Thursday, November 06, 2003
The afternoon sun dappling through the trees overhead blinded him partly, as he lay on his back in the wet grass and tried to recall why, exactly, he was doing as much. He knew he’d had a specific purpose in setting out that morning, but now, in the last dregs of a lazy summer afternoon, all reason had slipped away, and left naught by idle thought behind.
And so he had to content himself with his ruminations, idle as they may have been. His mother, he was certain, would never understand him, despite her claiming it was nothing more than his hormones speaking when he yelled at her in fevered anger. His father was a mystery; an enigma he’d never solve, and he’d just given it up at that. His sisters, of course, were a mystery of a different sort. Claire was two years younger, and yet she seemed already so much more mature. Already, she was after mother to let her wear all manner of paints and powders, and in recent months, she’d actually taken a liking to joining in the adult parties. He’d lost his partner in crime, with whom he could remember spending many long nights crowded together on the landing of the stairs, peering down through the banister at the guests below, and whispering delightfully insulting comments about the attire and manner of each guest; it was always a competition to see who would be first to break and giggle aloud, getting both of them sent back to their rooms and to bed.
But now, she was allowed up until ten at parties, and she liked to spend it waltzing around the sitting room with a tray of crackers, or perhaps, if she’d promised to be very careful and not spill a drop, a bottle of the wine mother kept especially for such fancy occasions. She enjoyed getting all dressed up, putting on her ruffled skirts and coloured hose, though she’d always declare to mother in what she was certain was her most grown up tone that, honestly, she was beyond such frocks and needed to get a grown up gown for these affairs. What would the neighbours think, seeing her dressed up as a ten year old. That she was only eleven never seemed to dissuade her. For she knew, as only girls of exactly eleven years of age can know, just how far superior eleven was to ten and how the same standards just would not do at all.
And Annabelle was worse. She was creeping up on sixteen now. In fact, he’d need to remember to get her some sort of present next month, although he had no idea what. She was a mystery because she did not want to be understood by him. To be understood by her younger brother would have been the biggest insult of them all. In her mind, she was already an adult, and had been since she was six. And he would always be a child (spoken in the most condescending tone possible, of course), even when he was forty and married. Annabelle (or as he called her, Bella-Anne, just to annoy her) was forever locking herself in her room, when she was at home at all. She was never out past curfew, of course, for what was there to do in town after ten, anyway? But she was rarely a moment early, either. And then it would be straight upstairs to take a long soak in the tub with her scented (or as he liked to call them, stinky) soaps and candles.
When they’d finally given her up for dead, she’d emerge, wrinkled and lightly pink from the hot water she kept adding, her curls pulled up in a towel and her body wrapped in father’s old robe. She’d heave a sigh at the comment that would inevitably come; in fact, they only really bothered commenting anymore because it seemed so much a part of the nightly ritual of the house. Often nights, when he had nothing better to do, he’d stake out the door, just to be the first one to comment; his favourite was asking if she’d honestly stank so badly that she’d needed so long to soak it off. Claire and mother weren’t nearly so witty, in his opinion. And so Annabelle would sigh and then storm off into her room, slamming the door behind her, and nothing would be heard for the rest of the night, beyond the muted strains of her newest record.
Mother, he was beginning to realize, was horribly simple and horribly dull. She needed no work; father’s will saw to that, and she took no serious suitors, spending only a few weeks or months on one project, before flitting off to the next. At least once a month, she’d throw a big party and invite all the well-to-dos, and in between, she’d amuse herself with bridge and the ladies’ auxiliary, and of course, planning for the next big soiree. She took only a passing interest in his life, and he even less in hers. So long as he was passing his classes and staying out of trouble, she was content. And so long as she wasn’t nagging at him and harping about his manners and appearance, he was happy.
And so life was very tiring at home. He was so bored with the business of women and girls. Father had gone and left him when he was only three, and now he was the only sane inhabitant within the entire structure. It was bad enough just with the three of them, but as he’d learned from years of observation, females never travelled alone. No, they always came in packs. And so, one day, the living room would be overrun with eleven year old girls, and the next, a troupe of sixteen-year-old-hopefuls would come trouping through the house, heading straight for Annabelle’s room. Then the third, the dining room would be commandeered for a meeting of the bridge club, and by the time the fourth rolled around, it was Claire’s turn to hostess again.
He’d made the resolution, not long after Claire had deserted him to her grown up parties, that he would stay out of the house as much as he possibly could. Mother didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she’d said, she wished the girls would follow his example and get out into the fresh air more often. What she’d meant, of course, was that she wished she had more time alone, without gaggles of teenaged girls filling her house. But he was glad to steer clear. He’d found an abandoned shack in the woods, and had taken it over as his base. One corner of the roof leaked, but a good three-quarters of the shack was still habitable. Over time, he’d managed to drag many of his treasures here. He’d even stolen the old hurricane lantern from the attic, and one of Annabelle’s old transistor radio’s. Just like a girl, really. If he’d asked her for it, she’d have said no. But he’d pinched it ages ago, and she still hadn’t noticed or asked after it. Just like a girl, indeed.
And now he was lying just outside of his little shack, in the small clearing that had perhaps once been a yard. The grass was damp from the rain during the night - the deep down damp that you don’t feel until you’ve been lying on it awhile. The sort that creeps up on you and you don’t even realize it at first. But it didn’t really bother him. The day was hot, and the dampness on the back of his shirt was actually rather nice. A light breeze played in the treetops, but heavy trunks kept it from reaching him so far below. The transistor radio was propped up against his side, its tiny speaker offering a tinny rendition of the current hits.
- posted by Deborah @ 7:16 AM
Copyright 2003 - debbo