Alternation (2012)

 

‘Love is only a dirty trick played on us to achieve continuation of the species.’
W. Somerset Maugham

When Arthur Green was a tiny boy his mother and father left him in the care of his grandmother and went away for the weekend to do some Christmas shopping. They never returned. They simply disappeared, along with their car and their bags and all their photographs and papers. Of course, Arthur was such a tiny boy that he did not remember any of this. But Granny Green had told him all about it and had kept for him a small lock of his mother’s hair tied with a thin pink ribbon. Because Arthur had been such a tiny boy he had no memories of his parents and was, therefore, spared the sadness of orphanhood. And he loved Granny Green like she was his mother and father and grandmother all in one. Arthur never once tried to trace other relatives. Granny Green assured him there were none and that was good enough for him. So Arthur thrived and smiled, and talked and walked, and ran and laughed and went to school and made friends and played football and adored girls. And grew to manhood cared for by an old lady who would regularly say to him: ‘You please yourself, young Arthur, don’t ask me what to do because I’m as old as time itself, but if I were you …’ But this was all a long time ago and it’s not really where this story begins. In fact, this story begins just two weeks after Arthur’s twenty-fifth birthday …

*

Arthur Green watched the rain lashing against the windscreen as the wiper blades made useless protests against the incessant deluge. He had been ill-advised to set out in such bad weather. And he had no excuse: for once the Weather People had got it right. This flood he was witnessing was a forecast flood, and now he was in it. But he had wanted to get the trip over and done with. At the end of this journey was his new life, away from the disaster he was only too keen to leave behind. He was en route for the new Promised Land and all he had to do was plough on and focus on the road ahead, even if it was seriously under water. And seriously out of sight.

Thud, thud, thud.

The noise was making it impossible to concentrate: the rain crashing against the roof of the car; the wipers plunging then rising only to plunge again; the tires plummeting into concealed, waterlogged holes in the road. Hanging onto the steering wheel, straining to see the unseeable, it was all giving him a headache.

Thud, thud, thud.

Then suddenly it stopped. In a moment, everything stopped. The car stopped moving, the wiper blades froze midway across the screen, the rain was suddenly suspended ahead of him like an internally-ruptured glass curtain. Raindrops were caught in the act of exploding against the windscreen. What on earth was happening? And then, all at once, Arthur became aware of a sharp white light, like the core of a monochrome migraine, growing larger through the glass curtain. Cascading through the raindrops. Overwhelming. Brilliance fractured into a million prisms that failed to slither away. And then, when it was beyond unbearable, the white light expired.

 

*

‘Mr Green, try and relax.’

Relax?

‘Just a little bang on the head.’

Thud, thud, thud.

‘And a little piece of glass in your eye. Nothing to worry about.’

Glass in your eye?

‘Dr Rafai will be here any minute.’

Thud, thud, thud.

Arthur Green could see nothing. He could feel his chest breath. But he could see nothing. And he needed to see in order to stop the thud, thud, thud, but his eyes had forgotten how to open. If only the thud, thud, thud would stop he would be able to instruct his eyes in the lost art of opening. Except now the thud, thud, thud was more of a pat, pat, pat. Then, all by itself, one eye remembered how to open and relayed an explanation: the pat, pat, pat was a hand on his arm, tapping up and down. Arthur made a whistling noise. It was all he could manage to do what with the patting and the breathing and the one eye being closed. Then the patting stopped:
‘Mr Green, just don’t you worry.’

Worry? One of his eyes had lost the ability to open: ‘My eye is stuck!’

A tiny laugh. ‘Just a little piece of glass. All gone now. Here’s doctor.’

Arthur focused out with his one eye and discovered a woman, middle aged, wearing one of those outfits the kissogram girls wear. There was also a man, hovering to the right of Arthur’s small-piece-of-glass eye. The man appeared to be in a Hollywood hospital romance: handsome, wearing a crisp, white coat over a waistcoat and matching trousers, stethoscope hanging attractively on his chest. A watch chain. Did he have a watch or was the chain just an accessory? Was this a Hollywood hospital romance? Was he, Arthur, the star and the man in the crisp white coat, was he playing a supporting role?

‘I’m David Rafai, Mr Green,’ said the Hollywood doctor, extending his hand and revealing an expensive wristwatch. ‘You are very lucky. Just a few minor cuts and bruises.’

Arthur looked at the one extended hand with his one eye and failed to remember his lines.

Dr Rafai continued: ‘But I’m afraid I have some very sad news.’

Arthur considered the situation. Had he ever known his lines?

‘We were not able to save your wife. I’m very sorry,’ said the doctor: sincerely. He had rehearsed his part well. ‘But we delivered your daughter … a little premature but she’s perfect. She’ll pull you through.’

‘She’ll pull you through,’ echoed the too-mature kissogram girl.

OK, this was ridiculous. What was he to do? Clearly cast in the role of a married man, and now a bereaved married man, Arthur thought it appropriate to say nothing.

The actor in a supporting role and white coat resigned himself to a spurned handshake and instead patted Arthur’s hand which was lying quite lifeless on his chest. He closed his fingers around Arthur’s fingers: ‘Can you grip my hand, Mr Green.’

Arthur pushed the manicured hand away and shouted, perhaps louder than he had intended. ‘I don’t want to grip your hand. And this is a crap movie and I can’t remember my lines!’

This outburst was met with a sympathetic smile. ‘I understand, Mr … Arthur. We have a counsellor on her way to talk you through it. We could get the Chaplain to speak to you if you prefer … about your wife.’

Arthur abandoned all pretence at a script. He tried to speak quietly: ‘I have no wife!’ he yelled.

‘I’m truly sorry,’ said the actor, clearly attempting to improvise, ‘truly I am. She died instantly. Yesterday afternoon. We were lucky to save your daughter.’

‘No!’ exclaimed Arthur, a slight feeling of panic rising from the pit of his stomach. ‘I have never had a wife. Never!’

Dr Rafai glanced across at the nurse and frowned. She coughed discretely: ‘Mrs Green’s papers were in order, doctor.’ She lowered her voice: ‘I gather the police require an identification.’

‘Yes, quite,’ said the doctor. Again he patted Arthur’s hand. ‘Don’t worry, old chap. We’d better try you out on a few memory tests, shall we? Do you remember what year it is?’

Arthur tried to sit up but had to settle for folding his arms in his recumbent state. ‘Look, it’s fucking 1999. February the 26th … 27th if this is real and you say it happened yesterday. I was in my car, driving through a monsoon and everything went quiet and I saw this light. And now I’m here. And I’ve never had a wife.’

Dr Rafai frowned again: ‘What kind of light? Had you ever seen this kind of light before? Had you been suffering any kind of dizziness. A headache?’

‘No! I must have swerved in someone’s headlights.’

The doctor clasped his palms together. ‘Well, we’ll keep an eye on you and we’d better have another look inside that head. Then Sister will arrange for you to see your daughter.’ He inclined his forehead towards the kissogram girl: ‘We’d better get Mr Green back down for another scan. I’ll arrange that straight away.’ He offered Arthur a nodding smile and then left. The kissogram girl hurried through the door after him.

Arthur watched the door close behind them. Then he used his one eye to look around. He was in a small room on his own. They always do that in the movies if you’ve lost someone, in case you freak out and distress the other patients. It also requires the minimum of extras. ‘My wife’s dead, you complacent bastards,’ he said to his non-existent roommates. What on earth was he talking about? He had no wife. Where was he? He looked around for cameramen. There were none. What was happening to him? Had he crashed in all that rain? No. He remembered everything coming to a halt. Frozen in time. And then the white light. Had he been dazzled by headlights? And what wife were they talking about? What daughter? There hadn’t been anyone else in the car with him … He tried to gather his senses. Had he picked up a hitchhiker before the light? A pregnant hitchhiker? No. No way. He would never stop and pick up a hitchhiker. Granny Green had drummed that into his head since as far back as he could remember. Oh God, Granny Green! He’d promised to phone her from his new apartment. He ought to get somebody to call round and see her. What if it frightened her, tipped her completely over? She was senile enough without another shock. She hadn’t wanted him to move away. Kept telling him it was too soon, whatever that was supposed to mean. But he had to leave after the embarrassment. The city was simply not big enough to hide in. He was going to find a position in a Private School … loads of them towards the coast: all you need is a few spare rooms and good parking and you can call yourself a school. Eventually he’d move Granny Green down with him. The city was too big for an old woman to be safe in.

