Memories unravel like a dozen balls of string – threads of laughter, hot cookies, Grandma’s hugs, haughty cats, the scent of fresh-mown grass. I’d always hoped to restore the house but life intervened and I let it out as a rental property. Then a bus lost control and crashed into the left front, causing fatal damage.
I walk across to the demolition crew and a tousle-headed man greets me.
“Hi, Mr Addison. How’re you doing this morning?”
I gaze at the house, a shell with sagging boards and faded paint, repository of a million memories. “Is it safe to go in?” I ask, “I’d like to have one last look around.”
The wrecker nods, “I can’t stop you but be careful where you step ... and don’t go into the damaged areas.”
The front door teeters on one hinge, the knob tarnished and dull. I head towards the stairs and climb up, each tread creaking and groaning in protest. In my dreams last night, I remembered hiding something in my room when I was a boy. Curiosity and a dose of sentimentalism brought me here this morning.
My room is stained and wallpaper peels in yellowed sheets. A deep sigh escapes. Grandma would have been sad to see it like this. When I visited in school holidays, my room was always freshly laundered with crisp sheets and fragrant curtains. Grandma was a legend in the area and I was proud of her.
Dank air pools around my ankles as I pad across the mouldy carpet. In places it has completely rotted away, revealing a blackened layer of underfelt. I kneel down in the corner of the room and pull the corner of the mat up, causing a flurry of insects.
The boards look as though they haven’t been touched in years. I run my fingers along the grooves and jiggle swollen wood, fat with years of neglect. Nothing moves so I open my pocket knife and wiggle some more.
The cavity is damp and my eyes search the darkness. The box is there, just as I’d hoped. I pull it out with gentle hands, feeling it crumble, soft with decay.
“You okay in there, Mr Addison?”
“I won’t be long,” I yell back.
I slide the lid open and probe inside, thoughts racing. It must be forty-five years since I last looked in the box. The cloth wrapping falls apart in my hands and the contents spill; a dozen glass marbles with swirls of green and orange and yellow, a cellophane-wrapped photo of myself and grandma, and a rusty old compass.
“These will be valuable when I’m old, Grandma. I’m going to hide them.” My words come back to me as I gather the marbles, cool in my palm, glistening and gleaming. I tuck them in my pocket along with the other items and walk slowly down the stairs and out of the house.
A few minutes later, the demolition crew strike the first blow and kids in the street shout with glee as timbers crack and glass shatters. It’s the end of an era, the end of a dynasty. I rub the marbles in my pocket. These will be valuable when I’m old, Grandma.
A slow smile spreads across my face. I’ve always enjoyed my grandchildren but I’m going to make an even greater effort now. Telling the story of the marbles will be the beginning of a new era.
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