The bereaved house stands, neglected, at the end of a short terrace. Paint peeling around its windows, a bright green sea of uncut grass washes around its feet, waiting for the mower to be repaired. And the garden climbs up the walls and fences – roses, clematis, honeysuckle, on the brink of flowering.
Beside the back door, tumbled but convenient, three small piles of coal, logs and kindling.
Inside the neglect is more ingrained, the natural state in a house of two men (father and son – ‘we were two peas in a pod’) not much interested in housework and decoration.
Habitual hands have left their marks, on door frames and light switches, dark stains of countless touches. Many shelves line a room, crammed with dusty books, on art and magic, history and nature – a life-time’s library.
The disorder of illness overlies it all – the bed in the sitting room, a table dismantled in an upstairs room to make way for it, a small pile of plastic bags hold his clothes brought home from the hospital.
‘Here’s a picture of my father…and the dog we had…’ wiping the murky glass with tender fingers as he takes it off the mantelpiece, leaving its shadow in the dust.
But on the wall above the displaced bed there is a picture, a painting in a gilded frame, of a glorious sunlit afternoon – it shines like a jewel in this gloomy room, as fresh as if it were painted yesterday. (Though it is decades old – ‘He wouldn’t let me sell that one.’)
Two great trees stand in a green pasture which runs down to a hidden river. Beyond, the bluer green of farther woods rises to a low horizon. A black and white cow, three quick dabs of paint, repeats itself, moving slowly from left to right across the picture plane. Leaf shadows ripple blue on the warm tree trunks and the trees’ crowns reach up into a tumbling airy height of sky.
Like a window into shining memory, it redeems the room.
Copyright © 2014 Fliss Watts