Arthur stared at the wall opposite. He thought about his embarrassment. He thought about Holly Hudson, the substitute math teacher, who had accused him of sleeping with her. Good God, not if she’d paid him! He didn’t screw older women, especially not fat, ugly ones. And he’d never been to that bar. What was it called? The Fifth Dimension. Stupid name for a pub. Pretentious. He’d never go to a place called that. But in the end you give up arguing. People said they saw him there. With her. He just did not understand why people would say that because it simply was not true. Why would they lie? Why? If only he could see with his other eye. He couldn’t think properly with one eye shut. Because, with that one eye shut, he kept thinking that something, someone might be lurking in that sector of his vision that was under cover. Waiting for him to make a mistake.

By mid-afternoon, Arthur had provided several tubes of blood, had eaten half a plate of pre-fabricated hospital food, drunk four cups of sweet, stewed tea, despite his insistence that he did not require sugar, and had been allowed out of bed to go to the toilet. That last activity resulted in a thumping pain in his head, but he kept quiet about it. He did not intend to be returned to the indignity of the bedpan. As he washed his hands in his personal sink he looked at his face in the mirror. He leaned forward and lifted his eye patch. Bloodshot. He flapped the patch back down, then took the opportunity to check the area behind his ears for one of those marks, those barcodes that aliens leave after they have abducted you. Arthur was amazed at how difficult it was to see behind your own ears, especially with one eye out of commission. He noticed his reflection contorting itself and decided to abandon the effort. And anyway, he didn’t believe all that alien stuff. Although he did stick his finger up each of his nostrils to check for small titanium implants. Slightly reassured, he returned to his bed and resumed staring at the opposite wall but his chaotic thoughts were interrupted by a porter, who had come to escort Arthur to the Imaging Department.

The MRI scan was as close to physical torture as Arthur had ever experienced. The noise was indescribable. It left him with an even worse headache:

THUD, THUD, THUD.

Back in his room he resumed his observation of the opposite wall. But this time his attempts at reasoned analysis were interrupted by a visit from a dreary-looking woman who introduced herself as Diana George, one of the counselling team. The conversation that followed was very much a re-run of Arthur’s earlier exchange with Dr Rafai. Mrs George reiterated the story about Arthur’s wife and daughter. She tried to reassure him that his amnesia was likely to be the way his mind was dealing with distressing memories and not to worry. She said that it was up to him to decide when to meet his daughter and that, if necessary, she could arrange fostering, until he was ready. And did he have any family that might like to be involved? The police had contacted the address in his driving license and had learned that he no longer lived there. Nobody could provide a forwarding address. Again Arthur remembered Granny Green. He explained to the counsellor, impressed upon her how old the old lady was, asked if someone could call round to check she was alright. Diana George paused ready to write down Granny Green’s address and for a brief moment Arthur couldn’t remember it. Then his mind cleared. He asked if he could make a call; he didn’t seem to have his mobile with him.

Mrs George left looking unaccomplished and a phone trolley was brought to Arthur’s room. Granny Green did not answer the phone. Granny Green had not answered the phone by the following morning. Arthur couldn’t remember how many times he had tried to call her, but it was very many and he was beginning to worry. His worrying was interrupted by a minute nurse, who had come to remove his eye patch. She mumbled satisfaction as she restored Arthur’s binocular vision and then hurried away. The purpose of this restoration became obvious when a police officer, accompanied by a nurse with a wheelchair, entered the room, introduced himself as Officer Marks and requested that, if possible, would Mr Green be able to accompany them down to identify his wife’s body, since no other person was available. Arthur explained that, although he would dearly love to cooperate, he could not identify his wife’s body because he did not have a wife.

