He sucked the last bit of pleasure from the cigarette and stubbed it out in the over spilling ashtray kept hidden under the edge of the bed. He held the smoke in his lungs, as if it were medicine, some magic potion rich in vitality. When it got too much he turned around and exhaled out of the gap between the window pane and ledge above the low headboard. He swept his greasy mop of hair back again and grimaced at the grey morning outside before he swiftly muffled the draft. It was going to be a miserable day, but at least he’d be inside for most of it. He’d only have to dash from the house to the garage and then on to the pub later.
Phineaus glanced at the clock. It was 7.05, and a modern-day miracle Janet Fletcher hadn’t pounded on his door yet. He swivelled to his left and gingerly placed his feet on the naked floorboards. Wincing at the cold, he slunk over to the wardrobe and scrambled around to find his cleanest overalls, not that any of them were particularly clean, but he felt like making an effort on his birthday. His normal garb was a far cry from the elegant attire and winklepickers of the metropolitan mods but then he’d never really gone in for fashion much, especially when it involved genital-crushingly tight trews. He preferred instead the practical garments of his trade and sturdy, no-nonsense boots. It may have stunted his progress with some of the more snobbish city girls, but it earned him a little respect from working men and in the long-run he supposed that counted for more. People saw he meant business and he got more work, and therefore more money to put towards cigarettes and pints. His priorities were definitely right in that regard.
He stumbled towards his door and shuffled down the narrow staircase in his stocking-ed feet. He could no longer hear the scrape of the brush across linoleum but his mother was definitely still in the kitchen. Her raspy, laboured breathing was a dead giveaway. He shut his eyes for a moment. He knew what was coming. Twenty one years old and his mother still baked him birthday cakes; Twenty one years old and he was still living with his mother. That was probably the real reason why Susan from the Rose and Crown wouldn’t ever give him the time of day, but what could he do? Janet Fletcher was not a wealthy woman and she relied on Phineaus for everything. Truth be told, she’d never gotten over the loss of his father and had flinched anytime a man dared approach her. In her early forties, she was still thin as a rail and pale as a ghost, but nervous with it. She was an almost infallible authority for her son, but there was a frailty to her that meant Phineaus felt like her protector rather than the one needing protection.
He took a breath, opening his eyes and the kitchen door at the same time, ready with his expression of surprise and gratitude. He wore the same one every year when his mother produced a monstrosity of cake and frosting that she’d slaved over the night before. Secretly, Janet Fletcher knew she was a terrible cook, but she still searched for the smile that showed her son was thankful.