Sunday, 15 February 2015



Household Secrets


The teenager sat by himself in the kitchen. His father’s bottle of liquor and his ice bucket and tongs were on the table. He flipped through the pages of a notepad, names from every era and aspect of human history falling before his eyes. The pocket door to the front room was shut. He could make out his father’s voice. The teen could not remember Stefan being so upset. There’d been ivory tower squabbles when his father had been with the Institute of course, but nothing of this mysterious magnitude. He crept over to the front room entry and pressed his ear against the wood paneling.


‘I am complicit, Magda! As guilty as they are! It’s state sanctioned, mechanized murder. They’re killing inmates and turning the bodies into statues for the Mall! The people, the country… the world must be told this!’


‘And what of you, Stefan? Isn’t it best for you, for all of us, if you remain silent?’


‘How can any decent man stand by and say nothing?’


‘You did just that when the state aborted our first two children, your daughters if you recall.’


‘Those were different times, Magda.’


‘Were they?’


The teenager stepped away from the door. He recalled a lifetime of inexplicable fear and sadness of the night. How his parents had always doted on him and lately almost to the point of irritation as he had gradually grown older. He closed and wiped his eyes. He inhaled silently and deeply to stifle a sob. He leaned back in.


‘We can’t leave the country,’ his father was saying. ‘They know I know. There’s no independent media. There’s no one to tell. What can I do? I ask you that, what can I do?’


‘Under a regime such as ours there is naturally a secret opposition, a resistance. Perhaps they can help you spread the truth?’


‘Oh, the fabled Underground. And how do I reach these people? Take out an ad in the Nation’s Eye?’


‘Something like that, although I would suggest a classified ad under the heading of Companions Wanted.’




‘Stefan, it’s common tradecraft to use a state organ against itself. So I am given to understand. I could help you compose the text. It’s important that you meet with the proper people.’


The teenager thrust his spine against the door jamb. He felt the finishing bevels hit his vertebrae. Was his mother was an agent or a spy of some sort? It was as if she’d been having an affair and his father had been blind. The revelation and the recrimination were strangely muted. He listened closely once more.


‘Everyone leads a secret life, Stefan. It may be in the Underground, it may be completely inward. You know that, you and your passion for antiquity.’


‘I do. I do. And so, I’m to advertise for a sexual partner?’


‘Yes. You will have certain tastes.’


‘I will?’


‘You will.’


‘What are they, exactly?’


‘You must learn to think of me as barren, frigid and cold.’


‘But, Magda, you’re anything but.’


‘I am now in your mind. Anyway, my dear, you can talk all night if you want. Stay up and beat yourself up. I’m going to bed now.’


The teenager padded hurriedly back into the kitchen. He stared down at the notepad. What did his father used to say about issues at the Institute? ‘Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s anything but.’ Still, sometimes some things, some people, were best left alone in the dark.

(Part seven of 10)

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