‘Perhaps the experience might help jog your mind, Mr Green,’ said the officer. ‘Sometimes a shock is what you need to restore your memories. And then you can start to come to terms with your loss.’

Arthur paused to consider the situation. There was a woman downstairs in their morgue who they thought was his dead wife, who they seemed to think had been in his crashed car with him, and whose baby they now thought was his daughter, cut from his not-wife’s dead body. Then a thought occurred to Arthur. Perhaps she had been wandering along the road in all that rain and they had found her by the car and presumed she had been catapulted out by the impact. ‘Was she actually in my car with me?’ Arthur asked the policeman.

Officer Marks paused. ‘She was behind the driver’s seat.’

‘In the back seat?’

‘We presumed she was there for safety purposes due to her advanced state of pregnancy, Mr Green.’

‘Well that didn’t work, did it?’ snapped Arthur. ‘She’s dead!’

The policeman frowned. ‘I’m afraid she never regained consciousness. We do not believe she suffered.’

‘So she didn’t die instantly then,’ said Arthur irritably. ‘The doctor said she died instantly.’

The officer looked awkward. ‘She would have been rendered unconscious instantly, the impact was so severe. She would not have suffered, Mr Green.’

Arthur considered that piece of information. ‘But if she was behind me and the impact was enough to kill her, how come I’ve only got minor injuries?’

‘You were found lying in the road. You must have been catapulted from the car as the door was thrown open.’

‘But I was wearing my seat belt. How could I have been thrown out?’

‘We can only assume that your seat belt failed at a critical moment and that its failure saved your life.’ The police officer straightened his cuffs. ‘Mr Green, if you can find it within yourself to make this identification, it will take you one step closer to rebuilding your life. I realize how difficult this must be for you. Mrs George is outside ready to accompany us.’

Right on cue, the nurse maneuvered the wheelchair to the side of Arthur’s bed.

‘Look, Officer, by all means wheel me down there. I’ll be interested to see who this unfortunate woman is. But I can only repeat that I have no wife and I have no idea how this woman managed to be in the back of my car.’

The nurse helped Arthur into the wheelchair then pushed him out into the corridor where Diana George was waiting to take over the task of transporting Arthur down to the basement. Officer Marks followed on behind. Arthur’s wheelchair jolted as Mrs George maneuvered it into the huge service lift, which carried the three of them down into the subterranean regions of the hospital. The walls at this level were just rough, painted concrete, stretching off into the distance. There was a malign feeling about the enormously long corridors, darkly illuminated with strip lights which seemed to be about to flicker and die. What an appropriate place to keep dead people, thought Arthur. Officer Marks hurried ahead and held open some double doors and Diana George pushed Arthur’s wheelchair through into a large, cold room that looked just like Arthur had always imagined a morgue would look. Diana George paused the wheelchair to remind Arthur that she had many years of experience in bereavement counselling and she knew that this was most difficult for him. At this point Arthur felt fresh stirrings of panic. As he was wheeled past a line of steel tables, towards the body filing system on the far side, he felt his skin start to creep. ‘Was she seriously damaged,’ he asked the cold air.

‘She’s been made perfect,” said Diana George.

From out of nowhere, a man in a white coat, but without a stethoscope, stepped forward and indicated along the line of lockers. He walked ahead of them, gripped a handle and paused. Mrs George leaned forward. ‘Are you ready, Arthur? She will not look ever so different to the last time you saw her.’ She offered her hand. ‘You’ll need to stand.’

Officer Marks also offered his hand. Arthur pushed their hands aside and stood unassisted then waited as the mortuary assistant pulled the handle and released a long tray on top of which was a mound covered in a sheet. Not look ever so different to the last time you saw her? If this had been his wife, thought Arthur, the last time he saw her she would not have had a sheet over her head. He felt sick at what might be under that shroud. He watched the assistant pull back the cover to reveal the repaired face beneath. A strange, almost familiar perfume instantly pervaded his senses.

