Neil Campbell




A Good Night’s Sleep Guaranteed

I was staying on the Quayside in Newcastle. I’d spent the evening in the Slug and Lettuce, nursing a few beers and looking out of the window at the Tyne and The Sage. I walked out of there and into the face of a biting wind off the river and walked the short distance to my hotel in the shadow of the Tyne Bridge.

Opening the door and walking into my room I could see and hear the Tyne Bridge through the single glazed windows. There was a thermostat on the wall. I turned it up. I had a shower and then selected the firmer of the two pillow options for bed. I climbed under the covers, naked and relaxed, listening to the receding hum of the traffic.

I drifted off to sleep thinking of my wife. I saw her face in my dreams. I was woken when the thermostat clicked off. It was just on the wall at the side of the bed. I turned it up even more, and when it clicked off again later, again I was woken. It seemed the only way I would get some sleep would be to turn the thermostat right down. But the reading wouldn’t go below 18 degrees.

By this time the traffic on the Tyne Bridge was almost silent. I changed to the softer pillow option and drifted off to sleep again, thinking about the warm body of my absent wife.
In the morning I could see my breath in front of my face. When I opened the curtains there was ice on the inside of the windows. I looked at the thermostat, which had remained at 18 degrees. But the radiator was cold to the touch.

I was glad that while booking online I had taken the option of the ‘all you can eat’ breakfast. I spent an hour in the dining area, the morning sun shining in through the big windows. The third plate of sausages tested the patience of the chef and the capacity of my stomach.

Leaving the hotel in the shadow of the Tyne Bridge I stared into the bitter wind coming off the river. It was the wind that caused my tears.



Neil Campbell has two collections of short stories, Broken Doll, and Pictures from Hopper, published by Salt, and two poetry chapbooks, Birds, and Bugsworth Diary, published by Knives, Forks and Spoons. Recent stories in Short Fiction and Tears in the Fence. Other stories in the anthologies, Murmurations, and Best British Short Stories 2012. Has a chapbook of short fiction, Ekphrasis, forthcoming from Knives, Forks and Spoons.

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