A “found poem” from my chosen endings + endings

book antiqua 10 jan_edited6_edited-1final_edited-1

OLD_PHOTOS_1484

Caroline’s bedroom continues to fade. Roderick’s room, even now, smells faintly of burning . . . Despite all this, the house retains its beauty. In some ways it is handsomer than ever, for without the carpets and the furniture and the clutter of occupation, one appreciates the lines and Georgian symmetries, the lovely shifts between shadow and light, the gentle progression of the rooms. Wandering softly through the twilit spaces, I can even seem to see the house as its architect must have done when it was new, with its plaster detail fresh and unchipped, its surfaces unblemished. In those moments there is no trace of the Ayreses at all. It is as if the house has thrown the family off, like springing turf throwing off a footprint.

I am no nearer now to understanding just what happened at the Hall than I was three years ago. Once or twice I’ve spoken about it to Seeley. He has come down firmly in favour of his old, rational view that Hundreds was, in effect, defeated by history, destroyed by its own failure to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. In his opinion, the Ayreses, unable to advance with the times, simply opted for retreat — for suicide, and madness. Right across England, he says, other old gentry families are probably disappearing in exactly the same way.

The theory is convincing enough; and yet, sometimes I am troubled. I remember poor, good-tempered Gyp; I recall those mysterious black smudges on the walls and ceiling of Roderick’s room; I picture the three little drops of blood that I once saw springing to the surface of Mrs Ayres’s silk blouse. And I think of Caroline. I think of Caroline, in the moments before she died, advancing across that moonlit landing. I think of her crying out: You!

I’ve never attempted to remind Seeley of his other, odder theory: that Hundreds was consumed by some dark germ, some ravenous shadow-creature, some ‘little stranger’, spawned from the troubled unconscious of someone connected with the house itself. But on my solitary visits, I find myself growing watchful.

Every so often I’ll sense a presence, or catch a movement at the corner of my eye, and my heart will give a jolt of fear and expectation: I’ll imagine that the secret is about to be revealed to me at last; that I will see what Caroline saw, and recognise it, as she did.

If Hundreds Hall is haunted, however, its ghost doesn’t show itself to me. For I’ll turn, and am disappointed —realising that what I am looking at is only a cracked window-pane, and that the face gazing distortedly from it, baffled and longing, is my own.

The Little Stranger Sarah Waters

‘Close your eyes.’

He won’t close his eyes.

‘Do you want me to stick this knife in you or what?’

He closes his eyes and I can feel the panic coming off him in  fumes.

His breath’s fast and shallow.

‘What do you want?’ I say.

He doesn’t answer, just moves across on the cot, turns to face the wall, makes room for me.

I think, then put the knife down.

I get in under the blankets.

I move in close and put my hand on his chest, press down. His awful heart speeds up, then slows a bit.

He’s relaxing now and he’s put his hand over mine.

‘I’d better go back to my cot,’ I say.

‘Right,’ he says. ‘Okay then.’

He takes hold of my fingers.

I don’t go.

I’m warm and sleepy here.

I might as well stay.

‘Okay?’ I say.

‘Yeah,’ he says. ‘Okay.’

I let my head sink to its rest, but leave my hand on his chest and I feel when he goes under with me, deeper and calmer.

I breathe as he breathes.

This is how M.J. Hyland

You get towards the end of life – no, not life itself, but of something else: the end of likelihood of change in that life. You are allowed a long moment of pause, time enough to ask the question: what else have I done wrong? I thought of a bunch of kids in Trafalgar Square. I thought of a young woman dancing, for once in her life. I thought of what I couldn’t know or understand now, of all that couldn’t ever be known or understood. I thought of Adrian’s definition of history. I thought of his son cramming his face into a shelf of quilted toilet paper to avoid me. I thought of a woman frying eggs in a carefree, slapdash way, untroubled when one of them broke in the pan; then the same woman later, making a secret, horizontal gesture beneath a sunlit wisteria. And I thought of a cresting wave of water, lit by a moon, rushing past and vanishing upstream, pursued by a band of yelping students whose torchbeams criss-crossed in the dark.

There is accumulation. There is responsibility. And beyond these, there is unrest. There is great unrest.

The Sense of an Ending.  JULIAN BARNES.

Shahana and Bibi had half a sandwich each.

The conductor came upstairs and told them theirs was the next stop.

As they got off the bus, the girls took hold of Nazneen’s hands. ‘Close your eyes,’ they told her.

She obeyed.

They tugged her hands. ‘Come on. Walk.’

She opened her eyes.

‘Walk with your eyes closed.’

