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 isnt part of the plan, but mind you the old toffs that live there are probably so deaf they wouldnt even hear me snoring if they did land back early. You always know a toffs 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 doesnt damage their ancient furniture. I cant believe anyone likes that kinda stuff anyway. Theyve 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 doesnt half dip in the middle, but then theyve been dipping into its middle for about fifty years by the look of them. They keep a nice little kids bedroom, all fluffy toys and books about Peter
Rabbit and Harry Potter. Suppose thats for the grandchildren when they come. Theres a single bed with a pink cover and bunk beds with racing car covers. Maybe its 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 theres a big ornament thing of a blacksmith shoeing a horse. Looks like its all been hand made and painted. Must have taken a long time. I dont think I could be bothered. The beds are covered with cream coloured candlewick bedspreads, with a twirly rosette thing in the middle. I dont see those anywhere else I go. In the winter I sit in the kitchen. Its 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 its easy to walk straight in. Bet they dont even know Ive 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 Im 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 isnt it, how those old people have a nice tidy home, even if I dont 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 theres never anything in the fridge. Wonder what her old man eats when he gets back at night. Probably one of those frozen dinners shes got stuffed in the freezer. She doesnt even make the bed before she gets herself all dolled up and off. The bedrooms 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 mums magazines that its important to use clean sponges or youll give yourself a skin infection.
Shes messing about with Jackie Tynedrums dad. Ive seen them meeting out the back of Tescos. Its a bit of a shame really. I like Jackies mum, shes 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 hes supposed to be out fixing washing machines. Wonder if thats how they met. She jumps in his van and off they go. Do they really think no one knows whats 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 cats always sitting on the worktops. I wouldnt want to be eating in her house!
I bet shes never even noticed that one or two of her videos have walked. Shes so dizzy anyway; I have them back before shes 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 cows. Just as well I went in there the other day, she hadnt 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 dont 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 shell get robbed. She still makes a pot of soup like as if she was feeding Stan; tastes good too. It must be hard when youve been together all that time, just like the old codgers in Seabank Road.
Mrs. Munro in Dovecote Place keeps a nice house. Theres 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. Theres 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 its her back room that is fantastic. Shes 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, shes got this daft cat that rubs himself against me all the time and purrs the loudest purr Ive ever heard. Hes a beautiful cat, black with a white breast and white paws. Theres a silly little cat house thing outside the back door, but I bet hes never used it in his life. He likes to sit on the windowsill in the back porch. Thats 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 isnt there half the time, so he doesnt seem to bother too much. Its great in the winter. Sandy White checks it every Monday, and does a bit of raking in the garden and then thats him until the following week. Ive 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 Im the one who appreciates them. Im 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. Its 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 beds 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 dont suppose theyll ever notice what I took from under that bed. Its obviously been there for years, and I just thought it would look good on my wall.
Havent got much since the `Social` put me into this bedsit, but its 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 theyre called. Theres 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 didnt.
Look at that, ` Home Sweet Home` with a little house and roses and all.