“What’s this?” Sherry called from the bedroom. “I said, what’s this?”
“What’s what?” Albert called back from the living-room. “I haven’t got x-ray vision, have I?”
“This.” Sherry walked in, holding a suitcase.
“Suitcase,” Albert shrugged. “That’s not coming.”
Sherry placed the suitcase on the dining table. “Could come in handy. Fill it with your socks or something.”
“I said leave it!” Albert snapped, his voice cracking. “Coming in here, going through my stuff without a by your leave.”
Sherry held up her hands in surrender. “All right. Excuse me, I’m sure. What about a cup of tea? Calm you down.”
“You’ve packed the kettle.”
Sherry laughed. “Have I? I’d forget my head if it wasn’t nailed on. All this other stuff,” she glanced around, “the furniture. Van from the charity shop’s coming after lunch.”
Albert gaped. “You’ve no right! No right!”
“Now, Albert, you know you can’t take it all with you, like some Egyptian pharaoh. Just a few bits and pieces to make your room feel like home. Photographs and what-not.”
Albert shook his head, tears streaming down the wrinkles of his cheeks. “My life, reduced to a couple of boxes.”
“Oh, I don’t see it like that. See it was the start of a new chapter. You’ll make a lot of new friends.”
“You’re not bloody going. It’s me that’s going to be stuck in that place, just waiting for the grim reaper, and wishing he’d get a bloody move on.”
“Oh, Albert. You do say some things.”
“I’ll say something I might regret in a minute. Go on, clear off. Get out of it. Bloody do-gooders. That’s a laugh. You’ve never done anybody a scrap of good in all your days.”
“Albert!” Sherry looked aghast.
“Different in my day. We went out there and we helped people. Sorted their lives out, good and proper. Not just shut them away in little boxes. We fought for what was right. We stood for something. We were respected.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sherry glanced at her wristwatch. “Just decide what you’re taking, because I’ve got Mrs Wilkins in twenty minutes, and there’s never anywhere to park.”
“Nothing,” Albert jutted his chin. “I’m taking nothing.”
“Sorted, then. I’ll be back after Mrs Wilkins.” Sherry breezed out of the house, muttering about stubborn old men.
Albert struggled to his feet. Leaning on his stick, he hobbled to the dining table. His arthritic fingers fumbled the catches on the old suitcase. At last, he got it open.
One last look, one last touch. His fingers closed around the bright spandex of his old outfit, his old cape. Yes, we used to help people. We were heroes. Not like these busybodies the council sends around.
He dropped his stick and screwed his eyes shut. Come on, come on, he tried to summon his old powers. Let me fly, just one last time, out of here and far away, before she comes back to stick me in that home.