Arthur fell back into his chair, holding his throat in a desperate attempt to prevent himself from vomiting. Diana George touched his arm but he knocked her hand away and covered his face with his palms. His head was spinning. How could she be there under that sheet? Was he mad? He had to take another look. The police officer was asking him whether he could identify this woman as Mrs Green. The Morgue Assistant was hovering ready to replace the shroud. No! He needed to be sure. Arthur pushed himself back up and once more stared into Holly Hudson’s dead face. He took a moment to consider her appearance. She didn’t look that bad lying there with her eyes closed. A deep gash across her forehead was concealed on each temple by hair that did not look as dull and greasy as he remembered it. And he hadn’t noticed before how long her eyelashes were. He froze. Her eyes! He couldn’t remember the color of her eyes! Were they blue? He extended his hand, stroked her not-greasy hair and as he did so the Morgue Assistant stepped back to allow Arthur this last contact. Arthur stared at the woman that had so recently caused him such embarrassment. And, before anybody could do anything about it, he leaned forward and rolled back one of her eyelids. Blue. Yes, they were blue.

Mrs George leapt forward and grabbed his hand. ‘Mr Green, you’d better sit back down,’ she said. ‘This has obviously been terrible for you. If you could just confirm your wife’s identity we can be getting back to the ward.’

Arthur pulled his hand away and pointed at the corpse. ‘This is not my wife. This woman accused me of forcing her to … to sleep with me. I lost my job because of her. I don’t know how she got to be in my crashed car and … and …’ Arthur suddenly felt as if his lungs were filling with treacle. He could taste it. He fell back into the wheelchair exhausted. As Mrs George pushed him towards the door, he could hear the tray sliding back into the refrigerated catacomb. Nobody spoke as the three of them retraced their way through the labyrinthine basement, into the lift, and back up to the brightly illuminated and humming hospital corridors. By the time they were back on the ward, the treacle in Arthur’s lungs had gone away, but the taste was still there. A nurse relieved Mrs George of her burden and left her mumbling with Officer Marks. She wheeled Arthur back into his room and helped him into bed. Then she hurried away. Arthur lay back on his pillows and stared at a spot on the ceiling. Sometime later, as the same nurse cleared away Arthur’s uneaten paella and apple crumble, Diana George, Dr Rafai and a female doctor stepped into his room. Dr Rafai pulled a chair next to the bed and sat down:

‘Arthur, Mrs George has brought me up to date. This has all been very traumatic for you, I am sure. And it is obvious that you are suffering some form of traumatic memory loss …’ He held up his hand as Arthur went to protest. ‘And that is undoubtedly related to the concussion you suffered. It is more than likely that this will be a temporary amnesia, but in the meantime, I would like to introduce you to my colleague, Dr Ellen Ramsey.’ He indicated the female doctor who stepped forward and offered her hand. Arthur looked at her and then offered his hand in return. Dr Rafai continued: ‘Ellen is one of our psychotherapists and she will be working with you to help you remember …’ He allowed Arthur to interrupt.

‘Dr Rafai, I do not have memory loss. I have not forgotten that that woman downstairs was my wife because she was not my wife. She was a colleague of mine. Holly Hudson. And she embarrassed my reputation by accusing me of forced intimacy with her. And that forced me to resign my teaching post. I was driving to my new home and I must have crashed. I have no idea how Miss Hudson managed to be in the back of my car. Or how she managed to be heavily pregnant. Last time I saw her, which was about four weeks ago, when I handed in my resignation, she was not pregnant at all. And, all that apart, Dr Rafai, I need to contact my grandmother because she’ll be worried about where I am. She’s very old and was expecting to hear from me.’

Diana George stepped forward. ‘Arthur, Mrs Green Senior has been contacted and she is being brought here to see you … at her request.’

