The friends we make

SHORT STORY


A widow, who builds companions from furniture and pieces of her house, lives in fear after one of her creations resents his existence and seeks to punish his maker.

OPENING

It took him a week to come home. On the first day, I panicked that I would never see him again. On the second day, I accepted he was gone forever. On the third day, the terrifying prospect dawned on me that he might come back.

Each frap of new post sent me scurrying about the house in panic. A steady stream of unopened envelopes was mulching into the damp mat.

And come back he did; without the loaf of bread, empty handed, bringing fistfuls of rage home instead. The fridge freezer had screamed in protest across the linoleum when I positioned it to stand guard against the front door. It spewed out the entire rancid contents of its unplugged innards just an hour before he returned on the seventh day, as if it could sense him coming like an earthquake.

Two steel fists crashed through the door, knocking splintered planks against the back of the fridge freezer.

“It’s him!” I shouted.

The boy was sitting on the bottom stair, the only place he felt comfortable. I stepped into the beam of his gaze to meet his pale face.

“I told you to shout when you heard him come back,” I said.

The boy kept silent.

“I will be in the loft,” I told him. “I can’t carry you. You’ll have to follow me up or fend for yourself.”

The fridge freezer clanged and rocked, its door flapping in panic.

I did not wait for any response from the boy.

Getting around the house has become difficult ever since I stopped being able to use the stairs. And though I am still quite agile for my age, the wooden ladder from the hallway up to the landing is starting to get wobbly.

Besides which, I might need the wood soon.

I won’t wear trousers, but the manoeuvre off the ladder onto the landing still feels a little undignified in a dress.

The entire fridge freezer disappeared from the doorway like an insect sucked into a vacuum cleaner and it rang like a bell as it bounced down the driveway.

Standing in the dark hallway against the sunlight burning in the doorway, he looked like a hero. For a fleeting moment, he no longer had a body made entirely of metal and the rage in his eyes was hidden in the black void of his silhouetted face.

A cursory glance was directed at the boy and me before he stomped down the hallway into the kitchen. The floorboards creaked and cracked in submission with each step.

He was returning to his place of birth.

In the integral garage, the hot water tank still hung from a ceiling chain where dear Frank used to lift the hearts out of dead cars until his own packed up and we lowered him into the earth.

Inside the same tank, ten days ago, all the radiators of the house had melted together with every last inch of varicose pipes, stripped out, heated up, poured down. A metallic womb whose fiery waters had spewed forth new life down a narrow channel.

Waiting beneath the channel, a shop mannequin entombed within cement melted to nothing under the orange torrent to leave the empty space of a man. A Pompeii victim with an iron will, but heart and limbs of steel, brass and copper.

He took three days to cool off. I could work the pulley chain, but had no strength to wield the sledgehammer to free him. But he freed himself, bursting out the concrete in a cloud of dust like a magician.

My man of steel: Invincible protector; strong shoulder to cry on; shopping collector.

Where too much metal had poured down the channel, an umbilical rod just a few inches long protruded from his middle. I had given him too much. Now he was pouring out molten rage, slamming mallet fists and spitting sparks.

PUBLISHED IN

  • Page count: 240 pages
  • Publication date: 9 May. 2011
  • Publisher: CreateSpace
  • ISBN-10: 1460984765
  • ISBN-13: 9781460984765

GEM STREET: BEYOND THE AXIS


Our boldest anthology; 17 intense, diverse and exceptional stories from the winners of the 2015 Leonard A. Koval Memorial Prize.
Whatever your taste in literature, ‘Gem Street: Beyond the Axis’ has a treat for everyone. From the outrageous rural politics in our winning story, ‘The Parish State’ by Will Haynes to the painfully beautiful narrative contained within Georgia Davies, ‘We See You’ and the quirky humour in, ‘Trollsboro, Vermont’ by Elizabeth Eber our latest creation promises to be our most delectable yet.

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