Published Short Stories


The Back Door Step

There is a back door step that I occasionally go and sit on when I want solitude. Nobody goes into the back garden because there is nothing there. It is a blank canvas, free of human curiosity, a place to escape from the world. It isn’t even my back step, it belongs to a neighbour - if it is possible to posses such a matter-of-fact thing. I sit, have a cigarette, crush it on my shoe and place the nub in my pocket to conceal my presence, then leave.

I know an old man lives here because I have seen him. He has funny eyes that point in different directions. It must drive him mad to constantly process two different viewpoints when he tries to focus on something. I discovered the step a few years ago when I was sixteen. I came home from the pub in a state that left my own eyes pointing in different directions and, thinking it was my own house, spent half an hour trying to insert my key into the lock. When it didn’t work I went and sat down in the backyard on the step.

My fumbling must have woken the old man inside because he switched the light on in his kitchen and peered out of his back window. But he couldn’t see me. He can’t see anything. Realising my mistake I got up and headed home. I had turned prematurely into the wrong cul-de-sac, which is an easy mistake to make on our estate. After that day it became a habit and I have been doing it ever since.

The back garden to his house is a small triangle of cement that backs on to two other gardens. These gardens both have wild bushes and poorly erected fences hiding the occupants either side. In the far corner of the garden is an old Anderson shelter which I find myself staring at as I smoke my cigarette. It is like a monument erected to remind people of how gullible they once were, that years ago families believed an arc of corrugated steel and a bit of soil would act as a barrier from the bombs dropping overhead. Then again, they probably couldn’t believe they were being bombed in the first place so perhaps it’s not so strange.

Today I am not drunk. It is about five a.m. and I just couldn’t sleep so I came down here to relax, thought I might come and listen to a few birds performing their morning song before the lorries and cars drowned them out. I’ve been like this recently, ever since the bump. I get real edgy and don’t know what to do with myself.

She wanted to know where I was going at this time. What I possibly had to do that was more important than snuggling up under the duvet. But I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know. But I would be back in time to bring her breakfast in bed and share her pillow.

I talk to myself as I walk down the road, questioning what I’m doing, thinking about what will happen, thankful that all the curtains are drawn. They don’t like talking to each other on our street, let alone talking to yourself. It’s why I like the mornings.

The sun is wide awake today, proud and unashamedly full of itself, sending a pink hue across the sky. There is no escaping it. Letting everyone know it is here. Getting higher, brighter and wider by the second. It is so strong I have to close one eye and squint through the other in order to look at it. From this distorted perspective you can actually see the rays streaming from the centre like eyelashes. It is winking at me. Everything will be okay.

Once I can stare no more I roll a cigarette and then put it out. I’ve got to stop smoking. Give up as easily as she did. I know this. Just as I know that some footballers will earn more in a week than I will in a lifetime. That every girl I have ever been out with has watched the omnibus of EastEnders religiously on a Sunday afternoon and got annoyed when I have enquired about the storyline. That some people have funny eyes, some have funny ideas and others are content to believe that a rickety old shed can protect them from a bomb. With this knowledge I decide to head back home.

As I reach my cul-de-sac and insert my key into the door I see a milkman in such a hurry he trips up as he tries to negotiate a curb. The milk bottles smash everywhere, sending white blood into the drains. He looks up at the Heavens and screams ‘fuckiiin twaaaaaat.’ Then shakes his head from side to side mumbling to himself. He catches me looking at him and asks, ‘What you looking at?’ and I can’t help but smile, I’ve never been threatened by a Milkman before. I thought this kind of dialogue was reserved for nightclubs and bars.

‘I said, what are you looking at?’
‘Nothing’ I tell him, shutting the door firmly behind me. It is good to know that we all have our own personal agonies which conspire against us and that in this I am not alone. Then it is back under the covers where I am greeted by a different warmth, one I didn’t appreciate until I had left. She is snoring, safe inside her dreams, and her uneven teeth are clattering against each other like the milk bottles on the street. I glide my hands slowly across her stomach. It is getting firmer. It is getting bigger. Already a barrier between us both.



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