Short Story Category: 5 Minutes
I have been sitting with the light out for the past hour. My television is on but the sound is down. The girl’s bedroom is opposite my own. Her blinds are not closed and everything is lit up. She is on the bed, watching TV and painting her toe nails, white cotton balls between each, lovely toe. Her mum is a wheelchair user. For two hours this afternoon the girl left her in the garden, with a tartan blanket over her knees.
Through the wall, cackling. I know that laugh. My dad is probably trying to have sex with mum again. I have one cigarette left at the bottom of the sock drawer. I keep a hand over the match and light up, leaning out of the window as I do so. If the girl spots me, I’ll pretend not to be looking.
As I take my second drag on the cigarette, dad bursts through the door; doesn’t give me time to throw it to the ground.
‘Put that out before I smack you one.’
Dad was once a featherweight boxer. He retired when I was born, to box my ears instead.
He looks around my room, ‘Get your shoes,’ he says. ‘I think tonight’s the night.’
We walk up the road, towards the allotments. I can hear loose coins in his trouser pocket.
‘We’ll need some luck, but I have a feeling about tonight.’
Dad has been saying this for the past three nights. Someone, he claims, has been sabotaging his prize-winning vegetables; wrecking his modest plot, by letting moles free on his ground. He mistrusts his fellow allotment users. He suspects everyone. He even accused me recently.
‘When I catch the bastard,’ he says, ‘I’ll kill him.’
He unlocks the shed, points me to his fishing stool in the corner. Then he relights the cigarette I barely touched, flicks the ash into his palm when he needs to, and stares out the plastic-sheeted window.
‘I mean it, I really think tonight’s the night.’
He looks down at me, my eyes have adjusted, I see him grin, sort of.
I tell him about our neighbour leaving her mother outside.
‘If you had yourself a part-time job like other students, you wouldn’t have bloody time to spy on folk.’
I pick up the hammer I left on the floor last night, spin it in the air for something to do. Smoke fills the shed, I badly need a drag. Sitting here in the dark with a man I have nothing in common with, these moments go on forever.
‘Bingo,’ says dad and I drop the hammer.
He stamps on the cigarette, I stand up, very slowly.
Headlights appear above the hedgerows.
‘Here we bloody go, don’t get too close to the window.’
The main headlights have gone out but not the side lights. A very tall man is taking something from the back of the car.
‘Is that him?’ I whisper.
The man walks down the slabbed path of our allotment, towards us.
‘Don’t let him bloody see you,’ hisses dad.
I put a hand on his shoulder, try to ask something, but my mouth is covered by his nicotine stained fingers.
The man comes right past our shed, wearing a cap, carrying a large box. Dad still hasn’t moved. He glances at his watch. I don’t know why, he can’t see the time in the dark.
‘He’s tipping that box upside down,’ I say into his ear.
Dark shapes the size of potatoes fall to the ground.
‘Moles,’ he explains.
I’m sick to my stomach, waiting for dad to make his move, anticipating the moment when he will spring from our hiding place and ‘kill the bastard’.
But the man finishes, heads back to his car, swaying as though drunk.
‘Dad,’ I say. ‘Quick, go ahead or you’ll miss him.’
‘Shut up,’ he snaps.
We stay in the shed until the man has driven away. I’m embarrassed, being here to witness my dad do nothing.
He is out of breath before we get home. In the kitchen I fetch him an angina pill and a glass of water. I take my time getting ready for bed, making sure he’s okay. I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth. I rinse, spit into the sink, feel a breeze on the back of my neck as dad goes to my mother, hearing the spring in the handle as their door shuts.
My TV is still on, a woman in a tight dress is spinning a roulette wheel. I go to the window; the girl’s bedroom blinds are closed.
‘Moles,’ I hear dad telling mum. ‘Moles.’
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