The house they talked about
by Mark Anthony Smith
I try to follow her lesson, story, conversation or occasional remonstration but it’s easy to become distracted. My Father left soon after he first clapped eyes on me. I rarely see anyone but my Mother. Indeed, everything I know about the outside world comes from her teachings. She says, ‘Henry. You're the apple of my eye.’ I like to try to please her so she pulls me tight and I feel secure against her bosom. Other people, as I've listened from the top of the stairs, have called me a bad apple. But Mother tells me not to worry.
My Mother says our Neighbours spread rumours throughout our small village. We live near the forest and I love to hear the shaking of the trees against the fortified walls. The rhythms slow my heart and I feel good about that. The trees are as old as the moon and the stories my Mother tells me.
The first settlers here, shaped our village from the natural habitat. The houses were built from local stone and wood from the pine forest. The place grew and grew with new folk. They brought new technologies such as the wheel and the crucifix. Soon, the folk started to change. Things were moving too fast. So, they built a wall and left the world outside. No-one was allowed through the closely guarded gates. When people became sick they would not call for outside help. All knowledge were contained within. My Mother has described what a book is but I have never seen one because they're rare.
My Mother came from the forest. She still talks about how they used to live. That was before the village. They hunted and lived off the land. She was still fearsome, to others, in her older age. The others respect her bulky pelt with her taut sinews. She is much respected for putting our village elder underground. He was the one that civilised my parents. But teaching them to use a knife and fork was too much. Since, she despatched him, my mother is more melancholic. She decided eventually to embrace some new tools and worked the land.
I've often looked out onto our well-tended garden. There are flowers as far as the eye can see. I love the roses and the sunflowers and the weeping willow. I want to explore the shed that my Father built but I don't want to upset the apple cart.
They say that my Mother cut my Father's throat as he slept – right across the Adam's apple. I don't believe there's a grain of truth in that. Other’s say he left the village and returned with something that would contaminate us. They say he was imprisoned after the object he carried was removed. I have often thought about him.
There is nothing in our house that belonged to my Father. Just the shed remains. But my Mother says, ‘Henry. You must never go outside.’
My nails are sharp as I scratch my head. I am sure that there's nothing to fear. My Mother is in the front garden as I peek at the shed out back. I gulp the biggest gulp and decide to take a quick look in my Father's shed. I feel clumsy as I descend our stairs as it's something I rarely do. My over-sized feet are unsteady on my pale legs. I need to cut my toe nails.
The back door is too loud as I fumble with the lock. My heart is thumping my chest. I run past through the well-tended garden to the shed in all its decay. The door is unhinged and rotting and weathered. I push what remains to enter the gloom inside. I see a broken reflection and I scream such as no human throat can. There's something huddled in the corner. But Mother is here to take it all away.
Mark Anthony Smith was born in Hull. His poetry has been commended in Writer's Forum and anthologised in Musicians for Homeless. His poetry collection, Hearts of the matter, is available on Amazon. Facebook: Mark Anthony Smith – Author