24 Paces to Silence

Eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve – he stops for a gulp of sultry air. Never mind the pain in his aging hip, it is reassuring that the number of steps to the front door of his house is still twelve.

He sets down his shopping bag at the doorstep, nudges it over to the left a little with his foot. That’s better, it is perfectly centered now and aligned with the brass letterbox in the wooden door. Everything is how he needs it to be. The comfort of this thought brings a fleeting smile to his taunt face.

The ground floor and basement are his, his world to control and to subject to his needs. Order above all, measured order. One square table, one chair in the kitchen. One bookshelf, one armchair in the sitting room. No television set. One wardrobe, one single bed in the bedroom. No mirror. One washing machine, one condenser dryer, one wash basin, one toilet, one walk-in shower in the basement. No mirror. One parasol, one sun chair in the back garden its wild nature tiled over and suppressed except for one flower bed, 2.5 feet wide by 8 feet long. No grass.

Upstairs is where everything she needed went. He hasn’t been up there in years. Not since he forced the hall door open just wide enough to throw the television in. Her rooms are a mess. Crammed with furniture, heaps of clothes and trinkets of all sorts everywhere. And mirrors, so many mirrors large and small. Is this lipstick too pink you think, Seamus? Does the colour of this blouse look good on me or does it make me look bland? Do I look fat in this dress? Should I wear my hair up or down? Oh no, I’ll be late for work again. Help me decide, Seamus, will you. Oh, shut up and give me a break. Does the TV need to be on first thing in the morning? Too many voices between hers and the stupid morning show, demanding attention, never shutting up.

One day she never turned up in work. Took the gardai weeks to start following up. So many people go missing because they want to. They asked the bus driver and some of the daily commuters, she’d been on the bus alright that day, like every weekday. And no, she didn’t seem any different to any other day. Funny thing people’s memories, we could all swear to having seen something just because it’s always there, has always been there in the periphery of what we deem worth noticing. Someone thought he’d seen her on a ferry over to Britain that week. A bit drunk she was, but everyone gets pissed on ferries. The police were sorry they said. She might turn up again at some point they said. Sometimes they don’t they said. That was six years ago.

Inside he sets the shopping bag onto the square kitchen table. The butter goes onto the top shelf in the fridge, the crumbed ham onto the middle shelf, a bit over to the left, the lettuce and tomatoes into the bottom left drawer, the pork chops onto the bottom shelf over to the right. He lifts the whiskey bottle out last and places it on the table, folds the bag and puts it back into its place in the press under the kitchen sink.

He opens the top press, one tumbler on the middle shelf. Never broke one in all the years after, only one needed, the same one every day. He pours two shots of whiskey into it. 24 paces from here at the kitchen table to the sun chair, 18 to get to the back door, another six from there to the chair. He counts them out on his way there, tumbler in his left hand. Never spilled a drop in all the years after. He takes small sips from his glass savouring the fire each sip ignites in his throat and gazes at the tall flowers swaying in the soft summer breeze. His life has been good in all the years after. Quiet. Quiet is good. She always said she hated silence and the scent of white lilies.

© Ash N. Finn, 2017

Note: I believe that in places outside Ireland a kitchen press might be more commonly referred to as a kitchen cabinet. 😉

10 thoughts on “24 Paces to Silence

    1. Thank you very much for visiting me back and for your encouraging words. I only discovered your site today, and very much enjoyed what I found. I will return for more.

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