Writer - Nick Johns
Book - Yes
Remembrance of Things Past
I see her, even if she doesn’t see me.
She still stands outside to smoke, even though I’m not there to complain about the smell anymore. That fencepost is still rotten, It’s only supported by the nails joining it to the panel. In the next big wind... well, it’s not my problem anymore. She turns to throw the butt in the general direction of the pot where she will later collect them.
Silently, I leave this place of recent pain, and push further into my past.
I move towards the door. The driveway looks strange with a red car sitting on it. Red cars are for attention seekers and kids; I avoid them both at all costs. The front bedroom window has a football team’s sticker in it. We always thought that the smallest room would be the nursery. But no kids... the house was too big without them, but not big enough for us to hide away from each other, or to avoid the pain and anger that darkened the air and provoked random sudden discharges of hurtful lightning. Those domestic storms eventually washed the sad, tired remnants of a marriage down the drain.
No. There is still nothing here for me anymore. The family dog barks frantically but I leave before he rouses the household.
Unobserved, I move on to the next, following my lifetime like a divers rope, pushing ever deeper into the cold, dark depths.
What the hell have these people let the house become? Three foot high concrete lions bracket the front door and a tastelessly ornate brass knocker weighs down an otherwise unremarkable suburban front door. Mum would have had a fit. Common she would have called it. If this was the outside, what must they have done to the rest of it? My room would no longer be a launching pad for magical, book inspired journeys of the imagination. It would be a small, bright home office crammed with the latest ‘must have’ gadgets. The kitchen would be shiny, garish and new, all the ingrained love and warmth polished out of it. A passing cat looks up, full of feline malice, before slinking away, hugging the sheltering shadows.
I drift away. There is only one left for me now. Back to my first times; my earliest memories, my origin.
The concrete steps are chipped and treacherous looking. They lead up the side to the draughty door. I heard the story many times of Dad carrying Mum over that threshold. Ten months later she carried me through the same portal. Of course, she was the one doing all the carrying by then. She hefted every mouthful of food up those steps and every bag of rubbish back down them. She parked the ragged, hand-me-down pushchair in the rodent infested outhouse. The baby carriage had been stolen and found partially submerged in the oily water of the canal. The descendents of the mice that had so terrorised Mother all those years ago suddenly ceased their scuttling at my approach. I paused.
Was that it? Were these my only choices? I considered my options.
A semi derelict flat filled with the echoes of oft repeated second-hand memories, a shabby townhouse where I had most of my firsts as a boy and a young man, a prosperous detached home now filled with the mocking laughter of someone else’s children, or the bleak, hollow shell of my widow’s bungalow.
The rules were quite specific, they said.
In order to re-cross the threshold I had to choose, they said.
I can only haunt one, they said.
Nick Johns lives in Wellingborough UK. Since retiring from a life of crime, he has turned to writing flash fiction. Some of his work appears in Blink Ink, Ether Books, Burrst.com and on Amazon. He blogs at http://talesfromatightrope.blogspot.co.uk He sometimes tweets @nickjohns999. He is definitely not working on a novel.