On a warm Tuesday morning in June, two days after her birthday in fact, Bridget Merriman wheels her brass bed outside. She positions the head of the bedstead against the red-brick front of the house, with the foot resting at the end of her small front garden. She drapes her winceyette dressing-gown on the bed-knob, removes her slippers, and climbs in. There, she says. That’s better.
Nobody likes to complain: Mrs. Merriman seems harmless enough. And it’s not as if the arrangement requires anything of anyone – a cheery hello, perhaps. A non-binding smile.
Three days later Dr. Vaughan brings her bed out into the sunshine, followed by Mr. Murphy, with his companion, Louise, a hyacinth macaw. By mid-July, nine retired residents of Balaclava Terrace are living outdoors, occupying beds of varying styles from stern inherited antique to ‘Japandi’. Everyone takes great pride in their bedlinen.
It’s not long before tourists come for selfies. When school-parties ask about memories and olden days Mrs. Merriman and the gang pretend to be asleep. Left to themselves they speak of their plans and ambitions and the Deliveroo driver’s buttocks and how tinglingly hopeful it all feels with the sky in their eyes and the wind in their sheets and Louise squawking obscenities in Portuguese to the jackdaws hopping across the chimneypots.
They still check their smartphones. But less often now.
During light summer showers they enjoy huddling under the canopy of Susie Adler-Edwards’ four-poster, skin against long-untouched skin. But winter’s another matter. On the evening of Sunday the 25th of October, in the teeth of a ferocious ice-storm, they surrender.
We must all keep in touch! shouts Mrs. Ginalska above the wind, against the ice, into the darkness, as they drag their beds inside.
Mrs. Merriman closes the front door and wipes her slippers on the doormat. She checks her iPhone twice, although she understands – she completely understands – how busy her son is these days.
She hovers for a while inside her starless hall.
Eventually Mrs. Merriman lifts her eyes from the geometric-tiled floor. She turns herself around, straightens her back, tightens the belt of her dressing gown and, shivering slightly, leads her bed back out into the night.
Biography: S.A. Greene lives and writes short fiction in Derbyshire. Her words have appeared in Ellipsis Zine before, as well as in trampset, Mslexia, Janus, the Phare, Sledgehammer, Reflex, Flash Flood, Funny Pearls, Paragraph Planet, Free Flash Fiction, Retreat West, and some print anthologies. Twitter: @SAGreene1