Upstairs

This is the result of a project for a screenwriting class in my degree. The task was to create a descriptive piece of prose about a memory or image. I chose one of the few memories I have of my Granddad. I’m not entirely sure all if it really happened so I fragmented the sentence structure to mirror my uncertain memory. 

Granny’s living room.

Cold outside but it’s always warm in here. Mums laughing together, dads rubbing their hands together from the cold, dirt on their knees from the veg patch. The smell of a roast fills the room. Lamb today; taters in the oven, mint sauce on the table. No ketchup. Granny never lets you have ketchup. Maybe Granddad will sneak you some again. Your tummy grumbles excitedly. Your brother pinches another sausage roll. You give him a stern look. He wins you over by sneaking you one too.

Daddy and his brothers reminiscing again. “Remember that time we put Mandy in the rain barrel and she couldn’t get out?” Aunty doesn’t look like she found it funny. More laughter and the familiar happy groan as your dad sinks deep into the sofa. There’s a doily under the television that is never on. You really hate that doily. Toys on the carpet as you and your cousins play. Granny’s in the kitchen. An empty armchair.

Then, a sudden thunk from above. Unnatural. It echoes round the room silencing every other sound. Everyone waits, looking upwards. For a creaking floorboard, shuffling of feet, a muffled “damn”, even a groan. Nothing. It is silent. His children jump to the door as one. Your father tells you to “stay here” in that voice that scares you. Then they are gone, Granny charging after them.

You are at the top of the stairs. You can’t remember sneaking up but you’re too scared to go any further so you press your body flat. You peak over the top step. Granddad’s bedroom door is half open and you see movement but not the bed. You don’t want to get caught.

It is cool and dark upstairs, like a summer’s day with the curtains pulled. It doesn’t smell like roast dinner up here, it doesn’t laugh. You never go upstairs. The white bedroom doors look flimsy enough to be knocked over. It reminds you of a dollhouse.

You wait. You fidget. The carpet smells old and musty. The dust tickles your nose and overwhelms it with the scent of staleness, age, decay. You hate that smell so you lift your head up. That makes your neck hurt so you lay your cheek against the carpet with the bedroom still in view. The smell only fills one nostril now. It is better than the alternative so you take shallow breaths through your mouth.

The carpet scratches your skin. It makes a nasty noise as you scrape your fingernails along its bumps but you carry on doing it. Someone sneaks up beside you. The dusty staleness is briefly replaced by a breeze of warm, fruity shampoo. Probably Leanne. You feel her warmth against your thigh.

The stairs dig uncomfortably into your stomach, neck, knees. You fidget impatiently.

Behind the door you hear a murmur of low voices giving orders to each other, strained through carrying something heavy. It reminds you of the Chuckle Brothers. You hate the Chuckle Brothers.

Quiet. Stillness. Then sudden movement. Your father comes out of the room and makes for the stairs. You scramble up but there is nowhere to hide. You duck down again. He might not notice you if you pretend you’re really small.

He doesn’t look at you as he moves past and down the stairs. The breeze ruffles your hair. He says nothing but “downstairs now” in that voice. You move.

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2 thoughts on “Upstairs

  1. This is a really nice bit of writing 🙂 The fragmented sentences are great, like you’ve only got glimpses into your distant past left, that have been strung together without the bits to connect them. I’ve got to ask, what was going on up there?

    • Thanks, that was pretty much what I was thinking as I wrote it. Because of that I still don’t really understand what was going on. It may have been during a period where my grandad was ill. Or he could have been drunk and walked into a door. It’s the never knowing that has probably made the memory stick with me so much.

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