Part two of two continued from “I am the Egg Man”…
A week after the murder, Walter was in the kitchen eating his egg, contemplating how long he’d been contemplating murder. The concrete footings outside had now gone off and the contractors were due today, to start building the new chicken shed, the one which he and Andrew had come to blows over many times when he had his faculties.
Walter had always been the more sensitive of the two brothers, the one prone to nostalgia and depression, the one who always missed his father Herbert, who’d built this family empire bigger than his ancestors. A fine, strong man with principles even in business. His funeral, many years ago, was a huge affair, it felt like the town and his wife was there, and at the wake there was talk of a statue erected in the square, which never happened but to Walter even the talk of it meant it was there. Herbert was deeply proud of both his sons and, Walter reckoned over his egg, he’d still be proud today, proud of how he and Andrew had taken the business forward, proud of the new shed when erected, proud that he’d spared Andrew any more pain. This was how he decided to reconcile what he’d done. The brother he once had, became nobody, somebody sitting in the kitchen for his meals then shuffling to the stairs to spend his days in his room thinking God knew what, if thinking at all. The brother who was handsome, fit and strong just like their father, the brother who was hardworking and passionate, but now no more. The sensitive side of Walter somehow missed him. Once across the table was this other man, eating, talking, making plans, arguing, sometimes vying to bare knuckle fight Walter or the world. Even recently, when the man was gone, he was still there, eating meals, picking his nose and eating that too, and though it made Walter feel sick, at least he was there. And now there was an empty space, just one plate put out, just one egg to boil. But the sensitive side of Walter also reconciled that the man who was once so strong then wasn’t, was lost, anguished, bewildered, in pain, suffering. He’d been doing so for years, since that first day when he said he’d made the deliveries but came back with the van still full. For years he’d been on a downwards trajectory, for years he’d been suffering. And the thought of that answered Walter’s question, that he’d been contemplating murder for years.
After rinsing the pots, Walter went round with the chicken feed then to load the van before driving into town.
“Any sign?” asked the old woman in the market.
“Nothing,” said Walter.
“I’m sure Andrew will be fine,” she said, sighing and stroking his hand, “He’ll show up again like nothing happened.”
“Yes I’m sure.”
But in the police station Walter was less sure, and the officers who came to the house last week were talking respectfully about this now causing grave concern. A helicopter was mooted again.
It was a nice afternoon in town after that; Walter shopped at Tesco for the food he liked and a microwave that would save him time, he walked down the high street to the square where the statue to his father would’ve been, he looked in estate agents’ windows at the kind of house he dreamed of retiring to, he even thought about buying a television but resisted for now. He had his computer for entertainment, and his poetry books.
When the work was done, Walter returned to the smallholding, where a large truck was in the back yard and girders were being craned into place. There was drilling into the concrete, steel framing erected. Walter watched for a while, spoke to some of the men, who said they’d have this finished within the allotted time. Everything was grand, tickety-boo, he thought one of them said.
In the house he ventured into his brother’s room, only the second time he’d done so in two years or more. He left the bed unmade as Andrew had abandoned it, the mattress concave where the man had slept, but righted the chair that showed his struggle. After washing and shaving, he looked at himself in the mirror – still young in his head, fit, strong, handsome, the blepharitis that depressed him having a day off. Craving a woman.
By the time the men had called it a day, the steel framing of the new shed was already huge, magnificent, a statue and monument to those who’d worked so hard down the years. But Walter wouldn’t dwell for long, he was the man dressed in his suit, the only one he owned, like a new man, having a walk to the village pub a mile away, one that would be busy, where people knew the gypsy egg man and he knew them, and could ask if anybody had seen his brother, and could have a few pints, perhaps a whisky, definitely a conversation. Where possibly he could one day find his bride. As he headed for the yard gate he saw it was a nice evening, warmer now, the trees in bud, the birds coupling therein and singing – all the sights and sounds of spring interrupted only by the sound of a helicopter in the distance, the cost of which Walter wasn’t insensitive.