a middle england murder

Packt Like Sardines In A Crushed Tin Box — Radiohead

Not quite snow but a bit more than frost. That’s what I remember about that Christmas. Pulling on a parka jacket and slipping my CD player on the outer side of the newspapers stuffed in that bright orange satchel, I was going to be late, it was 7.05 and I still hadn’t left, I forgot my gloves. The green blue brass door catch was freezing. My breath led the way.

The sun hovered above like a grey orb, hoarding its yellow warmth for another day. Cross the lawn, Daily Mirror, careful with the porch door it sticks in the winter but pull it too hard and you’ll shake a window pane loose, up the drive, don’t slip, frost is starting to grease up the pavement, left, open the gate and down the path, Daily Mail, be sure to gently close the letterbox so it doesn’t snap shut, back up the path and shut the gate and left and same again only this time with the Daily Sun, back out and round to Number 13, Daily Mirror, leave it on the doorstep (I can hear the dog poised with its jaws stretched open on the other side of the letterbox), Number 15 Daily Mail in the porch, Number 17 Courier – but it’s too thin surely – no Courier? I pull out the next newspaper and it’s Mrs Carr’s Daily Sun. Make a note to let Steve know.

It goes on like that for some time. The important one comes some 30 houses later so I’ll skip ahead.

Over the bridge – hug the wall, cars come round too fast – and across the road, lift up the steel bar and open the broad pine gate (put it back down afterwards in case they’re up and the dog’s out), straight up to the door and slide the Racing Post in that letterbox of dreams. It must be a good foot wide and 4 inches tall with barely half an inch of brush eith-

The door swings open.

It’s a small village. I think the inhabitants come to triple digits, and of those triple digits there’s a good 4 to each newspaper ratio, so I’d safely say I’ve delivered newspapers to a good 75% of its population. I’m always punctual, always make sure every paper’s been delivered before half 7, always make sure that the paper intruder intrudes in the least intrusive way possible, and yet there’s still one house that always complains. The only house on my route that takes the Racing Post. So when that house’s front door was wide open when it never had been before, when the routine was broken, when my concentration was engaged – well, it was bad fucking news. The house that complains about the best paperboy they’ve ever had did not strike me as the house that would welcome visits from the neighbourhood with an unlocked door and shit choice in newspaper.

I saw my first dead body that morning. I wish it had been my last.

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