George’s room is on the basement level of the Golden Guest House. Outside his rotting sash window is a shabby courtyard, walled in by the rest of the U-shaped building and the street above. There is a broken bench and child’s bucket, bathed in the dirty orange of a street light.
The curtain rail is broken so he opens the window a smidge and wedges a towel in to offer some makeshift privacy.
At 10.45pm, while sitting on his bed wondering if it is too late to call Margaret, he watches a mouse appear from the tiny bathroom. The mouse isn’t startled by his presence, and George at once feels like the interloper. The mouse sniffs at his bag in the corner of the room before disappearing behind a radiator.
At 11.32pm, he is woken by drunk men shouting from the pavement above, one of whom urinates into the courtyard. His friend follows him, but his need is more urgent, stronger, and he aims his arc over the courtyard onto William’s window.
George pulls the duvet tighter over him. He wishes he had called Margaret.
‘How’s it going?’ she asks when he does call the next morning.
‘Oh, it’s fine,’ he says and he is grateful to Margaret for not questioning his hesitant reply. They have been married long enough to respect each other’s mistakes and foibles, but the fact she has not claimed victory makes George pine for home.
He wonders if he has made a terrible mistake.
March is an ongoing story based on a man’s search for his lost son on London’s buses.