The stairs were narrow and it seemed at first they’d never get their broad shoulders through the gap. Zale, having grabbed one of the miner’s lamps, led the way with the stairs creaking under his weight and his body brushing the side walls. Hali give him a few steps head start before following him. Surprisingly, the staircase held their combined weight and they made it to the top.
A narrow landing led into a large open room, which held two single beds and the brick chimney stack. There was a door in the corner, which Hali remember had a small bathroom. Zale placed the lamp on a bedside table which was between the beds before sitting down on the left bed. Hali cast his eyes around, spotting an old travel trunk on one side of the chimney and a wardrobe on the other.
‘You’ll feel normal after sleeping it off,’ Zale cut in, ‘I know I will.’
Hali watched his brother take off his worn brown boots and shirt. Zale dump them on the floor, added his jeans on top then got into the bed in his underwear. The folding back of the thin duvet and blankets was loud and scratchy in his ears.
‘I’m going to…wash…’ Hali said and moved towards the bathroom.
‘Fine. Here, take the lamp.’
He changed direction, collected the heavy lamp with its gas flame and went into the bathroom. Shutting the door, he held the lamp up and saw that there was only a toilet and a sink. He frowned and wondered why his mind had presented him with a different image, which had shown a bathtub and separate shower. Hali placed the lamp’s handle on a hook that dangled from the ceiling and ran the sink’s tap. There was only cold water.
Gratefully, he splashed the water on his hands and arms. Then noticing a washcloth and soap balanced on the sink’s edge, he stripped off his clothes and washed. After and feeling a lot better, he dried off with the single small towel. Collecting the clothes and the lamp, Hali walked back into the bedroom.
He saw Zale sprawled out in a doze, the small bed really unable to support his tall, muscular frame. He walked passed, put the lamp and his clothes down, then got into the other bed. The bedding felt rough against his skin, but at least it was clean. He had a flash image of Zale doing all the washing and drying whilst he had been away. His brother had to keep everything clean.
Hali smiled at that thought and settled into the bed. He felt tried, but not read for sleep. He looked at the miner’s lamp and noticed a book beside it on the table. Frowning, he reached out and picked up the book. The Odysseus by Homer. I was reading this, he thought and began turning the pages. He couldn’t remember where he had gotten to, so after a few moments he started at the beginning.
A few minutes later, the sounds of Zale rolling over brought his eyes up and Hali watched his brother settle down again. He bent the page corner down and closed the book. Outside, he could hear the trees creaking in the wind but nothing more. He placed the book back and turned off the lamp.
To Be Continued…