"The Regulars: Part III" by Tyler Baker
Priscilla rode her bicycle to the yard. Before long, she was rumbling in the driver’s seat
of a lorry, two gloved hands on the wheel, and a cigarette between her lips. The pain in her lower abdomen had become violent and stabbing but still, whenever Priscilla punched the gas, the power of her vehicle sent currents of delight from her legs all the way to her throat. The lorry was quite a beast to operate and the rough suspension made it extraordinarily difficult to keep the eggs in the bed from breaking. On her first day, Priscilla hit nearly every pothole in London and lost thirteen eggs-- not half bad when considering old-man MacGregor’s record-shattering 237 eggs lost. This day, Priscilla didn’t lose a single egg after all 47 deliveries. She had gotten to know her route well enough to miss the potholes and traffic had become predictable enough that she managed to avoid unnecessary and abrupt stops.
At the end of the workday, the sun was just beginning to set and the fog had thickened
after all. She left the lorry at the yard, pretended to listen to Mr. Hodgens as he fired rambling
criticisms down beneath a grey-haired finger and bicycled toward home. It was warm enough
that Priscilla folded her overcoat and draped it over the handlebars. Pedaling was accompanied by stabbing pain in her lower abdomen, which would have been unbearable if it weren’t for her current optimism. Tobacco helped too. Priscilla cycled toward an enormous, seven-story, grey-brick building with an iron fire escape zig-zagging to the top between rows of arched windows. J. GARCH & SONS was painted in white, just beneath the flat roof and stretched across the entire face of the building, which seemed to be floating atop a thicket of fog hugging the perimeter. Priscilla walked her bicycle up to the wrought iron gate and shouldered through the front door. She chained her bicycle beneath the carpeted stairs at the end of the hall and darted to her mailbox on the left wall, which was one among five rows of five. She slipped the key inside and it opened with a creak. The lone letter sat suspended at a diagonal inside the box.Her hands trembled wildly as she took it. In the dark hall, it was impossible to make out the name. She went briskly up the stairs toward her flat. The tingling part inside the cellar of her brain made her glance left at Mrs. Parsons’s door, yellow light glowed from underneath. Slow, muffled music came from inside.
As Priscilla continued up to her flat, she noticed her adrenaline was spiking in a
wonderful way. She reached the landing on her floor and strode magnificently toward her door, she found it difficult to insert the key and had to steady her right hand with her left to achieve the task. She turned the key and the door was open. She slammed it behind her, found the light chain, and clicked it on. Her eyes steadied and she could see the tan letter was not from the War Office, it was direct from Nigel. “Bugger,” she said through gnashed teeth. Over the kitchen table, she tore the folded paper free from its packaging-- her breathing now had become much like Mrs. Parsons dog-like panting on the stairs. Priscilla unfolded the paper.
My Dearest Priscilla, I write with the greatest news. As I had feared, I was called to
action for an all-out charge on Fritz’s lines. That’s all I can tell you about the attack. I was
wounded in the leg-- a piece of shrapnel from one of our own shells! They had to take a good bit of my calf but the doctors are certain that I’ll not lose the leg. Though I’ll have to sit out the war. Oh! What a terrible waste I turned out to be. I’m up on crutches already, my dear. I am coming home to you straight away! Once I am healed our lives can again return to normality. I hope you will give your mum a kiss for me and send my love to Thomas. I’ll be on a ship coming home to you before long. I love you Priscilla xxxx
Priscilla gasped. “No--no--please!” With damp hands, she pressed the letter flat on the
kitchen table and scanned it again. She was checking to see if she hadn’t made a mistake. “You blighted bastard.” Her knees began shaking as she backed away from the letter until she hit the wall next to the icebox. With her back pressed against the wall, Priscilla collapsed into a heap on the floor and frantically began rolling a cigarette. Just then, she recalled for the first time in a while, that Nigel upheld a strict no smoking indoors policy. Priscilla had been smoking the place up ever since Nigel shipped off. She quickly began listing the other pleasures she would have to forego upon Nigel’s return. He would make her quit her job-- there was no question about that-- Nigel would never allow her to be his breadwinner (it would most certainly hurt his pride enough admitting to friends and family he was wounded by his own side and forced to sit out the battle entirely). There would be no more baths in the evenings. Nigel’s frugality was a compulsive side effect brought on by blind admiration of his father (also Nigel) who saved every penny he earned. Priscilla had hated Nigel’s Sr. and every passing year, to her horror, Nigel himself had begun to look and behave exactly like the miserable louse. There would be no more fixing her face in the morning. No more spontaneous trips to the pictures and no more thrifty purchases. Might he tear down the wallpaper too? She mused. Priscilla took a long drag from her cigarette. I won’t let him do this to me. And with that promise, she began searching for options where there were none.
Divorce was not a viable option--there were no grounds for it. Nigel was, in the eyes of
the law, a wonderful husband. Not only that but he had a sparkling reputation and now he would be all these things in addition to being a war veteran. The only perfect solution was death. You were supposed to die. If Nigel were dead, Priscilla would secure his money, (a moderate sum, thanks to Nigel Sr.) and the immortal sympathy of friends, family, and even strangers. Indifferent to money, Priscilla simply desired the right to possess a future. With Nigel there would be no future.
From the ground, Priscilla flicked the butt of her cigarette into the kitchen sink. Hands on the warm floor, she lifted herself off her bottom and tucked her legs underneath so that she
was on her knees. Priscilla laced her fingers together and began to pray. “Please father--
please--let him fall overboard-- or let an illness take him in the night-- please help me, father, or god of death, or whoever you are, you bloody arse--” Just then, Priscilla felt a jolt in her brain in a place that hadn’t been touched for years.
She pulled herself to her feet, bolted into the bedroom, yanked open the top drawer of her
wardrobe, rifled through some clothes until she found a shiny box. Let it be there. Please let it
be there. The object she was searching for, it occurred to her for a fleeting moment, may never have existed. After all, she hadn’t seen it or thought about it since she was a little girl. Had I dreamed it? Priscilla took the box back into the kitchen where it was light and set it on the table. She popped off the lid. Inside there were a few colorful rocks, French coins, a stub to her first visit to the pictures, and other treasures all in a mound. She rummaged through the mound and turned up, beneath a folded note, the fountain pen. “Yes!” The grandfather clock dinged seven times. On the first “ding” Priscilla’s heart nearly leaped through her ribcage. She split back into the bedroom and returned to the kitchen table with a torn slip of blank paper and an inkwell. When she took the pen in her right hand, its icy shale housing reminded her, in a flash, the moment she first picked it up. She dipped the pen into the inkwell and paused. A droplet of the black ink fell from the tip of the pen and impossibly dotted the paper in blood-red. Priscilla puffed up and exhaled. The tip of the pen met the paper and with a quick swish of her hand, Priscilla had written a name.