Amy Arnold

Lori’s Walking Upstairs Carrying Two Mugs of Coffee

The following extract is taken from ‘Lori & Joe’ by Amy Arnold. Used with permission of the publisher, Prototype Publishing.

Coffee, she says. And she promised herself last night shed say something to Joe about the bike. Yes, get the Chambéry out of the kitchen once and for all, she thinks, and she goes on up a few steps and she thinks, not Chambéry, no, not with the r sitting there in the front of the mouth.

Like this, love. As if youre about to gargle, she thinks, and well, shes never been any good at gargling either. Thats another thing she cant do, she thinks, and when it comes to doing anything like that, when it comes to any sort of performance, she means, she hasnt got a cat in hells chance of getting it right and she thinks, forget it, forget Chambéry, yes, shell say LeMond, she can bluff the d if she needs to, yes, easier to bluff the d than risk Chambéry, and Lori walks on up the stairs.

Coffee, she says, and shell give the eye a good rub when shes put the coffee down. Hold on with the eye for now, she thinks, and after theyve had coffee shell go walking up on the fell, and it must be the third morning theyve woken to fog, if not the fourth, she thinks, yes, shed struggle to remember another time like it, and Lori walks on up the stairs with the coffee and she imagines herself walking down the bridleway to the church, she imagines herself crossing the little bridge over the beck, and here she is again, here she is on the stairs with two mugs of coffee. One for Joseph and one for her, and she pushes open the bedroom door with her foot.

Coffee, she says, and she thinks, put the coffee down then rub the eyes. Both of them, because there isnt any use in pretending its only the left, and its still so early. It still isnt quite light and Lori stands inside the bedroom door and looks across the room and out into the valley and well, look at that, she thinks, the tups are out with the ewes at last, and shell put the coffee down and rub her eyes, God, yes, thats one thing that really cant wait, she thinks, and Lori says, coffee, and she looks over at the bed and she thinks, something isnt right over there, no, something isnt quite as it usually is, and she stands inside the bedroom door with the two mugs of coffee and she thinks, look again, yes, look more carefully, and she takes a little step towards the bed.

Josephs dead, she thinks. And she thinks, what are you doing Joe? what are you doing with your face all contorted like that? and she thinks, no, wait, it isnt the face, why does she think its the face when really the face is almost normal? yes, if the face is anything its only pale, although shes seen it paler and she thinks, eyes then, always the eyes, yes, she would have guessed on the eyes without looking even, and she thinks, put the coffee down, God, yes, unburden yourself of the coffee at least, and Lori puts one of the mugs down on her bedside table. She walks around the bed and she puts the other mug down and she thinks, let it go there, where it always goes, and she takes a couple of steps over towards the window.

The carpet, she thinks, the bloody carpets a liability, and she rubs her eyes and she sees that, yes, the tups are out on the in-bye with the ewes at last. Lambing will come late then, she thinks. No lambs until the end of April at least, yes, theyll be waiting a while for lambs, she thinks, and she knows its stupid, standing there at the bedroom window looking out across the valley thinking about what to say next, and she knows that whatever she says will be as if it was never said, but still she turns to the bed.

Joe, she says, the fog has settled on the fell.

Lori pulls the garden gate behind her until she hears the latch. It really must be early still, she thinks, and she looks down the lane. She looks right, then left, and there isnt anyone. Get going then, she thinks, and she starts on down the bridleway, one foot in front of the other, and she thinks, simple, yes, with feet its almost always simple, and Lori walks on down and she looks across the valley and up at the fog on the fell, then she looks into the white sky and she thinks, a good morning for the time of year, a fine morning even, what with the tups out on the in-bye with the ewes at last, and she walks on down the bridleway into the valley and she hears the water running between the stones at her feet and she thinks, its so early, nothings begun, and she pulls up the zip on her jacket although it isnt exactly cold, no, she can see by the colour of the place that they havent broken in to winter yet, and Lori thinks of all the rain theyve been having these last months. After a while it runs right through, she thinks, and she looks over at the fell, at the bracken and stone and grass, and she looks at the thick moss on the stone walls either side of her and she thinks, something has to thrive. Let it, she thinks, because things will come right by spring. And Lori rubs at the eye although the eyes almost cleared and its really only the right one that causes her trouble, and hardly any, Lori thinks, and she makes her way down into the valley. Its a good morning, she thinks. We arent anywhere close to freezing yet, and she looks up at the heavy sky and well, no, she wouldnt say heavy, but the sky has come down to meet the fell, and Lori looks from east to west because theres almost always a fracture to be found.

And well, no, not today. White, from end to end. This is how itll be then, Lori thinks, this is how itll turn out, and thank God, because she wasnt going to go putting the bucket out in the back room before she left the house. Shes sick of being the one who does the bucket, or at least remembers the bucket. Joseph has to be asked, she thinks, and if they just got the back roof sorted then there wouldnt be all this friction between them every time it rains. Yes, get the back roof done, Lori thinks, all it needs is a sheet of polycarbonate, thats what shes been told, its an afternoons work, a day at the most, yes, she could ignore the problem with the main roof if they got someone in to do the back one. Joseph knows people, she thinks. Shes been saying the same things for years, she sends herself round and round in circles and the rain will hold off today, for a few hours at least. She wont be out long. Up the fell and back down, thats all shell do today, and if a few drops of rain get in its hardly a big deal, no, the bucket only needs to be out when the rains really hammering and well, she can see it isnt going to end up like that today, no, its far from a bad day for the time of year, Lori thinks.

Amy Arnold lives in Cumbria. She has degrees in Music and Psychology, and studied postgraduate Neuropsychology at Birmingham University. Shes worked as a university lecturer, teacher and swede packer. Her debut novel, Slip of a Fish, won the 2018 Northern Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2019 Goldsmiths Prize.

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