by Alan McCormick
My wife had a story for why she arrived home three hours late from work. She said she’d stopped to help a man who was hungry and who had no home. She’d taken him for a meal, and then drove him to a hostel. When the man was told that there was no room, she’d driven him to our house.
‘He’s waiting in the hallway.’
‘But who is he? What do we know about him?’
‘Why don’t you ask him yourself?’
And the man walked in and took a seat at our kitchen table. He was wearing my jumper.
‘I hope you don’t mind but your wife could see I was cold,’ he said, accepting a mug of tea and lifting it to his mouth. I could just make a blue-vein trace of letters through the grime on the back of his fingers. I was thinking ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’.
‘Love and Life,’ he said.
My wife went upstairs. I went to see what she was doing and found her making the bed in our spare room.
‘He can’t stay.’
‘He’s staying,’ she said.
When I went downstairs the man had gone, my jumper neatly folded on the chair.
Before going to bed, I re-check the front and back doors are locked.
‘Satisfied?’ she asks as I climb in beside her.
‘You saw his tattoos?’
‘Life and Love,’ she says, and rolls away onto her side of the bed.
I think I hear movement downstairs, and I close my eyes and tell myself nothing is happening.
Alan McCormick has been writer in residence at Kingston University’s Writing School and Interact Stroke Support. His fiction has won prizes and been widely published, including Salt’s Best British Short Stories 2015. His story collection, Dogsbodies and Scumsters, was long-listed for the 2012 Edge Hill Prize. See more at: