in fact. GOD he could KILL her.

KILL#7: Technology
There was a large dusty circle of carpet around his PC, which she had been avoiding hoovering for two years in case she “broke the internet”- which she didn’t believe existed in the first place.
She used the phrase “do an email”. She kept her phone turned off “in case anyone rang” and had only ever sent one text message by accident with the word ‘foot’ in it.
He knew because, being the only number in her phone, he had received it. When he told her about the text she cried, apologised for what she had done and stayed in bed for the evening sobbing.
He did not even gingerly attempt to explain the term ‘Windows’ to her lest she think he had started working inside the computer itself. GOD he could KILL her.

KILL#8: Music. Larry considered himself to be the Fonzie of his window cleaning crew; older, but down with the kids, with the ability to give something a kick and make it work again.
He enjoyed staying up to date with the lingo and the music. He had been known to head bob to The Artic Monkeys. He had printed out and learned Jay-Z lyrics.
He would email funny forwarded emails to people at work in the evenings and would then ring them all up to make sure they had got them and read his favourite bits of them out over the phone. Dilly listened to literally absolutely NOTHING but Neil Not So Young. If he heard The Needle and The Damage Done one more time he would harvest himself.
No one even did heroin anymore. He was so irrelevant. Dilly knew nothing. She didn’t know what was going on with the young people like he did. She was so stupid not knowing! Why didn’t she know? She was so old. GOD he could KILL her!

KILL #9: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #10: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #11: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #12: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #13: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #14: She was old and reminded him that he was too.

KILL #15: She was old and reminded him that he was also…old.

So there you had it. Fifteen solid reasons to kill his beloved wife Dilly and only five tenuous ones to save her. He knew, that if he pushed her well known weak lower back with just enough force, that with very little effort, she would land head first on tonight’s dark icy side street behind their house. She would fall to a metaphorical icy grave, which would later lead to a literal one.

He was going to miss the old girl. The cold would make her a beautifully preserved corpse. He would have to make sure that she wore her best outfit for when she was found. It’s what she would have wanted.

It was a pity for Larry that Fabricio, Dilly’s 32 year old Spanish lover, had been told about Larry’s well known weak knees. It meant that when he pushed Larry from behind, that with very little effort, he had landed face forward on the dark icy side street behind their house. He had fallen to a metaphorical icy grave, which later led to a literal one.

She was going to miss the old boy. The cold made him a beautifully preserved corpse. She had made sure that he had worn his best clothes that day. Not only so that Fabricio could recognise him, but it’s what he would have wanted. Larry was old and reminded her that she was too.

And to be honest, since he had retired she had lost interest in the man and had suspected that he didn’t really like her anymore.

She supposed that, after all those years working in windows, she could just see through him….

Listen to a recording of this story, made for Radio 4, here.