Alone together, Sidney and his father developed a habit of walking around the neighbourhood and collecting bits of old furniture that people had left out for the bin men. They would scuttle home with their treasure, and occasionally they would fix it up, but more often than not they would leave it as it was. Their home slowly filled with various broken ornaments, hat stands that had been snapped in half, three legged tables and chairs without any padding. Nevertheless, Sidney and his father were immensely proud of the fruits of their labour and would sit drinking tea and admiring their new prizes.
They did not talk of his mother often. Her dresses hung untouched in the wardrobe, her lonely handbag sat on her bedside table and her face cream remained, solid as ice, in the freezer where she had inexplicably left it the week before her death. His father said he that he was coping, but sometimes Sidney would find him asleep in the shed, his swollen eyes red from crying.
Some months later, Lavender Winterbottom, an overweight widow who lived at number 15, started to visit Sidney’s father. She smelled of rosewater and cat urine, and wheezed when she waddled past their house on the way to the shops. She would bring them enormous homemade chocolate cakes decorated with Bible quotes in white icing.
When the environmental health people shut down the burger van, Sidney’s father announced that he was retiring to Benidorm with Lavender. Six weeks later they were on a plane, leaving Sidney alone in a house of broken furniture.
A dark cloud crept over him in his late twenties. He stayed at home and drew the curtains so that the glare from the light did not affect his TV watching. Slowly, his skin became a deathly white. The house grew messy. The floors were covered with old take away containers, dirty clothes and mouldy plates. He stopped opening his mail and a large pile built up behind the front door, like a snow drift. Whiskey became a familiar comfort, although he would frequently misjudge his limits, rarely making it to the bathroom in time to spew his alcoholic stomach contents across the carpet. These days, he smelled of body odour and vomit.
Sidney had started to collect pills. Sleeping tablets, pain killers, anti-inflammatory pills; all of them went into a clear glass jar that he kept in the kitchen cupboard behind the ketchup. There were 267 tablets in all. Sometimes, he would take the jar out and sit on the kitchen floor to look at it. The pills were so colourful, almost jolly. When he looked at them, Sidney felt calm.