HOME SWEET HOME (First Prize Winner in Writers' News, 2003 Short Story Competition)
I like the house with those big leafy plants in Seabank Road. The chairs are ever so comfy, so comfy I could nearly nod off. That isnít part of the plan, but mind you the old toffs that live there are probably so deaf they wouldnít even hear me snoring if they did land back early. You always know a toffís house, the walls are covered with oil paintings. Their desks and all that stuff are usually smothered with photographs.
They like velvet curtains, lined so the sun doesnít damage their ancient furniture. I canít believe anyone likes that kinda stuff anyway. Theyíve got a nice Labrador though, soft as putty, wags and slobbers all the time. He followed me up to the bedroom, when I was having a look. Their old bed doesnít half dip in the middle, but then theyíve been dipping into its middle for about fifty years by the look of them. They keep a nice little kidís bedroom, all fluffy toys and books about Peter
Rabbit and Harry Potter. Suppose thatís for the grandchildren when they come. Thereís a single bed with a pink cover and bunk beds with racing car covers. Maybe itís two boys and a girl that come to visit.
I like the big front bedroom, with the twin beds, all done out with paintings of the sea, and thereís a big ornament thing of a blacksmith shoeing a horse. Looks like itís all been hand made and painted. Must have taken a long time. I donít think I could be bothered. The beds are covered with cream coloured candlewick bedspreads, with a twirly rosette thing in the middle. I donít see those anywhere else I go. In the winter I sit in the kitchen. Itís got one of them big cookers that are on all the time, with two big round hot plates. One plate is usually open with a kettle sitting on the side and the other is shut with clothes piled on top, usually a couple of tea towels too.
They never lock their back door, so itís easy to walk straight in. Bet they donít even know Iíve been there. I even bring the dog a biscuit now; he likes the ones that look like a sausage roll. He nearly took my fingers off the first time I gave him one, but Iím getting him educated now. Imagine me, educating anyone!
The old lady bakes. Cor, I had one of her scones last week, she leaves them out to cool on a mesh tray, just like my gran. It was wicked!
Funny isnít it, how those old people have a nice tidy home, even if I donít like the furniture much, and then you get that Mrs. Adams. She goes posing off every day at lunchtime. Her house is a right old tip. She leaves dishes in the sink, crumbs on the sides, and thereís never anything in the fridge. Wonder what her old man eats when he gets back at night. Probably one of those frozen dinners sheís got stuffed in the freezer. She doesnít even make the bed before she gets herself all dolled up and off. The bedroomís a right old state, clothes flung everywhere. Her hairbrush is stuffed with hair, and she used dirty old make up sponges. I read in one of mumís magazines that itís important to use clean sponges or youíll give yourself a skin infection.
Sheís messing about with Jackie Tynedrumís dad. Iíve seen them meeting out the back of Tescoís. Itís a bit of a shame really. I like Jackieís mum, sheís always been kind to me. Heard her saying something about my `traumatic childhood`. Anyway, she deserves better than that smarmy old git. She goes out working in the factory at the end of Toppen Road, and her useless man chases Mrs. Adams when heís supposed to be out fixing washing machines. Wonder if thatís how they met. She jumps in his van and off they go. Do they really think no one knows whatís going on? I saw them coming out of Hillberry Wood one day. How desperate is that? She should concentrate on tidying up that tip of hers. Her catís always sitting on the worktops. I wouldnít want to be eating in her house!
I bet sheís never even noticed that one or two of her videos have walked. Sheís so dizzy anyway; I have them back before sheís got time to notice.
Old Grace Dixon is so crippled she can hardly make it down to the shops and the day centre, but her house is like a new pin compared to that lazy cowís. Just as well I went in there the other day, she hadnít switched her tap off properly in the kitchen. The water was just dripping on to the floor, when I turned the key in her lock. Fancy keeping keys under the mat. They just donít get it do they?
She must be lonely after losing old Stan. She keeps a photo of him by her bed, and another one in his naval uniform sits on her sideboard, next to that old wooden biscuit barrel. She keeps all her cash in that biscuit barrel. One of these days sheíll get robbed. She still makes a pot of soup like as if she was feeding Stan; tastes good too. It must be hard when youíve been together all that time, just like the old codgers in Seabank Road.
Mrs. Munro in Dovecote Place keeps a nice house. Thereís never a speck of dust anywhere, and always a lovely smell of polish. She gets her hair done every Friday, and usually leaves at about 1.30 p.m. Her big room at the front of the house is quite something. She has a big bay window with deep orange coloured velvet curtains. The wallpaper is one shade deeper with gold swirls. It looks really good. On the other side of the hallway, she has a dining room with a table that shines so much you can see your face in it. The wallpaper looks like strands of ribbon, a pale shade of lilac. Thereís velvet curtains in there too, and a wonderful old radio gramophone with lids that shut themselves slowly. Not like all this new junk, made of plastic. But itís her back room that is fantastic. Sheís got this whole wall covered in wallpaper that makes a mountain scene. It has blue skies, log cabins, snow-capped mountains and a lake in the foreground. I sometimes sit and imagine I live in the cabin way up on the hill. And of course, sheís got this daft cat that rubs himself against me all the time and purrs the loudest purr Iíve ever heard. Heís a beautiful cat, black with a white breast and white paws. Thereís a silly little cat house thing outside the back door, but I bet heís never used it in his life. He likes to sit on the windowsill in the back porch. Thatís where I found the key underneath the golf clubs in the corner.
My favourite house is still Fern Cottage. I just love the way it sits so far back off the road. I can climb across the fence from the allotments round the back and even sit in the front room. No one can see. The big plum tree shades the windows. The windows all rattle a bit, but the owner isnít there half the time, so he doesnít seem to bother too much. Itís great in the winter. Sandy White checks it every Monday, and does a bit of raking in the garden and then thatís him until the following week. Iíve enjoyed many books from the shelves in the study, while the owner sits in the sun in Spain.
I feel like a little piece of these houses belong tome. After all Iím the one who appreciates them. Iím the one who speaks to the Labrador and the cat. The little bedroom at the back of Fern Cottage is just so nice I wish it was mine. It never looks like it gets used. Itís a funny little room, with its sliding door, white walls and rose-pink curtains. The tiny window pushes out and is held by one of those old fashioned catches. When you lie on your back on the comfy single bed, you can hear the pigeons cooing in the big oak tree. I fell asleep there for hours once. I feel safe there. The bedís so comfortable. I had to take my shoes off because the bedspread is white lace. Sounds soppy for a boy, but if feels like a bed for a princess.
I donít suppose theyíll ever notice what I took from under that bed. Itís obviously been there for years, and I just thought it would look good on my wall.
Havenít got much since the `Social` put me into this bedsit, but itís still better than watching that drunken sod use Mum as a punchbag.
Children used to make these things years ago, before they all had telly. They used to sit for hours just doing them. Samplers theyíre called. Thereís even a name embroidered in the bottom right hand corner. Mary Thomas.
Well, Mary Thomas, thank you for your handiwork. I appreciate it even if Fern Cottage didnít.
Look at that, ` Home Sweet Home` with a little house and roses and all.