Here’s a piece of Flash Fiction that I wrote a while ago. I picked the subject from a list I found of potential projects on a writing website.
The Derelict House.
Albany Road was a dead end, in more ways than one, part of a vast council estate; it had become a dumping ground for all those with ‘problems,’ but although they might not have jobs or two parents, the people had pride and a sense of community.
There were a group of teenagers that gathered at the end of Albany Road, on the wide verge by the space where misdirected cars could turn around. They had done every night since they had been old enough to have been allowed out, and they all knew each other well as a result. Not only that, they had spent most of their lives at the same school, when they could be bothered to go, from the age of five.
That night there were six or seven of them, all about 17 years old, totally relaxed in each other’s company, sitting round in a circle, drinking cheap cider and passing a single cigarette around.
An observer would notice that there was a space in the group, and if you had asked, they would have said, “that’s for Malcolm,” and glance at the derelict house that framed the end of the road.
Once it had been a smart, detached house, of the sort that the residents would now call ‘ one of the posh ones,’ but now all that remained were blackened walls, jagged roof beams jutting like broken teeth, and sightless windows.
That had been Malcolm’s house.
Malcolm had arrived in Albany Road when the group were on a long summer holiday, just before the start of senior school. A small quiet boy, he had thick glasses and a shock of brown hair. Initially, the group had not wanted his attention, thinking him unworthy of their friendship, but they quickly came to realise that his looks belied a rich wit, an endless supply of jokes and an ability to obtain alcohol and cigarettes for their nightly meetings. It became apparent that he got these from his mother, who sadly was getting over her man leaving in the time honoured way of trying to blot it out. Malcolm was glad of their company and came out of his shell.
They had been happy days for the group, there were open spaces to explore, trips into the city and endless sunny days to fill. Malcolm soon became an indispensable part of their plans, and as the months became years they became inseparable.
Then one day, Malcolm’s father turned up, the group didn’t know who he was at first, but the shouting from the house soon gave the game away. Malcolm wasn’t seen outside for a while and they questioned him at school. At first he said that his mother was ill and he was looking after her, but eventually, he opened up and told them the full story.
“My mum’s had a breakdown,” he explained,” after my father came and threatened to hurt her, so I stay in after school now to keep her company.”
The group understood family breakups, after all most of them had seen the same events played out in their own lives, so they nodded sympathetically and offered help, which was what friends did.
Over time, Malcolm’s mother didn’t get any better, but she didn’t get much worse either, and the situation dragged on until it was seen as normal and the group stopped asking. But they always left a space in the circle, in case Malcolm came back.
One day, Malcolm was in an agitated state at school, his mother had fallen asleep drunk, and started a fire when she dropped her cigarette. Malcolm had put it out and no damage had been done, or at least nothing that moving the furniture couldn’t hide.
The first they knew, that winters evening, was when the windows of Malcolm’s house lit up in flickering patterns. It was late and the group were just going home.
At first they didn’t realise that there was a fire, then they heard the banging on the door, coming from the inside. Malcolm was shouting through the letterbox,
“The doors are locked and I can’t find the key, so are the windows. She’s been frightened that dad would come back. She’s so drunk that I can’t wake her.”
All the windows and the front door were double-glazed and try as they might, they did not break under the hail of stones and kicks from the group. All the time, Malcolm was shouting through the letterbox, until he started coughing and the flames forced him upstairs.
The fire brigade had been called, and was soon on the scene; Malcolm was stood at an upstairs window, obviously, it had also been locked by his mother. Then he was gone.
The firemen smashed the door down and as they were about to go upstairs, there was a roar as the roof collapsed, sending a stream of flame and burning objects out of the door and blowing all the windows out.
And that’s why there’s always a space for Malcolm, on the grass outside the derelict house.