“Nevertheless, my life is over”.
The best bit about quiz night was choosing the team name. “The AS Byatt Rocketry Club For Men” had been deemed de trop: worryingly for the team’s prospects it had been demanded of him “who was this Byatt anyhow when he was at home?”. So it actually turned out that thinking of a good team name before you got to the pub was the good bit, the golden pie-crust, but that the reality more resembled the gristled disaster within.
He therefore felt difficulty heart-and-souling it as a representative of “Barbara’s Big Beauties”, – inevitably spelt “beauty’s” – , and strove vainly against such areas of vital human endeavour as TV personalities’ activities in a jungle scenario, the novels of Dan Brown, when Crystal Palace had last won the FA Cup*, or France’s record in the Triple Crown**.
They came third, which they agreed Wasn’t Too Bad, Considering. He had got the one about interest rates, insisting on his correctness in the face of dubiety, and was thus more pleased than otherwise, and walked the wet fag-butted street home with, not a song, a hum in his heart.
The wineglass on its side, his wife gone gone gone from life, her book fallen face down with the pages curled and squashed underneath, his life face-downwards his future curled and curdled and squashed too, no more reading no more life.
“I am tempted to laugh; I hold myself within the limit of a smile”.
** v. funny, this.
(Quotes at top and tail from George Gissing’s “The Private Papers Of Henry Ryecroft”)