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Evoking an extraordinary range of emotions and insights, Oxygen lives and breathes beyond the final page.
and the ten-digit number he needed was written on the cracked paint of the wall beside the telephone. His own number was just below it, and at the top of the list were the hospital number and Una’s home number. For a few seconds the receiver hissed like a conch shell, then began to ring. He counted fifteen rings and was about to hang up when he heard Kirsty’s breathless ‘Hello?’ ‘Hi,’ said Alec. ‘Larry?’ ‘Alec.’ ‘Alec! Is everything OK?’ ‘Fine.’ ‘I was in the shower,’ she said. ‘I just got
staring through the windscreen at shadows that hung like phantom laundry from the trees lining the drive. It was the same on Friday, though then he had gone out to the car three or four times, even starting the engine and letting it idle for a while before he switched it off again. In his head, time moved with the starts and silences of a faulty machine. He did not wind his father’s clocks and they began to chime more erratically. Some had stopped altogether. The house grew stiller. Osbourne
a bit disorientated but that should settle down. I’m sure this business of speaking in French will pass too, though at least you have an expert on hand. How’s your French?’ ‘I don’t,’ said Larry. ‘I’m sure Alec will pass on anything relevant.’ ‘What comes next?’ asked Larry. Brando had the key in the door of the car. When he turned it, the locks snapped up in unison. ‘It’s difficult to make predictions, Larry. Particularly at this stage. The tumours have been more aggressive than I’d hoped. A
late, I know.’ He shook a cigarette from the pack and lit it. ‘I didn’t know things had been so difficult,’ said Alec. ‘Since Sun Valley. Before then, I guess.’ ‘You didn’t say anything.’ ‘You’ve had troubles of your own.’ ‘I’m all right.’ ‘Yeah?’ ‘Yeah.’ Larry laughed – sheer fatigue as much as the whisky. He put a hand on his brother’s knee. ‘You’re a complete fucking mess,’ he said. ‘I manage,’ said Alec. ‘Sure. Do you remember when I went to America for the first time and you were
crowd had marked her out. But then she had seen Ella and let out a joyful ‘Hi!’, and for a while they had been like any other family there, grinning hard and trading hugs. Only a very practised eye could have seen it for what it was: a tenderness shot through with shared and private fears. She was upstairs now, in the room above his head, tending to his mother. He checked the recipe and ladled more stock on to the rice. He was wearing one of Alice’s blue canvas aprons and handling the food with