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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Marked Off

Don Cameron
New Island


A flash of lightning lit up the sky as the rain lashed against the windscreen. The crack of thunder that immediately followed made his heart jump. 'That was close,' he said, and watched dark clouds roll out to sea.

Across the bay, the sky above Howth was an unbroken blue canvas. David shook his head. Not for long, he thought, and feared that their planned barbecue would have to wait for another day.

Another curtain of rain danced along the road. He got out of the car, grabbed his briefcase, and holding it over his head, ran to the front door. He stepped inside.

'Hello, love, I'm home!' he called out. He put his briefcase down, and slipped off his wet jacket. He could hear music playing in the kitchen and knew that Barbara was listening to Lyric FM. It was Mozart, her favourite composer.

'Hello!' he called, a little louder.

The music didn't seem any louder that it usually did, so Barbara should have heard him. Maybe the thunder and heavy rain had made it impossible.

'Barbara, where are you?'

He stopped, listening to hear if she was upstairs, but there was nothing. She was probably in the garden, rescuing clothes from the clothesline. Where else could she be?

'Barbara!' he called, stepping into the kitchen.

The empty wine bottle was on the counter, exactly where it had been when he had left for the office. 'Shit,' he muttered, as he touched the hot iron. Barbara's golf shirt was lying on the ironing board.

That's odd, he thought, when he saw the unemptied shopping bags on the table, and the upturned flower vase. His heart skipped a beat.

A stream of water had made its way over the edge and onto the floor. Something sparkled in the water, like a little star, and he squinted to get a better picture before bending down and touching it with his finger.

It was a small piece of glass and it turned over when he pushed it with his fingernail. He saw other bits of glass and wondered what was going on.

Maybe Barbara had hurt herself and had gone into their neighbours for help.

He was now aware of the creepy stillness in the house. It touched him like a cold hand — he was scared.

'Barbara?' he called out again.

He could feel the blood pounding in his ears as his call was again answered with an eerie silence.

The door between the kitchen and the dining room was ajar, and beyond the door was the patio.

Then he saw her, and his heart froze in his chest.

Barbara was lying face down on the cream-coloured carpet. Her head was against a chair leg, her left arm outstretched with her fingers touching the patio door.

'Jesus, Barbara.'

She didn't move when he nervously reached down and touched her cheek. It was cold. Deathly cold.

'Oh fuck!' he cried, and staggered to the middle of the room, unable to look away from his wife's lifeless body. Moments later his legs went from beneath him, and he collapsed heavily onto the floor.