She could be funny sometimes. When I was swearing because the face recognition feature on my laptop wouldn’t work—I always feel rejected if it fails—she said I should try it with a can in my hand. Hilarious, I replied. Well, it turned out was she was right. There you go. So maybe it wasn’t sarcastic humour after all, just a practical suggestion.
She was very practical. I relied on her a lot for things that don’t get done so well now or don’t get done at all. It was her idea to go out into the garden at night for instance and pick the slugs off the Brussels sprout plants with tweezers and drop them in a bowl of salt water. The leaves were being shredded. That worked pretty well till I got tired of all that bending over in the dark. And I felt sorry for the little creatures. Not a nice death for them. She was unsentimental though. She said if I hadn’t the stomach for that then I should put out beer traps, especially as I liked beer so much.
The slugs and I had a lot in common, she went on, warming to the subject, getting worked up. That prompted me to get angry and swear and she shouted that I was more in love with beer than I was with her. My witty response to that was that I was more in love with orange juice than I was with her. Probably a mistake. Then she left. She’s seeing someone from her office now. I imagine. She always complained at how I always preferred drinking at home to going out. Now she can go out all she wants.
So it’s worked out well all round.
I have my routine. Most nights after dark I go out into the garden to have a drink and top up the small containers I stuck in the ground, the beer traps, just as she said. I like it, it’s peaceful sitting and shining my phone here and there, seeing beetles scurrying for the shadows. It’s deathly quiet and the plants look other-worldly in the torch beam. It’s like being on another planet.
It doesn’t take long before the little guys are coming out of their hiding places. I amuse myself by thinking they can hear the sound of the ring pull. I’ve got quite fond of them now so I’m torn because I hate for them to die but at the same time I’ve set my heart on my own sprouts at Christmas.
She said it could be any beer, that slugs weren’t fussy. No need for some American-style IPA in a fancy colourful can. But I’ve got standards and so they get what I drink. She’d have laughed at that, for a few seconds, before getting annoyed at the waste and how I’d stubbornly insist on doing it my way. I can imagine the argument that would have resulted. The stupid thing is she actually quite liked beer. It wasn’t like we had nothing in common.
Here they come. Slowly, slowly. They move like they’re dreaming. I know I should have just got cheap stuff. They don’t know the difference. It does seem a waste, she was right. She was about most things. But then I have a silly sentimental streak and the way I see it, if it’s their last drink then the least I can do is to make it a good one.
JULIAN WAKELING was born in Sunderland and grew up in Lincolnshire. He attended Central Saint Martins School of Art in London and has worked for two art galleries, the post office and as a cycle courier. He sometimes produces music and has released two house music singles. He is also a street photographer. He was long-listed this year in the Fish and Reflex flash fiction contests. He currently lives near Lincoln. His website is julianwakeling.com and you can find him on Twitter @WakelingFiction