Excerpt from Things Go Flying by Shari Lapeña
(Brindle & Glass, 2008)
He stared fixedly at his bedroom window, and suddenly he remembered exactly what it was like—forty years simply fell away—to sit cross legged on his single bed, with its old brown chenille bedspread, trying to read. He remembered the smell of the pages of his Hardy Boys books—how he loved them!—and how there was never quite enough light from the lamp on the wall above his bed because it couldn’t take more than a forty watt bulb. When he looked up from his place on the bed he could see the branches of the tree outside his bedroom window. But he tried not to look up; he tried to lose himself in the safe and familiar world of Frank and Joe Hardy—those brave boys. They were so much braver than he was. But then, they had only practical, tangible mysteries to deal with.
Harold now remembered one particular evening. He remembered sitting on his bed with his book, and the dreaded sound of the front door opening, and his mother’s voice, blending with another woman’s. Then he heard them go into the front room, and heard the doors shut firmly behind them. It was quiet for a long time, as if his mother wasn’t having any luck, and then Harold heard the chandelier begin to shake, and he had to start back at the beginning of his paragraph.
“What’s that awful smell?” he heard the woman’s voice cry, clear as a bell.
His mother murmured something in response. Then the knocking began in the room downstairs, and keys were slammed on the piano, as if a fist had been brought down forcefully and repeatedly on the keys—from the higher octaves to the lower—which had a very dramatic effect.
The woman’s voice rang out into the sudden silence, “I don’t think that’s my husband!”
Next Harold heard the doors to the front room flung back so violently that they crashed against the wall behind. Heavy footsteps—like those of a large man in work boots—ran out of the room and up the uncarpeted stairs, and Harold almost fainted with fear. The footsteps reached the landing, and then thundered up and past his bedroom door and up the narrow flight of stairs to the third floor, where they suddenly stopped.
Harold heard the front door being wrestled open and the woman gasping, “Ahhhhh, Ahhhhh,” to herself as she fled out the door and down the short walk. Harold, who’d scrambled off his bed and backed away from his bedroom door until his back was up against the window, turned his head and looked out. He saw the woman—whom he now identified as Mrs. Mohan, a neighbour—run out into the cold dark night and down the street. She’d left her coat behind.
When his mother had come up to check on him, she’d asked him if he’d mind returning Mrs. Mohan’s coat the next morning before school. He’d left it on her front porch when she wouldn’t come to the door, even though she’d heard his knock. Harold knew, because he saw her peeking out the curtains.
Funny how he’d forgotten all about it until now, but there were big gaps in Harold’s memory. And since that was a fairly striking and memorable event, he wondered how it was that he’d forgotten all about it.
There’d been enough drama in that house to mark a life.