Robert counts five rings before picking up. “This is Robert Whiteside.”
An unfamiliar voice greets him. “Good morning Mr Whiteside, and how are you today?”
Robert considers the question, searches for flavour in the voice, but finds none. “I have to feed the cat.”
Undeterred, the caller invites Robert to imagine how much better life would be if he were to have replacement windows. Taking a moment to examine his current glazing and, facing a conversation of uncertain destination, Robert gently replaces the receiver.
In the kitchen, he carefully cleans a small ceramic bowl and measures out seven spoons of cat food from a freshly opened tin. Setting the bowl down on a brightly coloured plastic mat, he checks the time and returns to his front room to take up position at the window. Owen the fisherman will be passing soon on his way to the boat; this may be the day he brings his tax return, and Robert prepares himself to answer the door.
On the window ledge is a framed photograph of an elderly man and woman, staring awkwardly as if, in the moment of capture, the camera’s shutter had frozen them in some unnatural act. In the foreground, a young boy with thick rimmed glasses and unruly hair cradles a dozing white cat.
Robert’s fingertip brushes against the image: Sleep tight, Thomas. You’ll have let your food go stale again.
A flash of colour and Owen rounds the corner, walking with purpose into the wind and rain. Robert holds his breath as Owen looks towards the house but, without hesitating, strides on. Robert exhales, misting the inside of the window, while heavy raindrops smack at the outside.
Looking through the glass, he can see the effects of the weather—flailing umbrellas, flapping raincoats—but no attendant sound reaches him.
Robert and the outside world, divided by the double glazing’s silent void.