‘Mexican liqueur. Seven letters. Beginning with T.’
‘Is that a liqueur?’
‘It’s made from a cactus. Does that count? Anyway, I can’t think of any other specifically Mexican drinks. Apart from Dos Equis.’
‘What on earth is Dos Equis?’
‘A beer. I think.’
‘Well. Let’s go with tequila then, shall we? And see how we get on…’
Marilyn had a fall in the early hours and tore her arm. She’s busy filling in the crossword whilst I’m delicately cleaning the wound, soaking it in saline, gently replacing the skin flap as best I can, then patting the area dry ready for the steri-strips. Her version of events was that she stumbled over some shoeboxes – no mention of the copious amounts of whisky she’d put away in the hours leading up. If she sees the irony in our conversation about booze, she doesn’t show it.
‘Oh I’m terribly sorry. I misread the clue,’ she says. ‘It actually says Mexican liquor. These glasses are absolutely no damned good at all.’
‘Definitely tequila then.’
‘…which makes one down agora. Which fits! Well done!’
Marilyn is a high-functioning alcoholic. She has a beautiful house in the centre of town, filled with paintings and books, sculptures and peculiar antiques, everything brilliantly lit by the sunshine that positively bounds in through the open patio doors.
‘You have a lovely house,’ I tell her, applying the first layer of dressing.
‘That’s sweet of you,’ she says.
‘How long have you lived here?’
‘Too long. But you know, when Teddy and I moved here in the seventies, it was a different street altogether. Everyone knew each other. It was all terribly friendly and interesting. But now it’s simply overrun with cars, no-one has any time for anything, and the only contact you have is with the postman. Speaking of which…’
Keeping her bad arm as still as she can, she rummages around the clutter on the table and produces a Royal Mail missed delivery card.
‘Look at that!’ she says. ‘Sorry we missed you! What on earth do they mean? Sorry we missed you! I’ve been in all blessed day! I simply fail to understand how they could have crept up the front steps and dropped that through the letterbox without me hearing a thing. Honestly, they must be employing cat burglars or something. Or maybe he ties rags round his boots. It’s enough to drive you absolutely insane!’
‘You’d think he’d want to drop it off, though, just to lighten his bag.’
‘Lighten his bag! I’ll lighten his bag when I get hold of him.’
‘Almost done’ I tell her.
‘Smashing,’ she says, lowering her glasses from the top of her head back down on to the tip of her nose, as she goes back to the crossword.
‘Fifteen across. Famous Bohemian. Beginning with M.’
She snorts.
‘Well – I’d be very tempted to write Marilyn – but unfortunately it ends in an A’

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