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Bad Timing
by Bill West

In the darkness my fingers stroke you for the last time. All I can think of is the bitterness of endless tomorrows without you. You have been a part of my life these twenty five years, but it all has to end here.

Dawn's cheerless rays peep in at the window, a warning that time has run out. Sick at heart I make my preparations.

It is done. Fear churns my stomach. The sharp steel blade clatters to the floor where you lie curled at my feet. Stooping, I staunch a trickle of blood, lift the crimson bead to my lips--the blood sharp in my mouth.

My wife never accepted you, why would she? Other lovers accommodated you in their own way but from the moment I married her your days were numbered. She gave her ultimatum, and she won, as I knew she must.

I gather you up, and carry you downstairs into the hall.

Outside I hear the squeal of the garden gate and the clip, clop of shoes on flagstones. The bell jangles and I open the door.

Jim Blackstrop stands in the porch, staring at me, his greeting smile dissolves into a look of bewilderment and disgust. A nervous impulse causes him to raise a warding hand to his magnificent mutton-chop whiskers.

“Tom, what have you done, you silly bugger?”

I gesture weakly at the plastic bags, as if this answers all. He shakes his head in growing anger and disbelief. “The open top bus is waiting,” he spits. “The mayor and the press are all on board for our sponsorship campaign.” Spittle flies from his lips, “ We're hardly going to get money promises for charity when the man with the biggest whiskers in Wem has already shaved the bloody things off!”