Cathriona Slammon is a fiction writer from the west of Ireland. Having completed an MA she has since completed a novel and a series of short-stories. Her work has been long-listed for prizes including the Fish International Short Story Prize and the Flash 500 quarterly prize.
By Cathriona Slammon
Silence would surround them. The house would be empty, everyone gone, television turned off. There would be a coldness to begin with, the inbred coldness of the house itself, but then a heat would be sensed, a kind of friction that generated warmth between them, and even though it wasn’t real, it would take away the feeling of coldness and they wouldn’t complain of it.
There would be tea, of course. Pale, sweetened mugs of the stuff, and they would slurp it just once and let the rest go cold until they thirsted for it again and the kettle would be re-boiled. The whistling of the kettle would be music to their words, the steam a kind of mist to immerse themselves in and veil the walls of the kitchen.
There would also be lists. This time they would have a pen and paper. The paper would be a page ripped from a child’s copybook and then, when that was full of lines and loops, there would be a cereal box torn into two jagged pieces of cardboard, and despite the crudeness of it there would be a feeling of significance that the page was unusual and thick, that whatever they wrote on it must mean something, that it must not be empty.
There would be hope in the moment. Optimism too. Their words would come slowly to begin with, hesitantly, each waiting for the approval of the other. Once the spirit of the thing was entered into, words would come louder and higher and start to tumble from their mouths so fast that one word would fall on top of another until sentences lost all structure and meaning. And yet, they would each know exactly what the other meant.
They would hit their peak. Every obstacle would be defeated, every goal achieved, every detail described, every move strategised. It would take only an hour, forty-five minutes perhaps. They would wonder why they had never started sooner, why they had lived so long without trying to make something of themselves when all it took was an idea and a quiet house and an hour-long talk and a friend to take on the challenge with. They would laugh at themselves and laugh with relief that everything was finally about to change.
By the end, there would be murky rings on the table and cups half-filled. The house would be itself again, full, not of their words anymore, but of everything they would have resolved to fix. There would be voices other than their own, needy voices that would take some of their spirit away immediately, but still they would look at each other sideways and silently communicate that they had their plan, that this would not last and thank God for the fact.
And somewhere between the kitchen and the front door, along the linoleum and its squares of brown and beige and brown and beige, they would remember that the house would always be a cold one, that the plan would never leave the cardboard and that this was the way it would be for them forever.