The hazy summer sun shines through a gap in the curtain and spreads its light on the sole occupier of the bed, as he desperately protects his eyes with his hands, like a child hiding from a scary monster. For the past decade, perhaps even longer, the curtains have witnessed the same twilight ritual: the morning sun reaching in to rouse Jim Mullins from his evening slumber. As he stirs and looks around at the cramped enclosure, during which time his nasal passages are infused with the sickly smell of cleaning fluid, he reminds himself that while Oakwood retirement home, room 103, is not the magnificent abode he once possessed, it is home nevertheless. Besides, he admits to himself, his son and daughter-in-law are making really good use of his house.
Today room 103 has much to cheer as it’s Jim’s 80th birthday; a minor miracle for someone who has managed to laugh in the face of the Grim Reaper as often as he has. Unfortunately, for him, there won’t be much of a party as loud noise is strictly prohibited – care of the management. His solitary birthday card reads ‘Happy birthday Dad, we would have loved to visit but…’ To his credit he is a stoical man who would rather suffer in silence than make a fuss. Besides it means that he can quite literally have his cake and eat it – all to himself.