All that was left were two walls and the foundations. The upper floor had long been carried away by hurricanes. The house had stood for decades, forgotten in the overgrown grass and aging fruit trees. The foundations were of solid concrete and ornamented with dog shit from Maurice Etienne’s Dobermans. The Etienne’s owned the lot next door. The remaining doorway gaped in mute agony as if still in the throes of the long extinguished conflagration, and the cracked and rotting window frames leered drunkenly.
Mister found a relatively dry corner away from the accumulated debris and sat listening to the hissing of the waves before unfolding his blanket. His feet ached and he slipped off his jelly sandals to rub them . He was getting too old for this, he thought. Stormy season was not far off and he had to find somewhere safe and dry before the rains came. Maybe he’d try the convent again; they always gave him work if he wanted it, and their outhouse was always comfortable; cows make good sleeping companions.
A lizard scampered over Mister’s foot, paused for a moment tasting the air with its tongue, then took off at high speed. Mister sighed; his years lay heavily on him; he was tired, tired of his wandering the island. There was not one inch that he had not walked, not a single hill he hadn’t climbed. Every village knew him and gave him refuge and to everyone he was just ‘Mister’. The island had nurtured and sustained him these many years and he was grateful.
Mister let his eyes wander over the shell of what had once been a lively family home. The beams of the ceiling crossed above his head in a charred benediction. For a brief instant he resisted looking; he was reluctant to awaken those memories. Unbidden they came anyway, and for a moment he saw once again the bright sitting room, the sun slanting inwards across the floor from the balcony that ran the full width of the house; he saw the rocking chair in the corner, lovingly crafted by his grandfather all those years ago. He waited for the familiar stab of sadness and guilt to wash over him but it didn’t happen. Instead, the house enfolded him in a loving embrace. Tears of gratitude spilled down his cheeks into his beard, and as he settled himself into his blanket he could hear the laughter of the children as they ran in from the beach and see the glow of the evening lights through the latticed doors. Mister slept.
The dawn light crept towards the house touching it in curious exploration, it lit the blank windows and stole over the littered floor until it reached the sheltered corner. The empty blanket lay as neatly as a newly made bed with the jelly sandals redundant beside it, whilst the sounds of the creaking rocking chair and laughing children gently faded away.
I write poetry and short stories and have only recently begun to write flash fiction. In my day job I work in the NHS as a Mental Health Trainer. During the Covid years I have become a prolific writer and I have finally overcome my imposter syndrome! The NHS Trust for whom I work have published some of my poetry and also the University of California, San Francisco.
Photo ‘After Maria’ by Armicha George-Titre
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