‘I’m just going down for cigarettes,’
Tom called to his wife, Marie,
Her voice was muffled as she called back
From the depths of the old laundry,
‘You’d better bring back a carton of milk,
I gave the last to the cat,’
And that was the last thing that he heard
As he thought: ‘Okay, that’s that!’
He backed the car from out of the drive
It was just on six o’clock,
The sun was starting to drop in the sky
And the glare was over the top,
He cursed as he pulled the sunshield down,
He should have gone down before,
But hadn’t been able to take his eyes
From the burgeoning cricket score.
The shop was seven kilometres
From the cottage at Dyson’s Well,
The traffic was usually thick out there
With commuters from Narrabel,
He checked his mirror, back up the road
But there wasn’t a car in sight,
Not even a stray pedestrian
As the sun dipped down for the night.
He passed the pub with its gaming lights
There wasn’t a car outside,
Continued down to the supermart
Where its doors were open wide,
His was the only car in the park
And an ominous silence fell,
As he walked through into the supermart,
There was no-one there, as well.
The place was empty, the lanes were clear
As he wandered along each aisle,
He wondered, where were the checkout girls?
Where was old Billy Style?
The manager usually stood at the front
Of the store, but where was he at?
Down on the counter, where he stood
Was the manager’s battered hat.
The fridges hummed and the lights were bright
When he went to collect the milk,
Then made his way to the checkout
For a packet of Rothman’s Silk,
The locks were on the tobacco, so
He called at the top of his voice:
‘Do I have to serve myself tonight,
Or shall I just walk? Your choice!’
His voice rang out but was swallowed up
In the vastness of that space,
He walked outside and he looked around
Came back, and started to pace,
He leapt the counter and squeezed one out
Through the bars that had locked them down,
If ever he needed a cigarette
He told himself, it was now!
He drove the length of the road and turned,
Weaved in and out of the street,
The lights were on in the Take-Away
He thought he’d get something to eat,
The fat was hot in the fryer there
But the chips were burnt and black,
Wherever old Elsie Stark had gone
She wouldn’t be coming back.
He drove on home like a madman, broke
The limit for seven k’s,
Raced on in through the cottage door
It had seen far better days,
For cobwebs hung from the ceiling,
There was mildew down on the floor,
And there in the silver coffee pot
Was an inch of mould, or more.
He walked on out to the laundry
Full of dread for his wife Marie,
She didn’t answer his call, but all
The washing was there to see,
It sat, still up in the dryer
But the dryer was rusty and blown,
He staggered out in the garden, but
The garden was overgrown.
Marie had cried for a fortnight
Then had lived on her own for years,
‘I don’t know what had got into him,
But Tom, he was so perverse!’
She told the story a hundred times
And what it was all about,
‘He said he wanted some cigarettes,
He said he was ‘Going Out!’’
David Lewis Paget