For Hugh

Twenty minutes had passed since the Hi Mum Dad Come On In Sit Down and 19 minutes and 45 seconds since the How Was The Trip Not Too Bad.

19 minutes and 53 seconds, he corrected his internal timer, of silence. He had not meant to count the time, the time was counting itself. The time hid behind sheep dressed in soccer t-shirts, jumping over the fence, kicking goals into gates, the scoreboard announcing seconds elapsed. 1201 seconds… 1202… 1203… he looked away. He did not like sports.

Rocking on the edge of the couch, his mother silently tutted, tightening her grip on the purse. Th—th—th—that’s it, his mind snapped, but he remained seated. 1208. He will be a good son.

1248. He stood up. Dispersed by the sheer curtains, the slow-setting spring sun filled his Soviet-cement-excuse-for-a-flat with it’s parting light, and just for a second he wasn’t sick of the wallpaper.

1253. He stood up. He thought he had stood up before, but it had been in his mind.

1255. He went into the kitchen, opened the under-the-sink shelf and grabbed the axe. The axe that had been there before he had moved in. At the time he had not understood why would anyone need an axe in a block building. He remembered how hard had he tried to come up with a joke about it, something to tell the friends.

1261. Leaving the flat, he tried to close the door carefully. He tried to do it carefully to show that he cared. It was hard to close the door carefully, as the door always got stuck in the frame.

1263. He opened and tried to close the door again. He tried to pull it up and towards him, but it didn’t budge.

1264. He pulled the door harder but it wouldn’t budge at all.

1266. He opened the door and then slammed it shut. S—s—stupid fucking stupid door shit. It was not his fault.

1288. Resonating from the concrete walls, the chopping filled the communal yard. A syncopated two-and-a-half beats a second chop, the timer went on. The parents sat silent on the couch, the tension gone. They were apart from their son, but still together. The flat’s windows conveniently overlooked the yard with the ash-coloured sand pit, the sole lime tree, and their son, chopping it.