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The House On The Gale A short story by Alison T. Bond

Billy Uncle Billy had been the one she had always loved the most of all the aunts and uncles. Billy didn’t fuss. Billy had a twinkle in his eye and allowed the children to become feral for days at a time; his smallholding was a kid’s dream playground, but Billy had been dead for 25 years. Truly happy memories; all happy apart from the last one, death. Emma hadn’t been back to the house in all that time; it had been sold soon after his passing. She had grown and had a daughter of her own, and she recounted many tales of Uncle Billy and the house on The Gale to Hanna, of playing hide and seek in the barn, Cowboys and Indians on horses in the paddock, collecting frog spawn from the pond at the back of the orchard, hay fights and mud pies. Old pictures often retrieved from an old shoebox, showing grubby, smiling children and a bearded old man of the land: braces, flat cap and walking stick. She was the only one left in the near vicinity, her cousins having left for the bright lights and fancy job descriptions. She had remained in the village, having a tendency to artistic endeavours in her ability to make bespoke garments and furnishings, things she didn’t have to travel much for and allowed her to be at home for the child. The house on The Gale It had been mid summer when the house on The Gale came up for sale, and Emma had begged her husband Tom to arrange an appointment with the estate agent; just one last look at a place that evoked such happy memories within her, to revisit the past. Tom was not given to sentiment, but there was little he would not do to make Emma happy. Giving a heavy sigh, he picked up his phone and made the call. Two hours later they and their four year old daughter were standing at the bottom of the lane that led to what had been Uncle Billy’s home. It was empty: the previous owners had relocated to the city, as many had lately, to be nearer to the work. If you were not an arable farmer, there was little to do nearby, and commuting was a nightmare; no major roads or rail lines for a good ten miles in any direction. The estate agent introduced himself as Mark. He was a fidgety little man in an ill-fitting suit, shoes that squeaked when he walked and a shirt of a hue that did him no favours at all. “It’s been on the market for a while; bit out of the way,” he sneezed fiercely. “Damn rapeseed, gets me every year.” Emma thought it smelt wonderful, scent rising with the emotions of childhood: running through the bright yellow rapeseed blooms and back to Billy’s for tea. The house was not as it had been and her heart sank a little, though it had been done up nicely and it was still sympathetic to the period of the house. Entering the hallway with the parquet flooring still surviving, she felt a rush of nostalgia; she could almost hear children laughing, Penny the Jack Russell barking and Uncle Billy whistling some unknown tune while whittling bits of wood-fall into various animal shapes.

The past revisited Hanna, being adventurous, charged out into the garden, not heeding her mother’s pleas to be careful. It had been left to run wild; obviously the previous occupants were not given to gardening and it had become a meadow almost, tall flowers and ivy wrapping around the trees at the far end, which at one time had been bountiful with fruit. Emma and Tom began the tour of the house. The layout remained the same regardless of the newer decorative alterations; the wooden floors, still a little uneven, gave out a slightly musty smell. It all added to the ambience for her – she couldn’t help but smile. Emma turned to the final set of stairs and up to the attic, the indoor play area for when the weather had been too bad to run wild in the outside areas. The round window on the gable end was cracked and so dirty she was barely able to see through it. She rubbed the dirt away with her hand and she could see Hanna running around, screaming with laughter. Yes, this was a real home, not like the new-build they had been living in for five years, which was characterless and, even though a detached, was virtually on top of the house next door. “You want to come back here, don’t you?” Tom stated rather than questioned. “Yes, more than anything. I feel like I belong, like we belong, and Hanna can grow up in the fresh air without us worrying about traffic and weirdos.” She realised his face was indicating an affirmative to her musings. “Yes, we belong here. I’ll sort it out darling.” Home When they got back downstairs to the estate agent, who was still fidgeting in an irritating manner, he looked as if all his Christmases had come at once when they told him they wanted the house. They called out for their little cherub because they were going home, and Hanna ran back in the house, shouting, “Look what I’ve got!” She held out a small wooden figure of a horse. Emma had thought for a second it must be an old one left in some crevice that she had managed to find, but, as she looked, she realised it had been carved new, the pine wood still pale and fresh. “The old man made it for me for my room when we come to live here.” As they walked back down the lane to the car, Emma could hear something strange. It had taken 25 years, but his wait was finally over, his family was coming home to The Gale, and Billy’s happy whistling could be heard faintly on the wind.

Š Alison T. Bond 2014 email:

The House On The Gale  

A short story