This story has been awarded a Highly Commended at the Fellowship of Australian Writers WA Haddow/Stuart Short Story Competition. 2012
This is a strange, gentle horror story – quite a remarkable combination. We are privy to the private thoughts and observations of the central character, an old widower alone in his dwelling. His tastes and temperament are skillfully revealed in these thoughts. His habits and habitat are evoked with the deft touch of a filmaker or poet. The hypnotic repetition of details – the cup of tea, the broken blind – each time slightly reframed gives both a visual and aural luminosity. The denoument softens its horror and is a particularly outstanding feature of the story.
Dr Liana Joy Christensen
The Blind is Broken
The morning sun squares up to the kitchen window, but the blind is broken so only a triangle of light lies on the floor. It shines on my hand. It is an old hand; the skin is wrinkled, the nails need cutting. There’s my morning tea in the blue mug, the teabag in a jar on the sink. The tea’s pale but still.
In the other rooms the blinds are down. I like it that way, dark and quiet, only the wireless burbling in the corner, talk back maybe or racing. It is a comfortable noise and my only company. The dust is falling. I can see it shining in the edges of light that feels its way around the window frames. Where does it come from, dust? Falling falling straight to the ground.
There is dust on the letters pushed through the door. Envelopes with windows all of them – bills and electricity notices. There is no one to write letters to me now so I won’t open them. Someone put them there and called but I hole up here, quiet like, in the shadows.
Don’t like it when they come. Luckily they don’t come often.
The morning sun hits the kitchen window but the blind is broken and the light falls on the floor in an oblique rectangle. It shines on my arm, the hairs white and curled, the skin spotted with age. Ah, here is my tea, it’s pale and filmy. The radio is on but I can still hear next-door’s clattering and talking and their television intruding with bursts of laughter and music. I stay away from that wall and their noise. Eventually they will go out and I can have my quiet. I don’t like to go out, I won’t go out. Now the football is on the radio but the Blues are playing like girls. Going down to Collingwood by 40 points. I don’t know why I bother to listen, always fall asleep in the middle anyway.
The morning sun faces the kitchen window, dodges the broken blind and falls square on the floor; it shines warm on my back on my soft flannel shirt.
Somebody is outside the door. A boy. Two boys. They think they are quietly sneaking but are as clumsy as big dogs. They are leaning their heads on the door listening and I can hear them breathing. The radio is on, they whisper, I can hear the football. It really stinks says one. You really stink says the other and they bang hard on the door then run laughing. The dust shifts minutely on its downward path. The pile of letters on the carpet slips. They are as loud as dogs barking.
The morning sun is low and only a stripe falls on the kitchen floor it lights on my leg. My mug is on the bench. Maggie would never have let me use the same teabag twice, she said it was false economy, but what I save on tea I can spend on ciggies – if there is enough left at the end of the month. It is cheaper to roll your own you know, you can scrimp a bit on the tobacco and make the packet last. Could do with one now really, that roughness on the back of your throat, there is nothing like it. And all that bullshit on the packet, those warnings about your health, can’t they just let a man make up his own mind?
I can smoke inside now that Maggie is long gone, long past telling me what to do. You can please yourself when you are alone. I like to be alone thinking. Didn’t think I would, but I do. The dust is falling and she would have waged a war against it but I like to watch it, thinking about nothing thinking about falling. I heard on the wireless that the Blues had a win, though it was a close thing; a goal on the siren and maybe a chance to scrape into the eight.
The kitchen window blind is broken and they should fix it. The rent people will see it and say I broke it but it was already broken and they should fix it. If they come for an inspection I will hide but they will see the broken blind. They will see the dust and they will find me and tell me to clean it. The sun isn’t shining today it is cold and the rain is on the window. Nothing shines on me. They don’t come and Carlton doesn’t make the eight, doesn’t even come close bloody pack of girls. Grand final is a foregone conclusion.
The morning sun shines in the window. The angle is low and it shines right on to the far wall. Makes a shadow of the fallen chair. The radio has gone quiet, nothing lasts. I can’t remember whether I made my tea but the mug is there on the bench.
The morning sun squares up to the kitchen window but the blind is broken and only a triangle falls onto the floor it shines on my hand. It is an old hand, older than I think I am, and I don’t recognise it anymore.
Someone is at the door. They have a key and they are letting themselves in. I hide up here near the ceiling; I don’t want them to notice me. The door jams on the pile of envelopes on the floor but still they push in. They click the light switch beside the door on off on off but nothing happens. The dust is swirling. They can see the sunshine on my hand on the kitchen floor. On my bones and bits of skin. They are retching and loud. They have gone into the kitchen to see the rest of me but the door is open and the dust is swirling and I think maybe I will go out, out with the dust, out into the morning sun. Just for a moment or should I have some tea?