‘What? You’re bringing her here?’

‘She insisted. According to the police doctor she’s perfectly well and able to make the trip.’ Diana George considered her next words. ‘She has brought us up to date concerning your circumstances. And those of your wife.’

Arthur looked at Mrs George speechless. She continued. ‘Apparently the situation which you referred to, which caused you to hand in your resignation, resulted in Miss Hudson’s pregnancy. When you discovered her condition you made contact with her, and for the sake of the baby, you married her and then brought her back to your new home with you. Your grandmother tells us that, despite your unfortunate beginnings, you had come to love each other very much. She tells us that you were driving your wife, Holly, to the maternity unit when your car left the road. Mrs Green was already in premature labour.’

Arthur looked up at the spot on the ceiling. ‘This is madness. I haven’t even moved into my new apartment. The removal van is supposed to be bringing my things next week.’

Dr Rafai glanced at Ellen Ramsey, then he pulled a rolled up newspaper out of his white coat pocket. ‘Would you remind us what date you believe it to be, Arthur.’

Arthur glanced at the rolled newspaper. ‘February the … twenty-something.’
Dr Rafai unfurled the paper and held it in front of Arthur so that he could see the date printed on the front page. September 2nd 1999.

Arthur caught his breath: ‘There must be some mistake,’ he said.

*

Two hours later, Granny Green arrived accompanied by a counsellor. She sat beside Arthur and confirmed the missing seven months of his life, his love of his wife and his marriage. But, however much he tried, Arthur was unable to remember or believe any of it. As they sat drinking their umpteenth cup of sweet, unrequested tea there was a small tap on the door, which was pushed open by the hunched back of a gargantuan nurse. She was reversing into the room, dragging a large plastic box on wheels. Another smaller nurse hurried in after her and maneuvered the wheeled contraption towards Granny Green. Oh God, thought Arthur, they’ve brought a vat of tea this time.

Arthur watched the large nurse lean into the box and lift out a pink bundle, which she handed to Granny Green. ‘Mrs Green thought you might like to meet her great granddaughter,’ she said smiling. Granny Green turned back the blanket to reveal a tiny pink face surrounded by extraordinarily fine baby curls one of which had been tied with a thin pink ribbon. ‘She needs a name, Arthur,’ said the nurse giant. ‘At the moment she’s just Baby Green. Your grandmother thinks you might like to call her Holly. After her mother.’

And that’s how Arthur Green’s parenthood began.

A week later Arthur left hospital with his daughter. He took Holly home to his apartment and Granny Green, strangely rejuvenated by all the excitement, immediately made arrangements to move in with them and take care of her great granddaughter. Arthur took six weeks compassionate leave before returning to his teaching post at a private school just a few miles from his apartment. His colleagues were very pleased to have him back, as were most of his pupils.

And time passed. And Holly thrived and smiled, and pulled herself up and walked and ran and talked and laughed and passed all her exams and made her father proud, nurtured through all her young years by an old lady who would regularly say to her: ‘You please yourself, young Holly, don’t ask me what to do because I’m as old as time itself, but if I were you … And, though all those happy years, Arthur never once recalled a single moment of his missing seven months, which is just as well because that saved him from the misery of bereavement and left him free to find his one perfect love. Which for Arthur came late.

*

For Arthur’s forty-fourth birthday, Holly and her great-grandmother bought him three pairs of pajamas and a pair of deck shoes. And they took him to his favorite French restaurant, where he ate many oysters, a medley of wild mushrooms drizzled in goose fat. And a pistachio soufflé. And Arthur drank a great deal of fine Burgundy. So it’s not surprising that, on the way home in the taxi, Arthur began to feel a little strange. He complained that he couldn’t remember why he was in a taxi. When Holly told him about his birthday trip to the restaurant, he confessed that he had forgotten how old he was. Granny Green said that those strange mushrooms might not have agreed with him. Then Arthur started to feel drowsy. As soon as they arrived home, Arthur had to be helped to his bed by Holly and her great-grandmother.

