I grew up in a village called Belbroughton, on the edge of the Black Country. These memoir pieces are from my childhood. A collection of these pieces was long-listed for the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award, 2018. Another short piece was originally published by the Black Country Arts Foundry, also in 2018. (The link below will take you to the site)
The photo is of an old oak not too far from where I grew up. I once came eye to eye with an owl in that tree. I always used to visit the tree when returning to the village but sadly, now that both my parents are gone, I rarely visit.
UNDER THE FLOORBOARDS
The man who comes to fix the heating lifts up the floorboard, then jumps back, as if he’d been electrocuted. ‘What the hell,’ he says.
Mummy throws back her head and laughs and the man turns pink as a candy shrimp. ‘Don’t worry,’ she says, ‘They belong to my daughter.’
The heating man opens his mouth. Like he wanted to eat the air.
I keep my Borrowers under the floorboards – Pod, Homily and Arriety – my Borrowers with their tiny pots and pans, their miniature table and beds. For bed covers I have used small pieces of fabric left-over from a dress Mummy made me. The Borrowers have thread spools to sit on; they have a bag of rice. I think they have been there a year now. Yes, it must be a year.
When we had mice in the kitchen cupboard I was scared they’d eat the rice but I was even more scared to think they might eat Arriety too, and even her parents. I know what mice can do. I’ve seen the holes in Mummy’s best tablecloth and the tooth marks on the edge of the dining table. I used to open the cupboard door and shout and scream and jump up and down, hoping the mice would frighten and disappear. They didn’t. I heard them scampering about in the darkness and I moved Arriety and her parents up to the bookshelf, next to The Phantom Tollbooth and The Land of Green Ginger.
We still don’t have a cat. We used to have a kitten black as coal. We called him Carbonel but he got squashed by a car on the High Street and I cried for a whole day. I still cry when I think of him.
Daddy set traps with cheese. The mice went. They died, I suppose. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know.
After the mice vanished I put the Borrowers back in their home under the floorboards. For the heating man to discover.
I get bored of the Borrowers. I stop playing with them. I play Messenger Birds and Distant Planet Zog with my new friend Jennifer instead. The Borrowers are for kids, I decide. Jennifer and I buy trolls with red and green hair. I think Daddy even nails down the loose plank.
I wonder if the Borrowers are still there, living under the floorboards of the house all these years later and nobody knows.