by Frank Parker

At certain times of the day, a tiny hole in the window blind allows the sun to send a laser-like shaft into the room. For several moments the focus of the spotlight thus created moves across the wall opposite the window, revealing a barely perceptible indentation where, I suppose, a hole has been filled in.

I start to wonder what might have been the reason for the presence of the hole. Perhaps a painting once hung here. An image enters my head of a nude, loosely draped. I close my eyes and force myself to think instead of a landscape. Rolling hills capped by woodland, snow-tipped mountains behind. In the foreground, a cottage built of stone. There is a lean-to annex to one side of the cottage with a corrugated zinc roof. Nearby a small child plays with a dog, a black and white Welsh collie. Outside, the sun has moved behind an obstruction, and the pinpoint of light disappears. With it goes the landscape, the mountains, the cottage, the boy and dog.

Suddenly I can smell the piss in the pot in the corner, hear the rustling of rats in the wainscotting. Yesterday, when the pinpoint of light disappeared, I counted to one hundred and thirteen before I heard the sound of the key in the lock. There! Exactly on time, it comes again. I wonder what I’ll be given to eat today?

The End

Selected from Next Steps: and other stories

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