The Poet’s House

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Arianie had only one thing on her mind as they pulled up behind the abandoned house and that was books; what condition would they be in? Could any be saved? Even good enough to sell?

Her boyfriend, Lex, turned the van’s engine off, satisfied they were hidden from view. Lex and his three friends; Tyler, Evan and Rhys got out and scouted around making sure no one else was about.

Opening the car door to let some cold air in, Arianie listened to the birds chirping, distant traffic and footsteps in the overgrown garden. She looked at the house which from the back looked fine at first glance. Closer though, masses of cobwebs could be seen in the windows, the net curtains were colored by age and dirt, just like the windows and was the back door slightly ajar?

Bored of waiting, Arianie got out, tightened the pony tail she had twisted her dark brown hair into and walked across the long, damp grass in her borrowed safety working boots. Not sure and not caring where the boys had gone, Arianie walked up onto a decking area which was tumbling away from the house.

Someone had smashed a pane of glass in the back door and used it to break in.

Putting on black gloves, from the pocket of an old winter coat that was so last season,  Arianie pulled open the door and cringed at the piercing shrike the rusted hinges let out. Her eyes shut as she yanked the door all the way open then she peered inside.

‘Arianie!’ Lex’s voice called.

‘I just want to get it over with!’ she snapped back.

‘You know the rules.’

She muttered something under her breath as Lex joined her on the decking. He nudged his way passed and stepped into the house, shouting, ‘Hello! Anyone here?’

Arianie followed him into a small room that was like a back porch area. There were mud encrusted boots on bristled mats, worn coats on hooks, bits and pieces on the shelves and a stopped clock on the wall. There was also a smell, that was hard to identity but it was a mix of dust, mold, rotting things and wet dog.

Wrinkling her nose and pressing the sleeve of her coat to her face, Arianie walked on and into a kitchen. Ignoring this room, she stepped through an open door and into a hallway.

Lex’s voice was echoing through the rooms and from behind her Arianie could hear the others coming in.

She walked through a dining room, a living room, and a front room, noticing things the men might take. The house was full of stuff and a thick layer of dust and cobwebs covered everything.

As she walked and looked for books, Arianie recalled what Rhys had said about the place. It had belong to a poet, though she had never heard the name before, he had died ten years ago and nobody had come forward for his body or estate. That was why the house was perfect target for them; lots of items to steal.

Lex came downstairs, shouting the coast was clear.

Arianie went into the hall to meet him, feeling like her allergies were starting up though she had double dosed antihistamine.

‘There’s a room upstairs just for you,’ Lex said in a low sexy voice.

Arianie pulled a face but couldn’t hide her building excitement.

Letting Lex take her upstairs and into a back bedroom converted into a study-library, Arianie found her slice of heaven.

There were floor to ceiling bookcases on all the walls which were only broken up by the door and window. Books, untouched for years crowded the shelves. There was a desk by the window, with a high leather chair and in the opposite left corner a matching arm chair that had a small table beside it.

‘Get to work,’ Lex spoke, giving Arianie’s bum a pat as he left.

Any other time she would have told him off for that but words at the moment failed her.

Slowly, walking into the room, Arianie began with the books not on the shelves; those that were on the tables or floor. Strangely, she had always been a big reader but today it was values that drew her more. Her granddad had been a rare book dealer and he had filled her head with knowledge Arianie had always deemed useless. That was until she had met Lex and got in on his ‘second hand business’.

There was never enough time on these kind of jobs, so she hurried through as much as she could. By the open door, Arianie stacked books she thought could be sellable and left others where she dropped them.

From time to time, Lex or one of the others would come and take the books away. Arianie could hear them going through the rooms, opening things and scattering everything. The poet might not have been rich but like everyone else he had things other people would pay for.

Arianie knew she would never make it through all the books in the room. So, once she had figured out if and what the system was in place to order them by, she moved quickly through the subjects.

The poet had liked classics, mythology, legends, history, old fashioned romance and poetry.

Taking down a volume of Shakespeare and seeing it in good condition, Arianie pulled out everything by the playwright and stacked it in the doorway.

‘Shakespeare always sells,’ Arianie muttered, echoing her granddad’s words to her once.

There were other people who sold well too and she was quick to find and pull out those names too.

‘No more now,’ Lex said from the doorway.

Arianie turned to him with books of War poetry in her hands.

‘Shame,’ she replied.

