School: George Watson’s College, Edinburgh
The weeds itch me, as they clamber up the walls framing my windows. The old man is outside, wedging plants into old wellingtons. He has left the beans cooking on the stove, I notice, I hope he remembers. My heart pounds encased in the grandfather clock, the ornate frame wrapped in a knitted scarf. The old man gave it to me so my heart would be warm. My furniture ripples gently replicating the sea, waves crash and curdle like lumpy porridge.
A storm is coming, I can tell.
An odour of mashed potato and disinfectant loiters among the corridors. The polished corridors are punctuated by neon signs warning people not to slip as the floor appears coated in Vaseline. Caretakers drive bedraggled broom heads along the surface and lunch ladies trundle around pushing trolleys which squeak indignantly. “Mr Malinkeys house is falling into the sea,” Mr Sanders announced to the committee. “However he is adamant that he should stay.” A rather stout lady dunked a custard cream into her tea and shook her head sadly. The meeting ended shortly after and staff dispersed, although there was no resolution.
In the living room many elderly residents sat enveloped in comfy armchairs stirring lukewarm macaroni around their plates. Others dozed, mouths sagging open displaying strands of dental floss. A piano sat dejectedly in the corner wedged between blood pressure machines which trailed wires across the varnished floor, like snakes. Broccoli and tuna soup was ladled out by lunch ladies, they wore ugly hats, like starched seagulls. Peeling posters were tacked up against the speckled walls in a vain attempt to excite the residents. ‘Woodlands Old Folks Home; a caring environment for elderly citizens.’
The radio burbled away in the corner, “And now Johnnie has the weather.”
“A storm brewing in the West of Queenspray bay.” Johnnie announced. Mrs Docherty’s brow crumpled in distaste at the news. “Poor old Mr Malinkey’s house might not survive this one.” She exclaimed to a nearby carer waving her knitting needles to emphasize her point. She had been friends with the old man for a while, he was a stubborn old gentleman. Always had been, always would be.
The sea heaved violently, sending surf tumbling among empty lobster pots. The sky threatened to splinter under the heavy burden of clouds. Fronds of seaweed clutched at the fragmented shells, tearing grainy sand tumbling into the swirling depths. My furniture sent up droplets of spray within the wood, the old man bumbled around the house stroking the distressed furniture. Trees stood like hunchback men, wind snagging at branches. The wind howled, banshees skittering across the sea. I can’t fall into the sea. I can’t let him down.
The next day Woodlands Old Folks Home had a new resident.
“We know the house meant a lot to you Mr Malinkey…” Mr Sanders murmured sympathetically. The old man adjusted his fisherman’s hood and nodded gently. Furrowing his brow, a tear glittered on his cheek, a droplet of water on a crumpled sail. He glared sullenly at the watery mince embedded in a grainy mashed potato. “Tastes like sand,” he retorted, his jaw grinding on the food.
He sat slumped into the armchair surveying the scene, the sea licked the shore, recoiling and advancing as it nibbled at the sand. Biting into a large digestive he sighed, the stale biscuit splitting into the tea and floating away into the murky depths.
I sigh gently, as waves reduce my bricks into a crumbling paste. Large stone slabs floated along the sea, tugged by the current.