And that evening Arthur fell asleep and dreamed a dream which lasted almost forever. It was an unusual dream of love and romance in which Dream-Arthur met a beautiful woman less than half his age. And, as so often happens in dreams, they instantly fell in love and married. In the whole of his life Dream-Arthur had never felt so happy. This young, blue-eyed woman was his perfect partner, his dearest soul mate, his one perfect love. She was called Holly. Such a beautiful name. Just being with her made Dream Arthur forget everything that had gone before. Even time. For many months of dreaming Arthur forgot time. He even forgot that he was dreaming. And then suddenly, just the way things happen in a dream, Dream-Arthur sat straight up and looked around him. Granny Green was sitting at his bedside. And his dearest wife Holly was sitting beside her. He told them both about his strange dream. Of oysters and toadstools and Burgundy wine. And pajamas that were the same as those he was wearing. But he couldn’t remember when the dream had begun. And he couldn’t work out when it had ended. And, worse than that, he couldn’t remember whether Granny Green had been in the dream. And that frightened him. But Granny Green said not to worry: dreams are like that.

Then, one Friday, soon after the dream had not ended, Holly and Granny Green walked into the room with Dream Arthur’s breakfast cup of tea and jam sandwich. And Holly told him that it was past ten thirty but she’d left him to sleep because he needed a little rest. In fact they both needed a little rest, because they had been up since the early hours of the morning with Young Arthur who had grown a tooth despite the fact that he was only four months old. Dream Arthur sipped his tea and asked who Young Arthur was and Granny Green told him that Young Arthur was his baby son and that he ought to see someone about his memory because it was worse than ever. Fancy not remembering your own son. Dream Arthur said he would phone and make an appointment after breakfast.

Granny Green sat and watched Dream Arthur eat his jam sandwich and Holly went off to fetch Young Arthur. Dream Arthur watched her go then he wiped his mouth on his pajama sleeve and tried to remember anything. But his head was quite empty with all the dreaming. He told Granny Green that his head was empty and she said not to worry because dreams often have that effect, especially when you are in them, and, since it was so late, why didn’t he take the day off and perhaps drive himself and Holly somewhere nice to do some shopping. She could look after Young Arthur for the rest of the day. In fact, why didn’t they make weekend of it? Young Arthur would be perfectly alright with her. It would be Christmas in a few weeks and they ought to avoid the rush. So when Holly walked back in with Young Arthur, Dream Arthur told her that they were going away for the weekend. And Holly seemed most excited.

So Dream Arthur hurried to get ready. Holly made sure that Granny Green had everything she would need, then she kissed her tiny boy goodbye, packed the car and announced that she was ready to leave. Dream Arthur kissed Granny Green’s old, wrinkled cheek and thanked her for everything. Granny Green told them not to worry about Young Arthur because she would take good care of him. And just before they left, Granny Green cut a small lock from Holly’s hair and tied it with a thin pink ribbon.

When they arrived at the mall, Dream Arthur told Holly that he had forgotten why they were there and where they had come from. So Holly said not to worry, memories often do that and, since they were here, so close to the sea, why didn’t they sell their car and purchase a boat with the money Granny Green had given them. They could do with a holiday away from it all. Dream Arthur couldn’t quite remember who Granny Green was. And he wasn’t sure exactly what it was that they had to get away from. But he thought the boat was an excellent idea. So they bought a fine yacht and, for many years, they sailed around the world very happily and very much in love, visiting exotic places that Dream Arthur always forgot. Then, when Dream Arthur was seventy-four years and three weeks old, he fell into a dream sleep and forgot to wake up. Holly watched him melt into the warm waters of the Mediterranean and then she steered a course for home and went in search of an old lady who was as old as time itself.
Granny Green was not that difficult to find. So, Holly called round to see her when they knew Young Arthur would be at work, and Granny Green confirmed that her time was right. And, without further delay, Holly took a temporary teaching post in the school where Young Arthur had been teaching Physics for the last three years.

But, obviously, Dream Arthur would never know anything about that.

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