Holes In the Linoleum
I could have counted the holes but never bothered. There were more close to my bed than elsewhere in the room, rough lines of punctures in the gray and blue linoleum.
Beneath each line lay a crack in the century-old weathered floor-boards, a crevice that spoke of settling foundations, out-of-plumb carpentry. At eight years of age, I didn’t really think much of such things. I just knew the house was old, that my father had slept there as a boy. That was far enough back to be somewhere in a dim antiquity.
The bed I shared with my little brother was tippy—a cot with sides that folded out. Looking back, I can see that we could have simply slid a box or such under the sides to keep it from tipping over when one or the other got up or moved too close to the edge. Why no one ever did that, I don’t know.
Were they all simply too busy, too wrapped up in themselves, to bother, to even notice? I know it was a time when my parents were scraping out a living, commuting sixty miles to Columbus each day, while we lived on my late grandfather’s farm. I didn’t remember my grandfather.
I do remember my mom, arriving home after dark, coming up to bedroom to say goodnight. My sisters would already have made us supper. I and my older brother and sometimes the little one, too, would go down to the cellar and bring up potatoes. Some would almost always be rotting and we would throw them, stinking missiles, into the night before returning to the warm kitchen and its coal-burning stove.
And Mom, still in the high heels she wore to work, would come to our room. The room was up the steep narrow staircase, on the back of the house where I would see the sun burnishing the sandstone cliffs when I awoke. Those heels, narrow and spiky—she never seemed to remember what they could do to the linoleum. Maybe she was too tired to think of it.
A heel would land on a crack and open up another hole and Mom would remember then. Too late, and she might show her annoyance with herself and that floor and that house for a moment, before saying ‘good night’ and turning off the light.
Stephen Brooke ©2012