She felt the breeze against her skin, the warmth of the sun against her eyelids, the hair that tickled her cheek. As she walked she was aware of each step, test­ing out the mechanics of her legs.

‘We’re here,’ said Bibi.

‘Hush,’ said Shahana. Her hand covered Nazneen’s eyes. ‘Tie your scarf around, Bibi, or she’ll cheat.’

‘I hope you don’t expect too much of me,’ said Razia. ‘Remember I’m an old lady. Old and arthritic.’

‘Hush,’ said Shahana. ‘You’ll give it away.’

The girls guided Nazneen along with one hand on hers and the other in the small of her back. Nazneen heard voices, the ones that passed her and the ones that melted far away. She heard music played on strings and piped from on high. There were thuds too, like boots having the mud knocked off them. And a faint whooshing that came and went like the wind in a tunnel.

‘Where are we?’

“You sit here with Razia. We’ll organize everything.’

‘Shall I peep?’ she said to Razia, when she could tell that the girls had gone.

“You could try,’ said Razia, ‘but then I’ll have to poke jour bloody eyes out.’

Nazneen rested her arms on the table. She could smell fried food, old

leather, the warm, used smell of that has been in countless nostrils, a hin

of talcum powder, furniture polish and the sharp skin of limes, breathed

deeply. It was the furniture polish that smelled of limes.

‘We’re ready. We’re ready,’ said Bibi.

They stood her up and turned her round. Shahana untied the knot at the back of her head.

‘Go on. Open them.’

She opened her eyes.

In front of her was a huge white circle, bounded by four-foot-high boards. Glinting, dazzling, enchanting ice. She looked at the ice and slowly it revealed itself The criss-cross patterns of a thousand surface scars the colours that shifted and changed in the lights, the unchanging nature of what lay beneath. A woman swooped by on one leg. No sequins, no short skirt. She wore jeans. She raced on, on two legs.

‘Here are your boots, Amma.’

Nazneen turned round. To get on the ice physically – it hardly seemed to matter. In her mind she was already there.

She said, ‘But you can’t skate in a sari.’

Razia was already lacing her boots. ‘This is England,’ she said. ‘You can do

whatever you like.’

Brick Lane MONICA ALI

And I called the dog Sandy. And Father bought him a collar and a lead and I was allowed to take him for walks to the shop and back. And I played with him with a rubber bone.

And Mother got flu and I had to spend three days with Father and stay in his house. But it was OK because Sandy slept on my bed so he would bark if anyone came into the room during the night. And Father made a vegetable patch in the garden and I helped him. And we planted carrots and peas and spinach and I’m going to pick them and eat them when they’re ready.

And I went to a bookshop with Mother and I bought a book called Further Maths for A Level and Father told Mrs Gascoyne that I was going to take A level Further Maths next year and she said, ‘OK.’

And I am going to pass it and get an A grade. And in two years’ time I am going to take A level Physics and get an A grade.

And then, when I’ve done that, I am going to go to university in another town. And it doesn’t have to be in London because I don’t like London and there are universities in lots of places and not all of them are in big cities. And I can live in a flat with a garden and a proper toilet. And I can take Sandy and my books and my computer.

And then I will get a First Class Honours Degree and I will become a scientist.

And I know I can do this because I went to London on my own, and because I solved the mystery of Who Killed Wellington? and I found my mother and I was brave and I wrote a book and that means I can do anything.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time MARK HADDON

Good-bye, Maisie,” Sir Claude answered.

Mrs. Beale came away from the door. “Goodbye!” she hurled at Maisie; then passed straight across the room and disappeared in the adjoining one.

Sir Claude had reached the other door and opened it. Mrs. Wix was already out. On the threshold Maisie paused; she put out her hand to her stepfather. He took it and held it a moment, and their eyes met as the eyes of those who have done for each other what they can. “Good-bye,” he repeated.

“Good-bye.” And Maisie followed Mrs. Wix.

They caught the steamer, which was just putting off, and, hustled across the gulf, found themselves on the deck so breathless and so scared that they gave up half the voyage to letting their emotion sink. It sank slowly and imperfectly; but at last, in mid-channel, surrounded by the quiet sea, Mrs. Wix had courage to revert. “I didn’t look back, did you?”

“Yes. He wasn’t there,” said Maisie.

“Not on the balcony?”

Maisie waited a moment; then “He wasn’t there” she simply said again.

Mrs. Wix also was silent a while. “He went to HER,” she finally observed.

“Oh I know!” the child replied.

Mrs. Wix gave a sidelong look. She still had room for wonder at what Maisie knew.

What Maisie Knew  HENRY JAMES

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