The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Author:Catriona Ward [Ward, Catriona]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Profile
Published: 2021-03-15T00:00:00+00:00

The second time Mommy brought me to the forest was for Snowball the mouse. I was in the living room, crying over the cage. What was left of him lay gleaming in a corner. The sawdust was brown and hung together in clumps. A lot of blood in such a small thing. I remember the taste of snot and fear. I clutched my yellow blanket to my face and it was soaking wet; the blue butterflies glistened with sadness.

I looked up and there she was in the doorway, watching me in silence. She was wearing her blue dress, the floating one she called her tea dress. I didn’t know what to do. How could I explain?

‘Don’t look at me,’ I said. ‘I didn’t do it.’

‘Yes, you did.’

I screamed and seized the Russian doll from the mantelpiece. I threw it at her. Tiny dolls flew in every direction. They all missed her head. They splintered on the wall behind. I screamed again and picked up the music box. But I was frightened of the bad feelings writhing through me. I let the box fall to the floor. It broke with a deep twang.

‘Look what you have done.’ She was calm. ‘You take everything from me, Theodore. Take, take, take. Are you quite finished?’

I nodded.

‘Get a shoebox from my closet,’ she said. ‘Take the shoes out first. Then dump everything from the cage into the box.’ It was good that she gave exact instructions. I needed them, I couldn’t think. My brain was lit up with shame and excitement both. Poor Snowball. But I had found a deep and secret thing.

I carried the shoebox in one careful hand. Mommy held the other. She pulled me along, not unkindly. ‘Quickly now,’ she said. Out the front door, down the street.

‘You didn’t lock it,’ I said. ‘What if someone goes into the house? What if they steal things?’

‘Let them,’ she said. ‘Only you and I matter.’

What about Daddy? I thought, but did not say.

When we reached the gate to the woods I pulled back. ‘I don’t want to go in there.’ I started to cry again. ‘I’m afraid of the trees.’ I remembered what had happened with the little wooden cat. What would I be asked to leave behind, today? Maybe Mommy would have to stay and I would be forced to return alone. That was the worst idea.

‘You don’t need to be afraid, Teddy,’ she said. ‘You are more frightening than anything that lives in these woods. Besides, you will feel better out of the heat.’ She squeezed my hand. In her other hand she held her gardening trowel, the one with the pink handle.

We followed the path, which was a leopard skin of light and shade. She was right, I did feel better here, under the cool trees. I was still sorry, though. The mouse had been so little and I knew that we owe kindness to little things. So I cried again.

We reached a glade lined with boulders and silver trees like bolts of water or light.


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