Speaking Without Words by Stephen Fitzpatrick
Ten stories have been selected for the shortlist in our short story competition, Legends of the Fall. We will publish two per day this week and reveal the winner on Friday
Tempers gone, they tore through the kitchen. The plates on the bench, two large, two smaller and one tiny, each neatly flanked with size-appropriate cutlery and guarded by a drinking glass were identified as cheap and hurled in bags. The presses were banged open and triangles of half-empty condiments broken, the squares of round jars flanked by triangular soup packets ripped apart in the still-powered fridge; across the kitchen patterns and shapes were destroyed without mercy, hours of driven work destroyed in frantic minutes; dust and pieces of shattered plates soon marred every bench-top while untidy and leaking bags piled up at the door, soiling the spotless tiles. Then the work was done, and they left the kitchen empty, dirty and used. The light was clicked off and the door closed.
The next room, empty already except for the thin, rickety desk in its centre, too valuable to casually trash and so, the first item that had, with groans and curses, to be heaved into the van. Upon the desk were six books, the first five lying face up in an interlocking circle around the final hardback book, propped open to keep it propped up in the centre, its author and title readable from the door: ‘Simak’ and ‘City’. The books were trashed without compunction. The downstairs done; the light was clicked off and the door closed.
The upstairs rooms went faster, the beds and mattresses and linen taken, too costly to be left for any casual purpose. The odd photo graced the oddest corners, an open closet floor or impaled on a hanger, always of locations, never any faces, any humans. The hotpress contained only a single pair of white socks, ironed flat, and lying on the wooden slats of the centre shelf in silent rebuke. Quicker than could be imagined, with breakneck speed and no small amount of anger, all but one room was done.
A rectangle of brighter paint on the upper part of the door showed where a name plate had hung, marking it a child’s domain. The door swung open into a soft blue room. Dolls and teddy bears and toys of all shapes and sizes and colours faced the door. They sat in accusing rows and denouncing circles, some holding little Irish flags, some propped up with matchboxes, puppet strings fastened to a high shelf, all bolt upright and recriminating, their heads swivelled ever so slightly upwards, glaring at the entrance. A vast and cold and lifeless jury, they stared sightlessly at the two stricken men with their limp sacks and stained clothes, and endlessly condemned.
A half hour later, the light was clicked off and the door closed.
The young family that moved into the fresh-painted house gave no thought to its provenance and knew nothing of its history. They knew nothing of strange patterns and odd shapes, of deformed Indians and resentful tribunals, of anger tempered by pride. They knew only of a new life and a new home and new dreams living within their means.
Stephen Fitzpatrick has engaged in creative writing as a hobby for many years . In UCD, while studying Politics and Economics, he served as a committee member of the English Literary Society. He is a practising barrister. This is the first time he has submitted his fiction to any publication.