“invent a character”

Major Henry Caldwell (retd) wakes up naturally at 5:36am. After a few minutes of cognitive reorientation, he pulls back the flowery pink Laura Ashley duvet cover and gingerly swings his feet to the floor, joints stiff from a night of inaction. He pushes himself off the bed with an “oopht” and begins his morning exercises: once a rigorous two-hour routine, now a series of stretches.

He pops his glasses on, taking a moment to adjust to the sharper view. He pulls on a dark blue-towelled dressing gown, which he brought from home, and fastens it snugly. He pulls the guestroom door open ever so slowly so as to not wake anyone up.

He lumbers down the laminate-floored corridor, the wood a tad chilly on his feet. He regrets not reminding Sharon to check if he’d packed his slippers. He keeps his eyes on the floor as he passes two bedroom doors, in case one or both are ajar.

He opens and closes the bathroom door with the same care and consideration as the guestroom. The cold tiled floor is even more of a shock to his feet. “Ooh bother!” he whispers in annoyance. As quickly as his morning bones will allow, he steps onto the fluffy blue bathmat and shuffles his feet on it for warmth. He steps from the bathmat to another just like it at the base of the toilet. He is briefly reminded of Moira and the children playing games in Gibraltar, pretending the floor is made of lava.

He lifts the toilet lid, turns around and pulls the dressing gown to his left side. As he lowers himself onto the toilet seat, he pushes his cotton pyjama bottoms down to his knees. He lets out a brief sigh as his body relaxes. After a moment, he takes the roll of toilet paper next to him, wraps the sheets around his hand three times and tugs. He shifts his weight onto his left bum cheek before carefully (if somewhat blindly) placing the makeshift cushion into the toilet, directly beneath his anus… or at least an approximation of where in the toilet he believes is directly beneath it.

Henry looks around the bathroom and notes the changes since his last visit. The Matey Pirate Bubble Bath has been replaced with Lynx shower gel, bath toys replaced with disposable Gillette razors.

His bowels relax and its contents drop onto the cushion of toilet paper, preventing any loud plopping or splashing noises from carrying down the hall. He glances at the lighting fixture and notices it is not quite secured to the ceiling. He makes a mental note to ask Sharon if she has a screwdriver; if not, he’ll pop out after breakfast and get one. He doesn’t think young David will have a toolkit yet.

Evacuation complete, Henry tears some more sheets of toilet paper (folded, never scrunched) and wipes his anus until no more residue appears.

In one slightly shaky motion, accompanied by an “oowar,” he pulls the pyjama bottoms up his thighs and rises to his feet. He rearranges his dressing gown and pushes the flush. The pipes and boiler groan and knock loudly throughout the house. Henry casts his eyes to the heavens. He had forgotten about Sharon’s dodgy plumbing.

Henry steps onto the third fluffy mat in the bathroom, this time at the base of the sink. He thinks briefly of the children laughing and shouting “CHEAT! CHEAT!” while Moira cackles loudly, gorgeously, and races across their old living room floor.

Henry washes his hands thoroughly, working up a proper lather and taking care to clean the backs of his hands as well as palms, fingers, and even his fingertips. He rinses them with warm water before patting dry on a clean towel. Henry nods to a job well done.

He hears Sharon stir down the hall. Bloody plumbing. He makes a mental note to see how much is in his savings. Perhaps he could afford a plumber to come take a look before he goes back home.

Henry looks at himself in the mirror. He thinks of watching Moira get ready in the mornings. He grins. In his memories, she pokes her tongue out at him. In his memories, she is tiny and old in a hospital bed. Henry steadies himself on the edge of the sink.

A knock on the bathroom door brings him back to the present and living.

“Dad?” Sharon whispers. “R’you alright?”

***

Thanks for reading! Reply with a prompt for next week’s and I’l turn it into a script or a poem or a doodle or a clunky personal piece but whatever it is you can bet I’ll leave it until Tuesday night.

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