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Diane Finch, 02 Sep '12

The sofa at my Granny’s house was covered with a bobbly orange, black and white acrylic fabric, which was at once repellent and oddly comforting. There was an upright piano and a piano stool with a leather seat. Both smelled of furniture polish. A pouf jammed into a corner, just the right size to sit on comfortably and in just the right position for a small boy to rest unseen and obscured from view, provided the perfect vantage point. A bookcase to one side and sideboard to the other secured the hide and gave a restful, unhurried air to the space. The spot became a regular haunt.
I didn’t speak much as a child, so that my presence wasn’t much missed when I was in the hide. Once, while I was sitting in repose, I became aware that my father was also in the room and sitting still. I said nothing, he said nothing. I didn’t know if he knew that I was there. I remained still and his stillness reflected back. It seemed calm and so there was no reason to stop it by doing or saying anything.
Then a creak of wood under strain made me start. A flourish of notes flew out from the piano and the fluctuating reverberations held me. They became melancholic and lyrical. I was gently drawn by the notes from my seat and began winding my arms and body around without emerging from the corner. I wondered briefly whether I could be seen but dismissed this almost instantly as pleasure filled me.
As the music began to conclude, I naturally flowed back into my seat and felt as if the act were now complete. There was again calm without reason to move or speak. The walls and ceiling absorbed and transferred the last sound waves until a changed silence settled about us.
A short while later the room began filling up with others and I slowly emerged when I could least be noticed.
Keeping unnoticed was vital skill and never was this more impossible than when travelling with my father. Coming from the train up to the street outside and heading for Granny’s house, my heart sank when he made for a pub and asked us to wait outside. I felt a great sense of unease that there would be dreadful consequences for this wrong turn, though it didn’t take as long as we’d thought it might; he appeared fairly quickly looking a little more relaxed and smelling only slightly of pub. I was quite relieved. Onward we trekked down to Princes Street and beyond to another stop off. A much longer wait here, indoors in a downstairs foyer, the noise and bustle from the bar floating down, his voice loud and unmistakable amongst it all.
A great flourish of noise and the upstairs door flew open. He appeared with his face flushed and tied loosened, coat flying out on either side. A huge man held his arm tightly and thrust him down the stairs. A few terse words pushed him towards us and out of the door.
He blustered and blew down the street dragging the five of us along. We boarded the bus on Princes Street and headed out to Granny’s. I sat on the bus making myself as small as possible, at once a feeling of reprieve and trepidation. I prayed that he would fall asleep. I prayed that no one would try to talk to us.
The bus thundered along and as it drew out of the town centre a terrifying grinding noise brought the giant beast to a standstill. I remember we had to get off the bus because it had broken down and he shouted at the driver, a kick swinging out, crashing uselessly at the side panel of the bus. At least it was brief.
We began to pick our way along the dry, newly mown grass verge. After trudging for some time, he hailed a taxi and we all got in. As the familiar houses came into view he appeared sober very quickly. He sat bolt upright, face pinched and pale, staring straight ahead. My sister asked very quietly if we were late.
He replied quietly, “No, but if she smells that I’ve been drinking, she’ll crucify me.”
When we got to the house, things seemed very different. The furniture had been swapped round and there was a man there. He was taller than Dad and had grey hair. Granny busied about.
Later the brothers sat silently like bookends on either end of the bobbly sofa, now in the dining room. Antimacassars were arranged neatly behind their heads. Both men sat cross legged with folded arms, eyes wide. My sister timidly remarked from our seated huddle on the floor, that they looked like twins. Grunts rose simultaneously from the brooding giants.
The next morning broke in through the curtains and the tock-tock seemed then louder than I’d ever heard it. All was quiet and still in the little bungalow, apart from the monotonous clock and the occasional hum of a traffic on the busy road nearby.
        At first I lay there just absorbing the noise into myself, into my breathing and letting my body take it all in. I throbbed with the rhythm of the expectant ambiance, a droning, stultifying calm. I began to twitch under the heavy blankets until I felt I might explode.
         Out now and stood liberated on the carpeted floor, nobody stirring other than me. Alone. I was suddenly elated. I moved and peeped around the room, between my brothers and sisters strewn about on the floor. Not a sign of movement and just me there in my golden moment. I paced the space between the sofa and the door, but in no time searching for unused air in the room began to pall and I decided to open the door. It squeaked a little as I pulled it into the room. There, beyond, was the hall – a big long fresh space.
Up and down I walked on tiptoe examining the walls, the floor, the ceiling and the little table with the telephone on it. The wood underfoot reminded me of gym and my step took on a flippant bounce. Faster, until I was skipping lightly, a few jumps and turns in between. Back in the dining room I frolicked between the dead. Absorbed in my sport, I existed, small step running between mounds of blankets and pillows, flirting with the edges of my solitude. I began to hum and sing softly. I felt happy, unabashed and unfettered.
Just as I was trotting the length of my older sister, pretending to be on a horse, the door flew wide open and Granny appeared in her nightie. Delighted I made towards her wearing a wide grin. She caught my arm as I approached, twirled me round deftly and thwacked me on the back of my leg with her free hand.
Wordlessly she disappeared and the door closed firmly behind her. I stood feeling small. Then returning to my makeshift bed, I lay down and watched the ceiling take up the light of the day.

Comments · 1

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  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    Untold tales entry

    Hi Diane, welcome to Burrst. Just to let you know I've added your entry to the competition by starting the first comment with the words 'Untold tales entry' instead of the at the top of burst.

    I enjoyed your debut burst, you have a nice way of describing scenes. Couple of small things I noticed:
    - "Keeping unnoticed was vital skill" > "Keeping unnoticed was *a* vital skill"
    - "hum of a traffic" > "hum of traffic"

    • Posted 8 years ago