How the World Turns (and Other Stories)

By Colin Garrow

Short stories


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2 mins

Excerpt from 'The Shed'

(first published in ‘Scribble Magazine’)

"Tom, Tom, it's Waxy Tom," the voices ring out behind him. "Waxy Tom, Waxy Tom..." He turns suddenly and makes as if to spit at the two boys.

"Wouldn't dare," one of them taunts. "I'll get my dad onto you..."

"Really?" Says Tom. "Well, I'll get my dad onto you and my dad's bigger than your dad and..." but they've already lost interest.

As he starts up the path to the front door, a movement catches his eye. In the house next to his, a woman instinctively drops the net curtain and steps back into the safety of her own living room.

Tom can't resist a smile. Neighbours.

He steps inside the house and puts down the suitcase. An odd smell hangs in the hallway. It reminds him of a great aunt whose council flat stank of bodily fluids and old food, and who hugged him interminably between huge gorilla-like arms. He opens a window pushing it wide, and stands for a moment, breathing.

A pile of letters: bills, junk mail, lie on the hall table. Protruding from the heap is a note scrawled in long looped handwriting. Tom fingers the note, the agent's condescending tones echoing as his eyes flicker over the words. Her bill will be forwarded in due course, along with the spare keys, thank you and best wishes for the future, etc.

Tom walks slowly through the house, touching, sniffing, tasting its familiarity. Upstairs, he slides and slaps a hand along the railings on the landing, like a child rattling a stick against a fence. Each room reminds him of someone or something, an event, an argument, a tension, an excitement.

Pulling the kitchen door shut behind him, he steps out onto the cracked path and takes in the jungle that was once garden. Only the shed looks intact. Time was you couldn't turn your back without something getting nicked, or when it couldn't easily be carried off, hacked to pieces just for the hell of it. Tom checks the shed windows, tugging at padlocks, yanking them this way and that. Safe enough, he decides. He stands for a moment, studying the shed door, the keys handing idly in his hand. Eventually, he reaches out and cupping the rusting lock, eases the key into place and rotates the machinery into its open position. The padlock swings loose and drops to the ground with a thud.

Moving hesitantly, he pulls the slatted wooden door. The hinges whine and grate in their holdings as it swings wide. Big hands splayed against the doorframe supporting his weight, Tom leans forward, peering inside. Slants of light glimmer through the ill-fitting planked walls, disturbed flecks of dust eddy into falling lines like miniature waterfalls. The rug, dark crimson and speckled with oil, lies diagonally across the floor. In one long slow movement, Tom lifts a foot and steps into the centre of the rough textured fabric. Slowly, he lowers himself into a cross-egged position on the floor. Resting his hands on his knees, he closes his eyes and begins to remember...

The sun is high and warm when Tom emerges from the shed. He breathes slowly, thankfully. Taking a pouch from his inside pocket, he begins to roll a cigarette. He rests one hand easily by his side and smiles at the memory of a small boy in the bus queue that morning, who'd watched wide-eyed as Tom held the delicate paper between two fingers, dragged a dozen shreds of tobacco into the waiting channel, and like the cleverest machine ever, rolled one perfect cigarette with less effort than another man might extract a ready-made straight from the packet. Not exactly a worthy skill, he decides, licking the gummed paper. You'd never make Prime Minister with a hand-rolling talent.



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