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Beneath the house which grandmother built, the cellar is dark and the light bulb, swaying on a fraying cord, is weary. In the cellar we each have closely locked cupboards.
Mother’s is made of whore’s chestnut and there are 48 pieces of string nailed, tacked and stapled to it. Strings of all the shades of farrow and beige. Some are short with bells; others are longer and ooze candle tallow. There are gouges in the door where father has struck it with his felling axe.
Father’s cupboard is black elm, ink stained in places and decorated with carvings of wounded badgers. As you will expect, it is bulky, overbearing, and suggestive of novels by men called Ken. Sometimes an aroma of hot Swarfega surrounds it.
Grandfather’s is made of pear wood, stogged to its waist in the cellar floor. It has an unreliable clock on the front with faces like angels puffing. I think you can tell which way is North, if you look at it correctly.
Weasels have colonised grandmother’s. When she was put in a home, her cupboard started to drip cod oil and smell of festering nappies, so we removed it to the garden.
Mine is small hawthorn, but will grow. In it a few scraps and remnants; mouse pelvis, deer tarsals, raven skull. It breathes shallowly and is inclined to change its position with regard to the coal chute.
Ned the dog has no cupboard. He buries his bones in places he thinks are secret, but which are often betrayed by the zeal of his excavations.
At night, in quiet weather, you can hear them scratching; like that grating sound when mother rubs your knees with sandpaper, because you tried to smoke grandfather’s pipe or mispronounced ‘rough shag’.
We spend much of our time outwitting one another and carving revenge into the furniture.