“Well, I’ll be blowed.”
Janice stuck her head through the loft hatch. “What is it, Roger?”
Roger Scrutt pulled a dusty black leather box out from behind the water tank. “Dad’s old typewriter. I thought Mum said she’d got rid of it.”
Janice climbed down the ladder, muttering just loud enough for Roger to hear, “When did she ever get rid of something?”
Roger’s grinning face appeared through the hole. “Hey, that’s my mother you’re accusing of being an irredeemable hoarder.” He reached down, the old case hanging from his fingers. “Here you go.”
As she reached up, dust and debris fell on her face. “Geez.”
He laughed. “There’s probably some of Dad in that dust.”
Wiping her tongue on her sleeve she looked close to throwing up. “Oh great. I’ve ingested your dad.” She dropped the case by her feet. “You will get rid of this, won’t you?”
“Course.” His voice already sounded distant, and to her ears, insincere.
When, half an hour later, it was still where she’d left it, Janice sighed and carried to the heap of rubbish that was growing exponentially.
Four hours later, Roger locked the front door to his mother’s house and climbed into the driver’s seat. He leant across to kiss his wife. “Thanks for helping.” He licked his lips. “You even taste of dad.”
“Stop it. I’ll need counselling.” Janice looked at her grime-encrusted jeans and hands, groaning. “Wine. I need wine.” She settled back into her seat for a snooze. She’d be pleased when the dirty old mausoleum was empty and sold. Whatever Roger said, not all his memories were ones to cherish.
Janice woke with a start, momentarily disorientated. They were home. She climbed out and stretched. He had his head buried in the boot.
“Do you want to make us a drink while I empty this lot?”
“Oh no.” Playfully she elbowed him out of the way. “I will empty the car, thank you. I know you. You’ll have tried to sneak something past me.”
He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Not guilty, your honour!” He grinned and headed for the house.
She tugged the cardboard box of his old books to her; even her ruthless decluttering instincts hadn’t been sufficient to deny him these. As she pulled, something fell over. Peering behind the box she mouthed, ‘you sod, Roger Scrutt’ and dropped the books onto the drive. The old typewriter case lay on its side. Oh no, not on your nelly, she thought. Leaving the books, she hefted the typewriter to the rubbish bin and dropped it inside. Grinning, she thought, Roger Strutt, you will pay for that deception.
Monday mornings were always chaotic. While he knotted his tie with one hand and buttered toast with the other, she read her overnight mails as she applied lipstick.
“Can you put out the bins? I forgot last night.”
She scowled at him and then stuck out a tongue. “If feed Mandela. Oh and refresh his water.”
Twenty minutes later, she headed outside, swinging her car keys around a finger. She nearly forgot the bins; spinning on her heels, she hauled them to the road. Why the bloody bin men couldn’t walk the few yards to fetch them she would never understand.
She had half turned back to the car when a thought occurred to her. She opened the lid and peered inside. Oh you tricky man, she thought. The old typewriter had gone. Right. She headed back inside and for the garage. If she knew her husband she knew where she’d find it.
Sure enough it sat on the bench. He hadn’t even tried to hide it. The arrogance. Tonight she would give him so much grief. She smiled to herself. And then they could make up…
Two days later, Roger sat in his office at home, studying the weeds in the garden. His father never allowed a weed to show its face; it was like a personal insult. He shut his eyes and saw his father, the back of his neck reddened from the sun and effort as he cursed the weeds out of the beds. Funny, Roger thought. Dad spent hours in that garden and never expressed any joy at his achievements, never once sat and enjoyed it. He didn’t garden, Roger realised; he wrestled plants. WWF: William Wrestling Foliage.
Roger sighed. Normally working at home was a pleasure but today all he had were memories. He should begin that family history he promised himself. Unable to settle, he headed for the kitchen and coffee.
The door to the garage was open. Had it been open earlier? Maybe, but still he’d better check. A cursory glance showed doors and windows all shut; he turned to leave when he spotted it: the old typewriter case, all clean. What a sneaky little minx, he thought. She’d given him grief about it and here it was. Carefully, almost reverently, he eased back the lid. She’d cleaned the old Corona and replaced the ribbon. A crisp new sheet sat in the roller, ‘Write Me’ neatly typed in the centre.
Lifting the case, he hurried back to his desk. He’d start that history, surprise her with it. His work could wait.
So keen was he to start, he didn’t notice the door shutting behind him, or the key turning. His eyes fixed on the paper which was blank. Confused, he rested his fingers on the keys.
Roger felt a cold presence as his fingers began to move, unbidden.
We Have Work To Do
His eyes widened in terror as the words poured out, terrible words, words that told a story so horrifying that his mind refused to contemplate the truth of them.
When Janice found him, she took in the terror and the odd grey streak in his hair, a reminder of the streak his father developed after the unexplained deaths of Roger’s two brothers.
A forensic scientist later pointed to his calloused fingertips. “Did he type much?”
They checked his laptop. It looked barely used. No one thought about the old corona. After all Janice had thrown it away, hadn’t she?
I wrote this in response to Rachael Ritchey’s Blog Battle prompt for June