You know you’re nearly home when you see The Monument.
It wasn’t just any monument. It was always our monument. The stories of the lord and the song about the worm didn’t matter. It was ours. Our name was on it. It was etched in stone over a hundred years ago. Did he ever imagine what sort of legacy he was leaving behind? Did he know that we’d all look up and think of him? He must have been a right scallywag to carve his name there. How many of us have stood there and pressed our hands to his name? There are so many of us now, grand children and great grandchildren and more besides. All bound together and set in stone.
As featured on Pen To Print in Write On! Showcase on 12th January 2022 www.pentoprint.org
I dreamt of him again last night. We were on a beach and he was dressed in white linens. A soft warm breeze chased the sand as he walked towards me. I told him that this was about as cheesy as it gets and he laughed at me like I was an idiot. He pointed at something behind me and when I turned the dream changed, but I thought I’d woken up. I was sitting at a desk with him looking at a large book. I studied his face which was now covered in old scars. He scowled at me, peering over the rim of his glasses and tapped the book that I was supposed to be reading. There was a picture at the top of the page, a picture of a beach on a sunny day. I suddenly felt dizzy and unhinged. What was real and what was the dream? I woke properly then, unsure of where I was until my flatmate cranked the tunes up in the other room. What are these dreams trying to tell me? What is the significance of the book?
I sit on my Nana’s doorstep watching the rotary washing line turn slowly in the wind. It squeaks as it moves and occasionally tips a little. I’m convinced it’s going to fall over. Nana said to keep an eye on the washing as it’s a windy day. I wonder if she means in case it collapses or in case it blows away.
Inside all the Aunties are chattering. There’s a screech of laughing as one of them shares some gossip. They sound like a bunch of noisy chickens.
Some little birds have come to sit on the garden fence, they chirp and squabble, as if daring each other to steal the breadcrumbs left out on the grass. They quickly fly off as Mrs Nextdoor lets her dog out and it comes running in to the garden, yapping and growling.
In the distance the church bells ring. It’s tea time. Mam is in the kitchen with Nana making tea. Nana is singing her old favourite song and I can hear my mam complaining in protest. The tea cups clink together as they’re loaded on to the tray and one of the Aunties shouts out to make sure she gets a clean cup this time.
I jump up and run inside, eager to claim a red jam tart. I’m greeted by high pitched squawking of “Eee! Mind the hot tea!”
At the bottom of the hill the road curved slowly towards the outskirts of the town. A row of old houses remained like sentinels to the the outside world. Each house was occupied, their owners having lived there for generation after generation. The seven families of the seven houses. The seventh and last house had a small extension to its side. The last building on the row. It window frames and door painted a bright festive colour. The sign on the front declared in golden ornate script. The Little Red Bookshop.
Travellers whizzing by on the road would barely notice the little shop. Even those on foot often mistook it for being long closed and abandoned. Only the few whose curiosity got the better of them ever ventured inside. The door had an old fashion bell that clunked rather than rang when the door swung open. Like many an old bookshop, the shelves were stacked high with musty tomes and long forgotten volumes of books no longer wanted or needed.
The lights were dim, save for a lamp that shone over a desk in one corner. Here a hunched figure was usually found, scrutinising some parchment or ledger with a magnifying glass.