• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 07
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The Shelf

Every home has a Shelf. It is invariably dusty with the accumulated skin cells of mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and children and that odd cousin who is determined to handle every object in the home at least once.

[This habit began aged four, when she emerged from a bedroom clutching a ‘magic wand’ which was indeed a magic wand but not in the sense that she had imagined. Although now aged twenty one, and firm in the knowledge as to what that magic wand really does, she has still not stopped examining, stroking, handling.]

The Shelf tends to be a hodge-podge collection of things which, stripped of their sentimental value, could be aptly described as ‘absolute crap’. The odds of appearing on ‘Antiques Roadshow’ with a papier-mâché turtle, unless the creator grows up to be a Great Artist or Musician or Prime Minister, although if they grew up to be a reality dating show contestant or hamster breeder then the parents would still be happy. It is impossible to date anything, because who ever heard of a shelf being dated chronologically? Things are not placed left-to-right, but are at first thoughtfully arranged, with the collection growing until there is a push and a shove and after the first smashed champagne flute another shelf is built underneath it.

The eye isn’t drawn to any particular object, because glass distorts and heaven forbid you move anything; Nothing’s been touched for months, years, and even the dust has become part of the family. But because this is my shelf [ownership, a piece of my heart made material], I know that there are four small vases, bought from an artisan potter in Cornwall at the price of forty-eight pasties, and these are the most valuable.

[sounds of the sea, a long summer, warm hands and warmer hearts]


The Shelf

Long ago, each one held a miniature rose cut from a garden in a home before. But what I don’t know is that the significant other has dropped a scrap of paper into each one, spelling out that four letter word which too many people are afraid to admit to. Although he will say that he has done this because he wants to see how long it is before I notice, monitoring how often the Shelf is actually cleaned, guessing at weeks or months.

In reality, it takes minutes. He turns around, sheepish expression on his face, two fingers stuck in the vase’s neck, fingertips grasping after a brittle petal.