‘How’s Nick doing with his Lego, Jill?’ Vera asks, her head tilted faux-sympathetically because she thinks building things with plastic blocks is for babies.
‘He’s got a new project on the go,’ I say. ‘He won’t tell me what, says I’ll see it when it’s ready. My Nick always could build anything out of Lego – like that bird table in the garden.’ I glance out of the window. A blackbird lands on the slick plastic surface, skids, falls off and flies away, too embarrassed to take a second attempt.
Although I’d never tell Vera this, I’m worried about Nick. He’s always loved Lego so I wasn’t surprised when, after retirement, he squirreled himself away in the spare room every day, building plastic knick-knacks. Then, out of the blue one afternoon, when he’d come downstairs for a sandwich, he said: ‘Am I wasting my time, Jill? Sat on my tod, sticking blocks together while I wait for the chap with the scythe?’
‘Don’t be maudlin,’ I said. ‘You’re getting used to retirement. It’s normal. I was down for weeks after I’d finished at the office.’
‘How did you snap out of it?’
I could hardly say so, but I’d snapped out of it when Graham over the road, also retired, asked me round for liver and onions one lunchtime and one thing led to another. When Nick stopped working himself I thought Graham and I would end it, but we didn’t.
‘I just concentrated on my hobbies,’ I told him. ‘Like my book group.’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You go to that a lot, don’t you?
‘It keeps me busy.’ The lie was for the best.
‘So you don’t mind me leaving you on your own so much?’
‘My mother always said the secret to a successful marriage was time apart from each other.’
An hour later Nick was cocooned with his Lego again.
I shuttle Vera out once she’s finished her cuppa and head upstairs. I pause by the spare room. I’d expect to hear the click-clack of brick on brick, but I don’t. It’s too quiet. Thinking about it, I haven’t seen Nick since breakfast. I open the door.
Inside squats a huge, lidded Lego box, built entirely with black bricks. It shimmers in the afternoon light. It’s just over six feet long and Nick’s lying inside it and dear God tell me he’s sleeping, just sleeping, that this is just a weird sort of bed, but he isn’t, he isn’t, he’s not breathing, he’s dead, dead, this is a coffin, a bloody Lego coffin. I almost drop to my knees as grief and horror tumble down upon me, yet deep inside there’s a tiny part of me that admires the sheer dedication of the man. How long must this have taken to build?
There’s an empty packet of pills crumpled on the floor. I turn away. As I do, I realise you can see into Graham’s bedroom from here.
Tears sluice down my face, half-blinding me as I stare at my husband, cold in his plastic casket. I kiss his forehead and close the lid so he can rest properly.
My Nick always could build anything out of Lego.
David Cook’s stories have been published in the National Flash Fiction Anthology, Spelk, The Fiction Pool, The Sunlight Press and more. Say hi on Twitter here. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. He likes Lego, but not that much.