Checking she had all the War poetry books, Arianie quickly scanned the rest of the shelves just in case a hidden gem stuck out. It had a few abandoned places back, when she had found an first edition and signed Peter Rabbit book.

Nothing at first but then next to the desk was a section of books that seemed different. Arianie pulled them out and saw they were the poet’s published works. Maybe, no one would buy them but it was worth a shot. She added them to the pile in her hand then left them balanced on the desk whilst she looked through the draws.

Lex and his friends would never forgive her if something was missed. She might specialize in books but she also had a duty to find anything of value.

The desk was empty, just old letters, papers, stationary that weren’t worthy. Collecting the books, she went downstairs and outside into the cold air. It was growing dark which meant the raid was coming to an end.

Arianie walked to the van and saw the back double doors open. Inside were stacked a few small tables and chairs, a tall lamp, cardboard and plastic boxes which contained more breakable things and all the books she had selected.

A cold blow of air made shivers run up her spine despite the protection of her coat.  Arianie walked around and opened the passenger door of the van. She put the books into the foot well then climbed in. She closed the door and was glad that there was a separation between the back seats and the loading section of the van.

Picking up one of the poet’s own books, she sat reading, whilst the men finished the job then shut the van doors. Rhys, Tyler and Evan got into the back seats and Lex climbed into the front. Someone passed the beer cans around and they sat drinking and chilling.

‘What you got there?’ Lex asked Arianie.

‘Just one of the poet’s books,’ she answered and give a small shrug.

‘He any good?’ Rhys laughed from the back.

‘Maybe. We’ll see how much we get for him,’ Arianie responded, ‘can we go now?’

‘Sure,’ Lex said.

He started the van up, gulped down the rest of his beer and threw the can out of the window.

They drove out of the hiding place and back onto the road, mixing in with the traffic as if they were normal people heading for home.

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The Song Of My Soul

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All I want to do today is sit by the window and watch the rain falling outside. I want to listen to the patter of the drops as they hit the roof tops, cars, road and plants. Each sound to it’s own, but all together forming a rhythm that raises above all noise. I want to see the raindrops tumbling from leaves and dripping off. The motion so smooth that it captivates me and my eyes can not turn away. Upon the ground, the rain becomes one again like it was in the clouds. Forming stretching puddles of water that reflect the world. I witness the death of so many raindrops that I feel saddened, but in my soul I know they will soon come again.

The Pineapple Journals

She watched the reflection of the hedge in the soaking grill tray on the window sill. The soap foam on top of the water had gathered together to look like frogspawn in the corners of the tray.

‘I thought you were cutting the hedge?’ she called out.

‘I was,’ he replied from the hallway, ‘but Z is coming around and I need to tidy the study.’

He walked into the kitchen and began to eat the bacon sandwich she had made. He stood beside her, leaning on the kitchen counter and together they watched the soap bubbles pop in the grill tray.

‘I’m showing him my poems,’ he started.

‘Ah, the mysterious poems…’ She placed her brunch down and went to tickle him, ‘When do I get to see them?’

‘Soon!’ he half shouted as he dodged her attack.

‘Before you publish them I hope!’

‘Of course! Thanks for the sandwich.’

He kissed her forehead and left the kitchen.

She listened to him go, with his bare feet slapping on the steps leading up to the attic and then the door clicking into place.

Sighing, she went to the sink and ran the hot tap. It took a few minutes for the water to get hot, so she watched the reflection of the hedge once more. It was swaying in the wind this time. The large leaves moving on their branches to a rhythm only they could hear.

She washed her plate, the scissors and the knife first and then lifted the grill tray from the window sill. The image of the hedge vanished as the grill tray plunged into the soapy water.

She scrubbed it clean and then left the tray on the drying rack with the other things. She went to tip the water out of the bowl, but the shrill ringing of the phone cut in. She let the bowl slip back into the sink and went to answer the phone.

‘Hello? Oh, hi Z…yes he is….well, he’s in his study right now…yes…yes…okay, I’ll let him know…Sandwiches? Salmon paste only? Right…I’ll prepare them…How did you know? I always make a cake on Sunday…Three? That should be fine. I’ll let him know. All right. Bye Z.’

Smiling, she placed the phone down and then ran up the stairs. Just before the attic steps, she paused and grabbed the edges of her skirt up. The steps still had the appearance of being new and you could make out the grey nails poking up from the wood. He said he would paint them….

