Intemperance

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  A glass of cold tap water sits on the scarred table of Dad’s workshop. The sour tang of fish pollutes the air; it must be a Monday. Dew collects on the rim and dribbles down.
My eyes flutter open and greet the shade of in-between, neither night nor day, when the walls, ceiling and drawn curtains ache with hollow silence. I yank back the covers and my limbs are sticky with sweat, my night gown clings to my legs. I tiptoe along the dark landing. I don’t want to be caught. One set of keys glints in the gloom. The other lies deep in a trouser pocket by the sea, where hauls of fish are being loaded into our white van. A floorboard creaks and I pause, my heart rending the deadweight clean in two, to my clamoring senses only. I squint into the grainy gloom, spooked. A dark shape catches my eye. It takes many forms, as do all familiar masses in the clutches of night. But I shake myself, I’m ridiculous. I tiptoe on and pour myself a glass, quiet as a daisy. It slips down my throat like molten glass, half spilling down my font. Only when I’m satiated does this bother me a little, and I make my way to the corner of the aisle, where a cloth lies forgotten on the veined surface. The shape sharpens slightly a few paces away. A chair? The dog bed? A cushion catapulted during child’s play? I flick on the light.
Mum is lying on the ground, her lips stained dark red. I wonder if she’s dead.