Rusting gates and potted bay trees, bin lids and flattened multi packs. Jane cast her eyes along the street, catching little glimpses of other worlds through half pulled curtains; the flicker of televisions, of satellite dishes and roof tiles of guttering and skylights. The hustle and bustle, the grind of the day bidding a swift retreat along with the daylight. The silence was calming. Then the silence became a hum. The hum became louder. The four horseman of the apocalypse came screeching to a halt in a dusky grey hatchback at the gates of 36 Casper Avenue.
Jane Darcy is a thirty six year old, successful, independent ‘could have done better’ type of woman. Standing 5’5 in stocking feet and depending on what day of the week it is, somewhere between a Stella McCartney 12 and an M & S 10. Shoulder length hair in a delicate bob, bottled blonde and expensively highlighted. As for work, her CV’s impressive. Her portfolios solid and built on professionalism and hard work. An A plus as far as CV’s go.
However, reality is written on slightly different paper and known to no-one but Jane and her feline housemate, she was a chartered surveyor by accident rather than design. Two deaths, an elopement and a failure to get into RADA had given Jane her current career. Her dress size was solely dependent on the state of her love life and actually hit a 14 more often than it did a 10. As for being between relationships, the last great relationship Jane had was back in college, with Richard Brown. He lived across the road from her parents and could whistle the theme tune to Star Wars with his braces.
Jane was struck dumb. For in the back of the now stationary hatchback, almost horizontal and with her skirt wedged two inches above her knicker line, her mother Veronica’s hefty buttock was attached to the rear car window. Ordinarily Jane would have been mortified, in fact ordinarily she would have sold her house, left the area and moved to an outback shearing post in Alice Springs. But alas, she could only straighten, count to ten, gulp in a lung full of air and hastily run for the door.
“Mum, are you alright” she panted, giving a quick tug to the back of her mother’s skirt and releasing it from the crotch of her American Tans.
“Fine, fine, don’t fuss, pay Gerry will you dear”,
“Gerry, who the hell is Gerry?” snapped Jane, as she struggled with the four large Louis Vuitton cases and the matching weekender still pinning her mother in the back of the car.
“The driver of course, and don’t forget that cream Gerry, it worked wonders for me” Veronica sang as she sashayed towards the house empty handed.
Jane dropped the weekender. Then the first case, then the second, “Shit, shit, shit what have I done?”
“Be careful Jane, they’re not your buy one get one free specials you know”.
Thankfully for Veronica, the look of hostility spreading across her daughter’s face was quickly washed away by the four foot spray that soaked her from the passing car. Sodden and £50 lighter Jane followed her mother into the house.
Stepping into the Victorian hall way, Jane stopped and waited. Drenched and dripping onto the floor tiles she took a few seconds to focus. The entrance hall was her favourite part of the house, the geometric patterned tiles sang of bygone days of grandeur and romance, of visitors and expectations. She was still clutching the matching luggage as she listened to the clatter of Veronica in the other room. Jane felt she wasn’t the only one adjusting to Veronica’s presence, she could sense the house adjusting itself as well. Sometimes when she came in from work or from town, she wondered if she caught the house off guard, had there been ghosts running through the rooms; did they slip back reluctantly into the walls when they heard the key in the door. Little pockets of time, perhaps snippets of previous inhabitants preserved in dusty corners.
Although it wasn’t the dead that were striking fear into Jane’s very core at that moment, it was the shrill cry of horror that came from the kitchen as the cat lunged at Veronica’s head, knocking her wig flying across the unemptied dishwater.
“Quick Jane, grab my hair, oh my hair, my beautiful hair” sobbed Veronica as she feverishly waved a fur cuffed arm back and forth across the sink.
Within seconds Jane had dropped the cases, sprinted across the lounge and hurled herself towards the carnage. With the reflex of a gazelle, a very dormant reflex until now, she launched herself at the floating tangle that was once ‘Autumn Divine’. However what the gazelle failed to notice, was the cat litter tray underneath the breakfast bar. Her foot hit the tray, the tray took flight and Jane came crashing to the floor, taking her sobbing mother with her. The two women landed in a heap against the washing machine door, Jane’s arm lying like an oversized comb-over across Veronica’s bald head. She started to laugh. Not a small chuckle, or even a giggle but a full bellied, lung bursting cackle. She turned to her mother and covered her mouth trying to control the explosion. But when she looked over, she saw Veronica laughing as well, really laughing.
The two women watched as the cat suddenly reappeared then made a grab for the sodden wig and disappeared in a haze of dripping nylon through the cat flap.
Life sometimes throws us a curve ball but it’s the little pockets of laughter that alter the pitch.