On the dingy attic floor of his tall and narrow terraced house, The Magnificent Malcom sat in the middle of a ritual circle, surrounded by dust and memories.  All around him were brightly- painted and glittering contraptions.  They glinted dully in the sunlight filtered through the years of green grime on the skylight.  Forty years of a career lay in drifts and heaps around him, jumbled higgledy piggledy as they had been the day he had moved here ten years ago.  He’d always meant to sort them out, the tricks and traps and boxes that did so many mundane and amazing things.  It’s like everything else, he thought.  It all depends on which side you’re standing.  To him, they were functional things.  Sometimes, he was even able to see the works.  But sitting in the audience?  That was a different kettle of fish altogether.  Hundreds, even thousands, of bright eyes, round with wonder, had not seen the mechanism working.  But these days everything was mundane.  And without Doreen to help him work that elusive magic, what was he?  Who was he?  Just one more sad old man, pottering about as he tried to make his pension last as it was supposed to.

He’d got rid of Doreen’s stuff when he’d moved here.  The idea was to get away from the memories of the life they’d had; to try and alleviate the crushing grief he felt every time he smelled a trace of her perfume on something he’d not used in a while, or the undented pillow next to his.  He’d taken to making a hollow in it before he went to sleep, just so he could pretend, if only for a moment.  So he’d moved to a different house, a different town, a different life.  He was a member of a bowls club, now.  He took evening classes in pottery, French and cookery.  Afternoon classes in art.  He wasn’t all that good at any of them, but they filled the hours.  Most of Doreen’s things he’d sold, given away or donated to charity.  There was just one thing he’d kept.

In his hands was a small box.  Opening it, he took out the contents with as much care as he could muster.  The daisy chain was shrivelled and brittle with age.  He remembered the day she’d made it so well.  The sun was bright and warm; the breeze was rustling the leaves of the willow tree above them as they sat picnicking on the riverbank.  It was a lifetime ago, but he still remembered the way the sun had shone from her hair, and the way her clever fingers fashioned the daisy chain.  She wore it all day.  When he kissed her for the very first time, it caught on one of his buttons, and he noticed only just in time to save it breaking.  She’d taken it off before they left the riverbank, and he didn’t think she’d seen him scoop it up and slip it into his jacket pocket.  It was the one thing he had kept.  The last part of Doreen that he just couldn’t let go of.  It was the touchstone that reminded him that she had been real, and she had loved him for forty seven years.

He spoke the words, and crushed the daisy chain to dust in his fist.

As he wept, several miles away, a hospital coma patient’s eyes flickered and then opened.  As the girl’s parents cried out in joy and wonder, she spoke her first word for months.

‘Granddad?  Where’s granddad?  I thought I heard him crying.’

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