I heard this story the other day about an elderly man being evicted from his home to build a highway so rich people could shave five minutes off their trip to work. Highly sickend, I embarked on this short story, which has taken me months to get to what it is, and im still not fully happy. Hope you enjoy.
The oul’ place had always smelled like her.
She smelled like his mother, the musk of a woman, a lady, beads of sweat gliding through perfect pours. A true working class princess. Femininity intact despite the bruised fingers of true grit and struggle. Her soft voice soothing to the children at bed time, but firm when coaxed. When money was tight she would feed the children and starve, “I could do with losing a little weight” she would laugh.
Packing bags had always been her job, he had to take the bags and strap them to the roof of the Fiat 500. Smokey stench on the inside from the previous owners Marlboro. He placed his jacket in the case calmly.
Some paint had been peeling off the walls of the oul’ place, he had meant to slap a lick of paint on them, but the old bones couldn’t handle it, doesn’t matter much now. He had asked the young fella’ to do it, ungrateful little bastard doesn’t do anything. Computers and ignorance, that’s the modern way.
These walls tell stories. They always knew this was the one. Him a young man and her still a virgin. They had picked this one before they had picked a church to be wed. She was perfect, just like the paint job.
He sat on the bed beside the case. The squeal of the frame echoed around the empty room as it groaned under his weight. His bones as brittle as the headboard. The mattress was new but the bed was there when they got the oul’ place, polished mahogany, too good to get rid of she had always said. It wasn’t the wood that made it perfect though, it was the aura. The bed was like a life in itself, whether they got in it for sleep or for love, it always felt, special.
They had worked so hard, with such pride and enthusiasm. But for what? For what? Exhausted he lies back on the mattress. Shaking his head, barely comprehending. He wipes a hand over a moist over exerted forehead. Marking himself. War paint.
But there is no point. He was alone. The fight was over. It was lost.
And the worst part? He knew the inside of the oul’ place like the ligaments and sinews of his own flesh. He had eroded the floors with his attention, he had filled his heart, like kindle to the fire place. He had built a life within these walls and sensed the ancient life within them. He had tasted the fruit of its history and felt it squelching in his stomach-
So what now? What now? These walls tumble down, and their diggers and machines pave a new future. Pristine tarmac, covering the past. Covering his old dreams, his failed schemes, his dumb luck and family film reels. The future was here. It was loud, it was urgent. For a while things had been at a standstill. The dyke holding back the future had held strong. But when the first cracks began to show, he was the boy with his finger in there, and she was the girl supporting him.
Petitions and village meetings. Historical societies and politicians promises.
He was old. Broken. Everyday there was a new wrinkle on his face, like the new roads on their map
They had told him to take anything with him that was important. He looked at the clothes in his hand, threw them to the ground and inhaled slowly. Through his nostrils and down his throat, allowing her to invade his senses like they had the first time he caught a glimpse of that perfect face. Smelling the air he held momentarily. Savouring.
The oul’ place did always smell like her.