The Discord – James Heath

The kitchen was the worst. The appliances stood dormant, having not been used since his mother’s death and presumably not for the many months before that when she had waited for her end. Bread crumbs covered the surface and had accumulated in little drifts against the edges of the tiles. The house had never been tidy but the disorder that remained seemed to throw light onto her lonely life, which he had been too afraid to embrace when she had still been able to share it. Had this room ever held the joy and laughter that he sometimes let himself believe? He didn’t think so.

The first thing to go had been pride in herself, swiftly followed with a letting go of all responsibility to anyone and anything. Sporadic contact from his sister had described in detail how both she and the house had descended into squalor. Memories and emotions covered in dust, broken and beyond repair.

He ran his hand across the table. The grime and grease stuck to the tips of his fingers and disgusted him.He rifled through the pile of letters dumped on the table knowing already that there would be nothing of interest. Nothing personal. No consolation. No explanation. No insight. Nothing but catalogues, junk mail and demanding letters from the bank. Furtive enquiries into what she planned to do about the rapidly accumulating debt.

As he walked through to the living room he caught a sight of himself in the mirror moving as quietly as possible, knowing that to make noise with heavy footsteps was to announce his arrival. He wanted nothing more than to come and empty the house of his mother’s belongings, find what he had come for and to leave, never to come back. Of course, it couldn’t ever be like that. This had been his home. And she had been his mother.

The broken piano which hulked in the corner was testament of a life not lived. Nobody had ever learned to play it. What had been its purpose? When he was a child it had just been a reminder of how others lived. There had never been piano lessons. It was a monument to the aspiration his parents must have had at one time but long since forgotten in the chaos and dark desperation that had come to sweep over them all.

He carefully pulled open the drawer to the bureau and gingerly lifted out the dusty green family bible. This had been the only heirloom that anyone had made claim to. She had proudly told them of its passing from mother to daughter over the generations. She had not been a woman of any religious conviction but it had been a source of great pride to her. A solid reminder of all that had come before. A tangible solid link between people who had never been able to talk to each other. But it wasn’t what he had come for.

There it was, resting on the floral bottom of the drawer, where he knew it would be.

The photograph.

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