She knocked and then stuck her head around the door.

‘Z is coming at three,’ she called out.

When he did not reply she entered the room. He had converted the attic into a study last year. He had spent hours relaying the floor boards and painting the walls. To her eyes it still looked new, through as she wondered in deeper, it became clearer that the study was in full time use.

‘Hi? Are you still in here?’

She looked into the dark spaces along the back wall, where their old sofa still sat and her great-grandma’s rocking chair was beside it. On her left was his desk and two chairs on either side. His computer was humming loudly and she could hear the fan whirling around.              She nipped behind the desk and woke the computer up.

‘Boo!’

She screamed, spinning around and almost falling on to the desk.

He burst into laughter, ‘I so got you! Your face!’

She placed a hand on her heart and slowed her fast breathing, ‘Don’t do that!’

‘Sorry.’

She waved his open hands away and stepped out from behind the desk.

He placed his book down and went to her.

‘Forgive me, I just couldn’t help it and you were trying to sneak-peek at my poems!’

She drifted to the window and opened it. He followed her and then wrapped his arms around her waist.

‘Z is coming at three,’ she spoke.

‘Ah, then we still have time…’

‘Time for what?’

‘For this!’

He grabbed her, scooping her up into his arms, as she burst into playful screams. She lightly hit his head, but he ignored her.

‘Put me down!’ she cried.

He stumbled on the edge of a rug and nearly threw her on to the sofa. They both burst into laughter, as he climbed on top of her.

‘My heart went then,’ she giggled.

‘Mine too…’ he whispered and started to kiss her neck.

They made love on the sofa and after she fell asleep in his arms.

‘It’s nearly two….’ he muttered into her ear.

‘What?’

‘Two. It’s nearly two o’clock. You said Z was coming at three.’

‘Oh my gosh! The cake!’ she cried, sprang up from the sofa and rushing to the door.

‘Honey! You might want to put some clothes on first…’

‘Oh my!’

She darted back and began to pull on her underwear. He burst into laughter and then she threw his trousers on to his face.

‘You better get dressed too!’ she snapped.

‘Yes, I’ve to prepare my poems.’

She pulled on her skirt and blouse, doing the buttons up as she went across the room. Opening the door, she hurried down to the kitchen. There she got everything out to prepare the salmon paste sandwiches and the cake, whilst he prepared his poems.

*

 Z arrived just as the clock in the living room chimed the hour. She went to the door to let him in, the smell of just baked cake following her.

‘Z, it’s nice to see you again.’

‘You too,’ he replied.

She let him in and Z took off his black jacket and hat.

‘Smells good.’

‘I hope it tastes good too,’ she replied.

‘I’m sure it will,’ he said, kissing her on her cheek, ‘Is he around then?’

‘He’s in the study. Go up.’

‘Thanks,’ and he went up the stairs

She went back into the kitchen and moments she later was climbing the two flights of stairs with a tray. The study door had been wedged open, with a triangle piece of wood that had once been used to stop their car from rolling off the sloping driveway.

‘Sandwiches, tea and cake,’ she said.

‘Looks good,’ he said and began to clear the desk.

She set the tray down, added some milk into the cups and then poured the tea out.

He had brought the rocking chair up to the side of the desk, so that she could sit down beside him once she was done sorting things out.

‘So, how have things been?’ Z asked.

‘Good,’ she replied. ‘I’ve been trying to hold things down…’

‘I’m sorry. I will cut the hedge back soon and paint the stairs. Just the poems….’ he replied.

‘I know, I know. We have to buy bread somehow….’

‘Did you not use to make your own?’ Z inquired.

‘I still do! Here try a sandwich.’

She handed the plate to him and Z took one of the small triangle shapes.

‘So what do you think?’ he asked.

‘The poems are good, your best yet I think.’

‘Well, that’s good news.’

He sipped his tea and eyed a slice of cake.

‘Here,’ she said, ‘you always were one to have pudding first.’

They laughed and then the conversation took a strange turn.

‘So there’s still no pitter-patter of tiny feet around here then?’ Z asked.

They did not reply, but looked away from each other and their guest.

‘That would be great for the article you know……’

‘But you could just write it without,’ she said, ‘I’m sure people will think it wrong of us…’

‘They’d find it shocking! An eccentric poet, his wife and their new born child living like peasants in this day and age?’ he joined in.

