This week’s #writephoto is
Novak Apology stood in the doorway, absorbing the dusty scents and unspoken resentments of the room. He knew, if he closed his eyes he’d be able to visualise his grandpa in the beige chair to the left and his grandma, always bent over some knitting or darning or other repair in the pink chair to the right. He’d often wondered, though never asked, why his shrew like grandma took the bigger chair while his bull-buttocked grandpa crammed himself into smaller one. Indeed, it was symptomatic of that oddly see-sawing relationship how one visit his grandpa would seem to dominate while on other occasions his grandma was some sort of force of nature.
Novak stepped forward until he was right in front of the chairs. How many times had he stood there, while his grandparents played judge, jury, prosecutor and defender to his accused. The one thing he had never attempted was sit in either chair. Like disrespecting his teachers or farting in a lift it was not done. Now, with the concurrent deaths of both grandparents and him left to sort out their affairs, there was nothing to stop him.
Nothing beyond their ghosts. He looked at the Knick-Knacks, the cluttered side tables, the display cabinets and the umpteen traps of which he’d fallen foul down the years and had an almost overwhelming urge to sweep them all to the floor. That was the crime, in their old eyes. He pretty much had the run of the house and garden and could do no wrong, but come in here and knock over some pottery milkmaid or glass dolphin and the verbal garrotting would leave his childish soul like a heap of diced carrots.
He began to move towards his grandpa’s chair but stopped. When he’d arrived it had felt like a grandma weekend, when the wizened old sorceress would be in charge. Lurching slightly he turned and before he could stop himself he lowered his run-fit buttocks into her chair.
‘NICE.’ Novak did well not to jump. Not only had he been sure he’d heard a voice – a rich basso-profundo – but very briefly as he sank into the spongy antiquated upholstery he had felt his bottom being squeezed. The word ‘assessed’ popped into his head.
He sat back, feeling stupid. It was an old chair and the webbing and springs probably caused the sensation while a squeal from the wooden frame, used to his sparrow-like grandma probably explained the sound. There was something comforting about the seat, something powerful, soothing. Without thinking about it his left hand slid down between the arm and the cushion, deep into the fluff, the cotton and detritus of decades. His fingers touched something hard and round. Moving slowly he eased it out and looked at it in the palm of his hand. A gold coin about the size of an old crown with a foreign script on it. He picked it up in his fingertips, turning it over and studying the image of an ancient looking temple on the rear. Absent-mindedly, he rubbed the faces with his fingertips and…
‘What the actual f…?’ Novak gawped at the fast spinning cloud of multi-coloured gases that had formed in front of his face.
The same basso-profundo of earlier filled the room. ‘I SAID PUFFT!’
‘What’s pufft mean?’
‘IT’S PUFFT AND IT MEANS… ER, IT MEANS… IT TELLS YOU I’M HERE.’
The cloud had begun to take on a more solid shape, redolent of some sort of Middle Eastern caricature.
Novak wondered at the trickery. ‘I can see you’re here. Whatever you are.’
‘I AM A GENIUS.’
‘Not a genie?’ Novak did his best not to snigger.
‘A BETTER, MORE COMPETENT MYTHICAL BEING. I SUPPOSE YOU EXPECT A WISH.’
‘Just the one?’ This time the snorting disbelief didn’t remain hidden.
The Genius’ face pressed close to Novak’s. ‘AND THERE YOU HAVE THE BEST REASON WHY EDUCATING THE MASSES IS A MISTAKE. ONE BLOODY CARTOON AND YOU THINK YOU KNOW ALL THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT WISH GRANTERS.’
‘So it’s not three?’
‘IT’S NOT A BLOODY LAMP, EITHER, IS IT?’
‘No. Good point. So how does this work?’ Novak rubbed the coin in anticipation.
The now fully formed Genius jumped until Novak stopped rubbing then clasped his hands behind his back and circled the room looking at the ornaments. ‘YOUR GRANDPARENTS TOOK IT IN TURNS.’
Novak’s eyebrows rose sharply. ‘That was you? When they took charge?’
The Genius tried and failed to look modest. ‘IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN.’
‘What did they wish for?’
‘OH THEY DIDN’T GET ANY WISHES. THEY TRIED HARD TO GET ME TO GO AWAY. THAT’S WHY I HAD TO POSSESS THEM.’
‘I don’t understand. Aren’t you all about wishes and stuff?’
‘WISHES AND STUFF? IS THAT THE BEST MODERN EDUCATION CAN DO?’ He shook his overlarge, beturbanned head, nearly losing his headgear in the process. ‘THEY MISUNDERSTOOD THE IDEA. I GAVE THEM A WISH EACH BUT THEY TRIED TO UNDERMINE THE WHOLE PROCESS.’
‘I CAN’T SAY. WELL, I CAN BUT I SOUGHT OF DON’T WANT TO.’
‘YOU’RE JUST SAYING THAT. YOU WANT TO KNOW.’
‘No, really. If you can’t give me a wish then, well, I wasn’t expecting this when I came today so I’m not missing out.’
‘IS YOUR WHOLE FAMILY THE SAME? THAT IS WHAT YOUR GRANDPARENTS SAID. THAT WAS THE PROBLEM, RIGHT THERE.’
‘I still don’t…’
‘ALTRUISM. THIS URGE TO DO THE RIGHT THING. DID YOU EVER WONDER WHY THEY MADE SUCH A FUSS ABOUT THE ORNAMENTS?’
‘THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU FINDING ME BY ACCIDENT. THEY DIDN’T THINK I’D BE GOOD FOR YOU AND THEY WEREN’T SURE WHERE I WAS HIDING MOST OF THE TIME.’
‘Not in the coin?’
‘NO, THAT WAS A RECENT INNOVATION. YOUR GRANDPA’S IDEA. HE DIDN’T EXPECT YOU WOULD RUMMAGE DOWN THE SIDE OF THE CHAIR. HE DIDN’T BANK ON ME CALLING TO YOU. HA. SILLY OLD FOOL.’
‘Maybe I should put you back…’
‘DON’T YOU WANT A WISH? SOMETHING UTTERLY SELFISH?’
Novak looked at the almost pleading expression on the Genius’s face. ‘You want me to, don’t you?’
‘YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW EXCRUCIATINGLY DULL THOSE TWO DO-GOODERS WERE. SAVE THIS WHALE, OR THAT HOMELESS PERSON. UNIVERSAL PEACE, FREEDOM FROM HUNGER. COME ON, THERE MUST BE SOMETHING?’
Novak looked around the room. ‘I suppose…’
The Genius looked eagerly at him. ‘ANYTHING…’
‘If you could just remove one ingrained inhibition…’
‘YOU’RE ON. WHAT IS IT? TELLING YOUR BOSS HE’S A TWANNOCK? ADMITTING YOU NEVER RECYCLE? YOU ENJOY GETTING YOUR TEETH POLISHED?’
‘I want to be able to take a large stick and smash up all these ornaments.’
The Genius looked at him in horror and then held his head in his hands, rocking back and forth. ‘NOOOOOO!’
‘What is it? Why isn’t that selfish?’
The Genius face contorted with utter disgust. ‘BECAUSE ONE OF THESE ORNAMENTS IS MY PRISON. IF YOU BREAK IT, I’M FREE. THAT’S THE ULTIMATE GOOD DEED SO FAR AS A GENIUS IS CONCERNED.’ He looked on the verge of tears. ‘JUST PUT ME BACK IN THE CHAIR. WHY IS EVERYONE SO NICE. IT’S NOT FAIR….’