A non-fiction submission.
Growing up was serious business. Our tiny three bedroom apartment wasn’t large enough to contain the world created by four curious children, their overbearing father and their often hysterical mother. Every available space was crammed with junk; Mother was loath to part with broken chairs, faulty electronic appliances, old books and empty crates of malt and beer. The crates were stacked under the stairs together with heavy cauldrons that were rolled out whenever the women group from the church chose our compound as their cooking HQ for the next wedding. Eventually, they elected Mother as women leader and the cauldrons were never rolled back under the stairs. I shared a room with my brother. It was a spacious room that comfortably accommodated two beds and a reading table until Mother introduced numerous boxes of her old clothes after Father had threatened to burn them if she didn’t get them out of their shared wardrobe. The wardrobe in our room was built into the wall, leaving a space just beneath the ceiling which I called the ”Upper Room”. We kept our boxes and shoes and a spare mattress up there. The Upper Room was sacred; we slept there on hot nights and hid our childhood treasures there. After Father built a huge pyre from her Standard six books, Mother threw down our shoes and boxes, kicked them under the beds and filled our Upper Room with her old University notes and textbooks.
One particularly rainy afternoon during a rather long and boring holiday, we climbed up on the reading table and took turns to determine who could jump to the bed placed farthest from the table. Tiring of this, we climbed up to the Upper Room and proceeded to take diving jumps as if into a swimming pool until one of the book-filled cartons got in the way of an enthusiastic jump that ended with me crash landing amidst a hail of dusty old books. It was love at first impact. Later that evening, Mother was sore from flogging us. You see, both beds were broken and the bedsheets were torn and dirty. She kept looking at us queerly and nursing her hurting fingers while we promptly finished our chores and disappeared into our room, locking the door behind us. Those dusty old books contained an ancient magic ; within their pages lurked fearsome genies and friendly dragons. The holidays were never long enough after that day.