The Lock

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September 23, 2020 by The Citron Review

by Lucy Peters

 

When Jack was tucked up in the pram, the latch caught in the lock. The lip of the frame sucking it in. Another call to the landlord: before they moved in, how had they failed to notice the boiler’s wandering gauge, the immovable sash windows, the unidentifiable spores that bubbled up on the walls? Blown fuses, dripping taps, cupboard handles wrenched out by the roots. After the first few calls, it had become her job. Dave hated the phone.

And wouldn’t pick up. She’d asked about it before the trip, and he’d said, ‘Oh, almost anything can wait three days.’ She hadn’t pushed. Now, she rattled the door with the force she should have applied that morning, as she went through to voicemail, again. Anyway, what could he do? She tried the landlord five times, then texted, other unanswered texts arrayed above her message in a Dada poem. She shouted through the letterbox down the silent street. Jack’s face stretched into a red, tearful mask. She took him in her arms, sat down on the hallway carpet.

As his wails quietened into sucking, she became aware of the house’s own sounds: hard to place; aural metaphors. A dropped marble? A door swung closed? Feet thudding on stairs? She’d thought after she had Jack, her fears might be replaced by sensible anxieties about sleep habits and feeding. Instead, her encounters with the house’s other inhabitants had just got worse. As she carried him up the stairs, she kept her eyes lowered, seeing only what she wished to see.

The wardrobe smelled like laundry powder and cedar balls. Large enough for a small woman, if she sat with Jack between her chest and her knees. A lock Dave didn’t know about allowed her to fasten the door, and hold it closed tight.

 

Lucy Peters’ fiction and poetry has appeared in Mslexia and Strix. Her writing has won second prize in the Vogue Talent Contest, and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize for Flash Fiction and longlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. She lives in London, where she is an editor for an arts organisation. Previously, she worked as a journalist, writing about fashion and film.

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