By Paul Bucci.
Dave’s bored. And a bit stoned. He’s been a bit of both – or quite a lot of both – for the last year or so since his mum died. For the couple of years before that he was her carer and kept pretty busy round the clock and before that he’d had various jobs mainly in hospitality but some driving, labouring, gardening. That sort of thing. So he’d been fairly busy but since his mum died and he inherited the house and a bit of cash he’s hardly left the place really and spends his time reading, smoking, watching TV, playing games. And basically not thinking too hard about any of it.
The other thing he finds himself doing is watching the neighbours – classic through the lace curtains stuff. He can see them but they can’t see him. He hardly knows any of them, says good-day when he’s mowing the front lawn, that sort of thing. But he likes to see what they get up to, especially the young mum over the road which he’s a bit ashamed to acknowledge to himself but thinks, you know, what harm can it do if no-one knows but him.
And the bloke next door – Jim his name is. Been there for years. Dave’s got fairly used to his patterns over the last couple of years. One thing he’s noticed for example is that he – Jim that is – he goes out every Saturday morning at 10.30 pretty well on the dot and comes back at 12.30. Again pretty well exactly. Every Saturday. And the other thing that Dave’s noticed about Jim is that he has a front door key hidden under a brick by his front gate which he always uses to open his front door.
Anyway Dave’s thinking about this stuff while he’s drinking his coffee and smoking a little number on the front verandah and he sees Jim leaving his place, getting in his car and driving off. It’s 10.30 Dave realizes. Must be Saturday. And the thought just comes to him. Jim won’t be back for 2 hours. Why don’t I go and check his house out? Just for fun. No one’s going to know and it could be interesting. So he does. Goes over the fence at the side where no-one can see him, grabs the key under the brick, unlocks the front door and he’s in.
First thing he notices is how tidy everything is. Unlike his mum’s place – his place – there’s nothing out of place in the hallway. Coats on a hallstand, shoes on a little shelf, umbrella in a sort of pot thing. Nice pictures on the wall too – arty sort of stuff. Little table with a pot plant on it. Very neat.
There’s a couple of doors off the hall, both open. The first one is the bedroom. He pokes his head in but again it’s all very ooh-la-la – no clothes lying around, a couple of books on the bedside table, wall hangings. A bit sort of Italian Dave thinks. Even the bed’s made.
The next door leads into a sort of living room, kitchen kind of place. More of the same, paintings and posters on the wall, bookshelf full of books, lounge suite, TV. All classy stuff as far as Dave can tell although he’s not really much of a judge. Very clean kitchen area too, no mess in the sink, photos on the wall, flowers in a vase. Very nice thank you.
It’s only when he takes a closer look at the photos around the kitchen area that it starts to get a bit weird. Well really weird actually. The first one that he notices is a family photo – mum, dad and a couple of kids. The weird thing is that it’s his – Dave’s – mum and that Dave is one of the kids. The other one’s a baby girl. What! What the hell’s going on? He looks about 3 or 4 in the picture so it must have been taken over 40 years ago. But it’s him all right and his mum. He’s got a similar one with just him and his mum hanging on their wall at home. So the bloke in the photo is presumably his dad. His dad who left them just after Dave was born – according to his mum anyway. His Dad. Jesus. What’s a picture of his family doing on Jim’s kitchen wall? He takes a closer look. God it’s Jim he realises. What? Jim? It certainly looks like him from 40 years ago. Jim? With him and his mum? Jim. And who’s the baby girl in the picture? What is going on?
He has a look at the other photos on the wall. There’s a few others of Jim taken through the years – with a group of mates, with a little girl – looks like the same one in the family photo – and then with the girl over the years growing up. As she gets older it becomes clear from the photos that she’s got some kind of disability – maybe a mental thing perhaps. She has a sort of vague look in her eye, slack open mouth, not looking at the camera.
What is this? Is Jim his father? It’s the obvious thought. Living next door all these years? And the girl? His sister???? Nobody ever mentioned a sister. He can’t work this out. Not for the first time in his life he wished he wasn’t so bloody stoned.
There’s another door off the kitchen. He just needs to get away from the photo and anyway who knows what else there is lurking for him to find. As he opens the door three things happen at the same time. First he hears the church bells ringing out and realizes that it’s bloody Sunday not Saturday at all. Second he hears the front door open and Jim’s voice ‘What the hell’s going on.’ And thirdly, thirdly, he sees the woman in the wheelchair, strapped in, mouth drooling, staring at him, petrified, her piss dripping on the floor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m Paul and I moved to Geelong earlier this year after 33 years living in Port Fairy. I have done – and am doing – lots of different things with my life. My first creative writing piece after school was published in the Mid-Herts College of Further Education student magazine, Sqog, in 1962. Writing under the pseudonym of Ivan Itch, my first sentence was: ‘I’m fed up wiv orl this tork about luv an secks today.’
Have I moved on? That’s for you to judge.