Andrew knew the first time he opened the box that it would lead to no good. But he did it anyway. He couldn’t help it.
Tuesday 20 May 2014
Just a crack, he thought. But that was enough. It came straight at him like a sneeze. Wet and vapour-like in his mouth, up his nose. Like a brain-freeze but hot. No cold. No, it was hot. Nebulous. Bilious.
Was it searching? Andrew felt it, but it was someone else hopping on one foot. Pandora had come. Pandora would soon leave.
Eyes closed. A motif. Filigree. Blackened. Engraved from memory. He ran his finger along the pattern … sensed the relief.
He thought it would all be a dream. It wasn’t. Life’s never that easy. He knew that but hoped each day would prove different. He’d remember what his grandfather told him about polishing shoes.
He’d remember the brushes, one for each colour. He’d search for the shoebox in his mind. In the garage? No. Under the sink? No. Where the money was kept? No? With the unpacked books? No. Under the BBQ? Of course it was under the BBQ.
He’d remember grandfather’s house; weatherboards, metalwork on the veranda, creeping vines, chirping cicadas … He’d remember silky hair … a feint smell of tonic and 4711. He’d remember bran flakes and apple. He’d remember kind words, the look of pride … some disappointment.
Buses come and go but never his. That’s the way it is … and maybe was. His fingernails need cleaning. That much he knew. No-one notices anymore, he thought. Shoes, people notice.
Mothers turn their children to face the other way. But they always turn back and stare. Pull a face and they laugh. That’s nice.
Work disappears when you close your eyes. So Andrew thought.
It’s just steps. Open the drawer. Take paperclips. Spread under the desk. Close the office door. Pretend to be gathering them up. Lay down. Close your eyes. Dream about the box … see yourself opening it … feel the hot-cold … It’s just steps. Turn the latch. Crack the lid. Open just a smidgeon … No!
It’s just steps. Choose a rag. Smear the polish. Rub into the shoe. Wait to dry. Take the right coloured brush. One hand in a shoe … a brush in the other … smell the hair tonic …
Surely someone will find him under there …
This story is taken from Mr Melisma, please, Christian Nielsen’s debut collection of short fiction. You can order your copy from Amazon