‘Well….I wouldn’t say peasants…..you are rich! Have you seen the sales for your last collection? They’ve gone through the roof!’ Z said, waving his arms around.

‘So? I don’t want the money.’

Z opened his mouth and then shut it quickly.

‘You might not want it, but we do need it,’ she said.

‘I’m sorry,’ he replied.

‘Yes, we can’t be completely self-sufficient, you know.’

‘I see,’ Z cut in, ‘Can I try the cake, please?’

‘Sure.’

Whilst Z tucked in, she eyed her husband. He was typing on the computer, his cup of tea resting on a pile of books beside him.

‘It wasn’t as if we didn’t want one,’ she said breaking the silence.

‘One?’ he asked.

‘A baby.’

‘It’s natural of course,’ Z joined in.

‘We tried…’ he said slowly.

‘Have been for a whole year now!’ she snapped and stood up.

‘Ah…I’m sorry,’ Z replied and finished his cake.

She began to gather the things up and put them back on the tray.

‘That was great, honey….’ he said.

She picked up the tray and left the room. The door slammed behind her.

‘Something I said?’

‘The baby thing,’ he sighed, ‘I just don’t know why we can’t…..’

‘Ah,’ Z said, ‘I put myself in it again, didn’t I?’

He nodded his head, ‘But you are a dear old friend and I’m sure she’ll forgive you.’

‘I hope so……back to the poems then?’

*

   She was sit outside, reading a book of his poetry. The chickens were clucking and wondering around at the bottom of the garden. The other side had been dug up and spilt into squares and the beginning of green shoots could be seen poking up from the earth.

She heard the front door slam and the gate creaking open. She turned the page and began to read the next poem. She knew the words on the page well. She had seen these poems develop and form a life of their own. She knew all the hidden things that lurked in-between the lines and the words that were not written, but still needed to be read.

‘Honey?’

The back door opened and he came out.

‘Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine…’ she replied.

She looked up at him and saw the worry lines deepen across his face. He took the other chair.

‘You know what Z is like……I’ll tell him to keep his mouth shut next time.’

‘It’s all right,’ she sighed.

‘Why don’t we go in, now?’

He stood up, but she turned her head and looked over at the hedge which was growing wildly and looking like a plant from Little Shop of Horrors.

‘I’ll do the hedge soon,’ he said.

She stood up, picking up the book and went to him.

‘Are the new poems like these?’ she asked.

‘Similar. You can see them tomorrow if you like…’

She reached up to kiss him on the lips.

*

‘The Pineapple Journals?’

She looked up at him, as the sun poured into the attic. He was lying across the sofa, looking at the roof beams. She was sitting in front of the computer, looking at the title page to his new collection of poems.

‘Yes…..Read the first one, it explains everything,’ he pointed out.

She scrolled down and began to read the poem.

‘I was thinking,’ he said suddenly, ‘we should plant pumpkins.’

‘Pumpkins?’

‘On the allotment…’

‘I want a baby,’ she sighed.

‘Ah…’

She looked up from the screen at him and he seemed to be frozen in place on the sofa, staring across at her.

‘Well, maybe we could try again?’ he grinned.

She smiled softly and laughing, went to him. He stood up and they hugged.

‘When the poems get published we’ll have enough money to build a nursery.’

She nodded her head and kissed him.

‘And Z will finally be able to write his article for his magazine.’

She laughed again and he squeezed her tightly.

‘Still though…we should plant those pumpkins first…’

‘You and your pumpkins,’ she sighed and patted his cheek, ‘Next you’ll be asking to plant pineapples!’

Note

On the desk before him was a leather notebook, a small white dice and a handgun. Resting his head on his hands, he thought over again what he was going to write down. Then taking a pen, he flipped to a random empty page in the notebook and began writing. He let the words fill the page without pausing or double checking his spelling. He just needed them out of his head and to see them on the page.

We don’t always grasp what is important.

We loss so many moments and don’t realise.

We go through life on rolls of chance dices.

We think that’s the way it should be, but really,

It never has been, just like I shouldn’t have been.

 Once done, he set the pen down and picked up the dice, which he played around with. He re-read what he had put and decided it would do, because he knew he’d never be able to write all of his thoughts and feelings down. With his other hand, he grabbed the gun and put it to the side of his head. He pressed the trigger and the dice rolled out of his hand into a small mouse hole in the wall.