The spring sunshine beams down so hot, it’s as though Mother Nature is so enamoured with the sun, she’s decided to fast-forward to summer. Peter’s pale-blue eyes aren’t used to natural light; they sting and water, and his head swims in the heat. Hey, he feels like shouting at the sun. You can’t fast-forward. That’s not fair.
He rummages in a ‘free-trade’ canvas bag for his sunhat. It was white once, but the cotton is stained from years of use. He bought it during his gap year, and trekked it through the forests of Borneo. But that’s such a long time ago now. He sighs as deep a sigh as his failing lungs permit. Ah, to have those carefree days again. He looks up, drawn by his children’s laughter, and envies them romping through the straw in the play-barn. They are healthy, and they have no idea how lucky they are.
Fenella, his wife, is clucking over their youngest, making sure the others don’t trample her underfoot. Peter admires his wife’s brightly-dressed, buxom frame, her fell-fed curves filling out the jaunty prints hand-painted onto the fabric by a women’s workshop in the north of India. India: he would have liked to have gone back there. He sighs, and Fenella pushes her glossy blonde hair back from her sweating, dusty face. She is the wholesome face of their vegan lifestyle while he languishes, reed-thin, hollow-cheeked, being devoured from inside. Fatigue swirls through his veins. The barn is hot and dusty. He puts out a skeletal hand to steady his trembling body, and leans back against the bales.
Families drift in and out of the barn. Peter watches. Men waddle, their heads shorn, their reddening pale flesh protruding from ridiculous combinations of ill-matched vests and t-shirts, their proud bellies wobbling while their wives’ fat bulges around too-tight brassieres, and rises, cake-like, over the tops of trousers. Half the world is dying of hunger, the other half eating themselves to death, Peter thinks, his vision blurring as he grows hotter and hotter, his pallid skin sweating under the hat and his fuzzy blonde beard. But there’s nothing he can do, his time is nearly up.
There’s lamb feeding at two. Is it time? He checks his watch, peering at the dial. But as he squints to make out the numbers, Fenella’s voice rises above the hum of people chatting. She is explaining to the children yet again. ‘That’s right darlings,’ she is saying. ‘It will be time to take Daddy back to hospital.’
He rubs his face, and groans. He doesn’t need reminding, and yet everything at this farm park, bursting with life springing into bloom, reminds him. His time is nearly over. They only let him have occasional days out now. His eyes sting, this time with tears. He blinks, grits his teeth, and stares at the cobwebbed roof. Really, he should be grateful, he tells himself. At least the weather is nice.