Underneath, out of sight, hidden below the blankets, something wasn’t moving. As you couldn’t see it, or hear it, detect any motion or smell anything odd you had no idea it wasn’t there – or was there. The house was quiet, Jasmine was at love school, Victor had started his new job in the flower factory and Mr and Mrs McFife were finally having their accents removed in the city. So the house was quiet apart from the anomaly that wasn’t there, or was, no one knew, there was no one there to know either way. Pirate the Maine Coon was prowling, although it’s hard to prowl when you are a giant, everything sees you coming, the mice, the swallows, the fish, the moths and the other cats. If they don’t see you, they hear you clumping down, breaking twigs, dislodging the soil. The loud bang and rattle as you jump down from the old rotten table in the garden onto a corrugated iron-covered well, so much noise, the opposite of what was happening upstairs in the so-called empty house.
Jasmine was about to complete her first term at the school and over the last six weeks, had learnt to be kinder, she now knew how to smile at complete strangers, she had learnt to hug and she had been shown how to keep an open mind. She was still able to suspect skullduggery, doubt the truth and relentlessly ask questions albeit with a less aggressive thrust.
Victor’s new job was far more interesting than his last position counting mistakes in the hospital and he was much happier designing the flowers and shipping them off upstairs to the aroma department to have them match a smell to the colour, the shape and the general ambience that his design suggested, it was rather like finding the right perfume for a woman he surmised, there’s nothing worse than the wrong perfume on the wrong woman like his old grandmother who looked like a walrus and smelled like a crow.
The parents, Bonnie and Albert McFife, would not be back till late. Their accent removal was a tricky process. It was so ingrained and at first they were uncertain if it was the right thing to do as it was a part of their character but nobody understood them anymore because as the last native speakers from their village who were still alive, they’d felt a responsibility to keep the tradition and they’d been so committed to the cause that they had lost the ability to communicate with anybody but each other, even Pirate just looked at them blankly.
The day had seemed unsurprising. The grass painter was going about his job with his different sized brushes, the blower was sitting in his usual place at the end of the street at the beginning of the forest, the roofs were still slanting, the sun was still spinning and the shift sleepers still slept. The siren went off at 4PM and 34 doors in the street opened simultaneously as an orderly queue appeared on the pavement waiting for the transport, and then they were gone, everything happened so quickly these days unless it was having your accent removed.
Upstairs and downstairs in the house, everything looked normal. A window was slightly open in the front room, Victor was told to close it before he left but forgot and on the breeze that gently moved the curtain there was always a chance that something could get inside. It wasn’t a given, some people never lock their doors and nothing ever happens and then there’s others that always do and come home to find that it hadn’t helped. It’s like the days when smoking cigarettes was still being promoted as glamorous – despite the link to cancer, enough cool people didn’t die even though they smoked more than a pack a day. There’s always the invisible threat to deal with and just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. There’s also that creeping, sneaky, gradual but steady movement that’s too late to stop by the time it’s arrived.
Jasmine arrived home first, Pirate had come in through the cat flap and was luxuriating on the rug, she’d recently learnt to scratch him under the chin and he cautiously accepted her approaches. It hadn’t always been this way and Pirate thought to himself that the school might actually be working. Victor arrived home next carrying a large bunch of experimental flowers, it was one of the perks of working at the factory although some days the family complained to him that this wasn’t the place to test the wares and when Pirate was missing for a day or two and everybody in the house had a headache it was back to the drawing board for the aroma department. Still, the designs were nice and Mrs McFife wanted to encourage her son in his latest pursuit.
Mrs McFife had taken the day off to get into the city for her and her husband’s appointment. Chaos had ensued. Nobody knew her system, it was the first time she hadn’t been there in living memory and all kinds of forgotten meetings, missed calls, unseen messages, unsolved situations and mishaps were swept under the carpet and blamed on technical failures due to unknown forces and everyone seemed to be happy with that as an explanation, tomorrow was another day.
Mr McFife was his own boss so he didn’t have to explain his absence to anybody accept to the usual body and trust had never been an issue and the pure fact that nobody within the body understood a word he said meant that they wholeheartedly agreed with his and his wife’s decision, in fact they actively encouraged it and were most looking forward to the results.
At 9PM, Mr and Mrs McFife arrived home, Victor and Jasmine were on the small veranda at the back of the house enjoying the glow of the moonlight and watching the marauding night ants demolish their leftovers – their small fangs satiated after a hard day.
Mrs McFife shouted a hello across the room and told everyone, “I’m going straight to bed” and it was then that Victor and Jasmine realised that this was the first time they’d understood anything she’d said in years. She slowly climbed the stairs and as she approached the bedroom door she got the strangest feeling. She opened the door and everything seemed normal until with absolutely no accent she let out a howl that everyone in the house, in the street, in the trees, in the well and in the nerve centre clearly understood.
Music today has been the new remixed John Lennon collection vinyl box set Gimme Some Truth (9th October 2020). It seems titularly appropriate and without analysing John Lennon, I can tell you that the sound of this collection is really something. You can find out all about it at this over the top preorder promo page.