Author : Peter Lavelle
‘I think it looks just wonderful on the mantelpiece, don’t you?’ Mrs. Smithey asked cheerfully.
Mrs. Everett leisurely stirred the contents of her teacup. The tinkling of the spoon against the fine china was an eerie peal that unsettled the very furniture of the front room. She gave a final decisive tap against the brim of the cup, and placed the spoon noiselessly on the table.
‘Yes,’ she said sternly, ‘although you might have found something a little more befitting to keep it in than the goldfish tank.’
Mrs. Smithey bristled. She leant forward from the sofa and seized upon the plate of digestives. ‘Ohh,’ she said, her voice quavering, ‘that’s only temporary, it’s temporary. We’ve a crystal salad bowl in the loft we’ve been thinking of bringing down for it. Biscuit?’
‘No; thank you,’ Mrs. Everett determined. She brought the teacup to her lips and then paused, considering her question, before asking in a lilting tone, ‘Where was it you heard of this procedure, Mrs. Smithey?’
‘Thinking of having it done for your Earnest, are you?’ replied Mrs. Smithey with a knowing wink.
‘Oh, you ought to consider it, I really think so.’
Mrs. Everett said nothing, and for a moment only the ticking of the grandfather clock punctuated the silence between the two women. Mrs. Smithey brushed away a crumb from her floral print dress, before continuing:
‘We saw it on the television one afternoon. It’s all as professional as you could wish for. They just send two of their technicians in the middle of the night, strap him down, saw open the cranium, and scoop out the brain.’
She munched on a digestive, reflectively.
‘I tell you,’ she added, ‘Jack’s been ever so good since we had it done.’
Mrs. Everett nodded slowly, and stared down into the steaming body of sepia-coloured liquid she held between her palms. ‘It’s not very usual,’ she said, forming the syllables of the last words carefully.
‘Oh, well, I don’t know,’ her hostess replied. ‘It’s as things should be, if you ask me. Puts a husband in his place.’
‘And they just let you keep the leftovers?’
The two women turned together and looked to the small round portion of grey matter, situated above the fireplace. It sat centred beside an old photograph of a newly-wed couple, the wife’s arm entwined around her husband’s so that the pair were clasped together. Their features were barely discernible through the layers of dust that smothered the glass. The brain, meanwhile, was mostly flaccid and, though the goldfish tank in which it was housed was only small, was comfortably accommodated.
‘Perhaps you ought to fill the tank with water so that it doesn’t just… sit there,’ Mrs. Everett suggested.
‘Perhaps,’ replied Mrs. Smithey, tilting her head thoughtfully.
‘And your husband Jack…’ Mrs. Everett began, but faltered. She settled her teacup on the tiled surface of the coffee table with a clatter. ‘He… doesn’t mind seeing it every day?’
Mrs. Smithey chuckled and leaned close toward her guest from across the table, a conspiratorial smile upon her face.
‘My dear Mrs. Everett,’ she confided, ‘he doesn’t say a peep about it.’
Her guest nodded but kept silent, and so Mrs. Smithey once again took up her plate of biscuits.
‘He doesn’t say a peep,’ she repeated. ‘You’re sure I can’t tempt you?’