There is a fight on the pavement outside. Shouting, swearing, pushing, polo shirts stretched tight over beer guts, the full show. The confrontation is fuelled by alcohol, the participants’ attention on each other rather than the overlooking windows. The fisticuffs, however, are not where your attention should be. Take a step back from the window. What do you see? Frost creeping up in between the double glazing where the seal has blown. The dried husks of a few flies littering the windowsill.
Further back, to where black mould is creeping down from the ceiling and onto the wall above the window. The vinyl has started to peel and yellow. Scroll back again, and the source of the groaning sound you’ve been hearing becomes clear. A refrigerator is losing its battle against the still-cold air; the shuddering and whining have an end-of-life quality to them. There is a pool of brown liquid underneath the door whose provenance it is probably best not to investigate.
Look around to where bills, pizza fliers, and letters from the DSS are forming a second floor underneath the front door. Junk mail parquet. The clothes on the hallway radiator are crispy. Start towards the door now. Turn back to the kitchen window. There are pictures on the walls of births and weddings, all framed in pine and mahogany and the same feathery layer of dust that coats everything. It lies on the one-hob cooker. It lies on the dishes on the draining board. If it weren’t for the light throwing the armchair into shadow, you would probably see it covering the leather upholstery. There is only the chair back’s silhouette against the wan light, however, that and the outline of a hand on one of the armrests. One slipper is visible on the carpet, tucked in close. The back of the chair hides the rest.
The flat is too small to pan out any further, but no matter. We have seen where the true story lies – in between the windowpanes, at the edges of the picture.
Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is a doctoral student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.
Not necessarily in that order