A Home Coming, flash fiction by Geraldine Mills
Geraldine Mills has published three collections of short stories and four collections of poetry. She has been awarded many prizes and bursaries including the Hennessy/Tribune New Irish Writer Award, two Arts Council Bursaries and a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship. Her first children’s novel titled Gold has just been released and is available at www.littleisland.ie/shop/gold/ www.kennys.ie/gold-2179.html www.geraldinemills.com
I have been thinking a lot these dark days about the wolf that played puck with the three little pigs. How, in a few breathy huffs, he razed to the ground their ecologically-sound straw house, their sustainable wooden one, until he met his lupine demise in a boiling pot on the fire. However cautionary a tale this is meant to be, it didn’t deter my family from making a life-changing decision to move out of Dublin to Galway in the late 90s and choose a home of timber. Like an Ikea flat pack, our house was built in a factory in Sweden and delivered to us on the back of a lorry on the winter solstice. It was pre-fairytale Tiger time, and in the long light of that summer I moved with the children into a small cottage close to our chosen site. We decided that my husband would remain in Dublin for the time being as he was the designated bringer home of the bacon.
So, I oversaw all the ground work. PJ, the digger-man, ‘a tasty worker’ by all accounts, broke the earth with the metal claw of his machine and soon the foundations were taking shape. A woman out standing in her own field, I worked with my two loyal neighbours to get the water pipes in place, organise conduit for the electricity cables, over see the septic tank, the incessant rain seeping through every stitch of clothing while my beloved sat in a cosy office in Dublin, his back to the radiator.
Light began to diminish. Berries started to ripen on the holly trees. We were making progress, getting closer to a home coming.
News soon spread throughout the village that it was to be delivered on the shortest day of the year. Another fairy tale. How could a real house be built on such a light-starved day? However, that morning when sunrise was heralded on the other side of the country as it cast its beam along an inner chamber, the sound of a truck was heard puffing along the low road. It drew neighbours from their beds to stand on mounds of earth and marvel with us at the sight of our home coming from somewhere beyond the Northern Lights
Berries blazed as solstice rays began to gild the tops of the trees. Birds flew out for their days gathering, while a mechanical crane manoeuvred its wheels up our driveway. It grabbed a panel from the truck and a gable-end with three windows and the main door, swung precariously above our heads. Expertly lowered into place. Next to be positioned was the panel that held our son’s bedroom window, followed by our daughter’s, and then the large expanse of glass that would be the eye looking into the heart of our home.
Here was a triple-glazed barn-raising that the Amish would be proud of if they were ever guilty of such a deadly sin. Workmen, balanced like gymnasts, laboured on top of the now-secured walls with not a whisper of wolf-wind to unsteady them. We watched while panel after panel was slotted into the next as if it were a child’s Lego set.
Light began to leach from the day and birds flying home to roost were stopped in their flight path. Scratching their tiny feathered heads, they tweeted to one another about the building that had sprouted, as if by magic, from the earth, since they had flown out at dawn.
Twilight witnessed the roof-felt being stretched across joists and beams, sealed from all weathers, and here was our house with its door open to the dark and the first lights glowing from the windows. In the shadows I’m sure I saw the slink of wolf. He could save his breath to cool his porridge. No amount of huffing or puffing would blow this house down.
© Geraldine Mills