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by Michael Loveday

3:47 p.m., he has arrived at Intu, Watford’s antiseptic shopping mall, though he would concede it is expansive enough to maintain boundaries of personal space, and he’s visiting to collect his vinyl copy (Special Edition) of You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (Diamond has been a mentor ever since Joan dragged Denholm to see him perform, the same night Joan proposed, and to mark this frail musical coincidence, whenever Diamond gives a concert in London, Denholm aims to pay his respects, by attending, of course, though his attendance is less reliable these days, understandable with age).

3:59 p.m., all Denholm can think of is getting home for his evening ritual, listening to Diamond in his Second Shed during Joan’s Judge Judy mindbath, when he finds it helpful, each week, to categorise the albums, by a variety of methods, depending on the most reliable system for that particular week, which may be alphabetical (it’s possible to order the world), chronological (ultimately over time the individual can grow, learn and develop, albeit sometimes via false starts and culs-de-sac), or even (always the most complex and protean system) by order of lyrical esteem). But however he structures them, Diamond’s albums remain an enduring enigma (their meaning, their feelings, and Joan’s fathomless passion towards them), one that Denholm is determined to solve.

4:01 pm, he’s still waiting in line at His Master’s Voice, of course Denholm’s fear of the world’s wide web inhibits him from internet shopping, so he’s resorted to ordering by telephone, for as long as this fear exists, and he visits the store monthly, collecting whatever has arrived, and today is the second Sunday of the month, that’s what suits Denholm best, the second Sunday; and then it is 4:44 pm, and he is disconsolate on the 320’s stop-start (via the backstreets of Croxley’s two-storey semis), returning without his copy of Flowers (he should have emailed in advance), and bearing only a sorry clutch of Engelbert Humperdinck CDs.

5:03 pm, as he’s ambling down Nightingale Road, turning to enter the driveway of his home, Denholm is suddenly unnerved at the sight of it, and he stops to study this property that he shares, as if he had never actually lived there, even though he has, in fact, done so for the last thirty-four and a half years, and now he is noticing white paint on exterior walls, he is noticing reproduced Tudor wood, he is noticing leaded-light windows, he is noticing herring-bone brickwork, all this as if this building did not house him and his wife, but only contained the lives of apparitions he has never known.

5:04 pm, Denholm is propping himself up against the gate, poised at this homesick boundary, and he’s thinking about his neighbour Jane, the last thing she said to him, what did it mean, and what on earth should he do, and he feels his whole panicked existence unspooling before him like cassette tape chewed up by a machine, and now he is recalling songs, a sequence of favourite songs, and he’s heard Diamond perform all these live: Two-Bit Manchild, I Am … I Said, The Long Way Home, Say Maybe, I’ve Been This Way Before, Amazed and Confused, Home is a Wounded Heart, Captain of a Shipwreck, Don’t Look Down, Solitary Man.

Michael Loveday’s debut poetry pamphlet He Said / She Said was published by HappenStance Press (2011). His short stories have been published or are forthcoming in Cease, Cows; Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine; Ink, Sweat & Tears; The Jellyfish Review; Spelk; Sonder; and Stand. He lives in Bath, UK, and teaches in adult education. Website: www.michaelloveday.co.uk.