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May 29, 2023


By Ian C. Smith


My son designs inexpensive compact dwellings for those without a cat to swing. An alternative style is prefabricated, reminding me of the house we moved into after the war when I was eight. A domestic Cold War between my ill-matched parents continued after we survived the bombing raids.

In bed with my golliwog, floppy rabbit, teddy, several others, I insisted my door be left ajar so I could hear voices, follow headlights of cars semaphoring walls. Since our move a fear of dying in my sleep, a phrase overheard, shrouded my thoughts nearing bedtime which I delayed, keeping my morbid fear secret, tactics irking my already angry mother who had two other children, and an immature jealous husband, to manage.

With those soft toys, comrades with favourite boys' names, under the bedcovers, I shared a haven, some pocket of an attritional war where a direct strike could obliterate us. When a bomb landed in our district I thrashed the blankets and myself around, then slowly recovered my senses in darkness croaking, Mickey, did you make it? Danny? You OK? We would reach out to each other, safe for now.

My mother, patience still rationed, wanted us all to grow up; wanted my older sister out of school, working, and my little brother to graduate from using his potty before starting school. She once threw it across the room at my father where that potty pinged against our tin wall. I left behind my fear of death via sleep with the air raid siren's mournful rising howl, and my bedfellows. Her edict that I was too old for dolls meant my war veteran buddies were retired to extremely small accommodation, a drawer, never to be seen again.

We retreated from wasted Europe, crossing the sea of battles on the bed of which my mother's sailor brother lay sightless, to a land of my father's dreams where they bought and sold houses, always moving on as if trying to elude echoing consequences, her planting seedling shrubs he mowed down, triggering her residual anger I listened to; where I revisit scenarios now to explain the past, where my son develops unique spaces for odd souls in need of shelter.

Article © Ian C. Smith. All rights reserved.
Published on 2020-06-08
Image(s) are public domain.
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