Remote, a short story by pagesbow. Date added: 2006-08-20. Times viewed: 1343.
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- Intro: Losing your televisions remote control can be dangerous....
- I rang the doorbell, the solitary chime barely audible over the sound of
balloons popping and children's laughter from inside. I was here to pick up
my daughter Nell or Nelly the elephant as I sometimes teased her to which
she would roll her eyes skyward looking alarmingly like her mother adding
'but daddy, elephants are big old gray things with humongous ears!' she had
a point, and it highlighted the fact she was growing up; still my little
girl but also a precocious six year old forming her own ideas about the
world. I raised my hand to ring the bell once more stopped mid air by the
unmistakable sight of Susan as she proceeded towards me from the other side
of the door, her large frame elongated to unflattering crazy mirror
proportions through the doors small opaque window. I lowered my arm to my
side as I awkwardly waited for Susan and the no doubt interrogation that
"Hi Tom!" Susan intoned cheerfully as she appeared from behind the
door, squinting at the sun that hovered low over my shoulder.
"Hi Susan. How are you?" I supposed I'd better ask. Susan was one of
my wife's best friends, however, we had never seen eye to eye.
"Fine Tom. Just fine. You look well, God, it's been so long since you know,
the thing." Yes. The thing. My hand involuntarily moved to my neck feeling
the three-inch scar, which had healed considerably in the two years since a
kitchen knife had protruded from its then bloody opening.
"Well Helen." I said, clearing my throat. "It was a trying time for the
whole family as I'm sure you can appreciate hopefully we've put it behind us
now." If certain people could leave it alone.
"Of course" Susan said as she flashed a smile that contained all the warmth
of a barracuda eyeing up its prey.
"I'll get Nell for you." She said as she sharply turned her head down the
hall, her heavily lacquered hair undaunted by the rules of gravity staying
completely still as she did so.
"Tabitha!" she shouted. " Tell Nell her Daddy's here to pick her up. Yes I
know she's in the back garden dear, run and tell her please."
She turned back towards me. "She's had a great time. Really. And considering
all she's been through Nell appears unaffected by it all. she seems to be a
happy child Tom. "
Susan's cloying sentiments were grating but I didn't want to make a scene
standing on Susan's bright red doorstep that reflected my growing mood
perfectly. I held my tongue if only for Nell's sake.
"Thank you for those kind words Susan." I said as I wondered if
perhaps politics might have been an alternative career option; surprised by
ability to lie with such aplomb.
"Hmm.but Tom I do wonder if Nell."
"Daddy! Daddy! Look what I made." Nell screamed, as she burst through the
door mercifully cutting Susan off in mid flow.
"What is it?" I asked lifting her into my arms. She was getting
"It's a dog silly. There's his leg. There's his paw. And that's his
"Does he bite?" I asked stroking her hair, no doubt sporting a
stupid grin on my face.
"No daddy, he's only made of balloons." She came closer whispering
in my ear "he's not a real dog."
"Is that so? You ready to go to grandmas now?
"Yeah!" she squealed with delight. "Grandma's!"
"Come on then. Say thanks to Aunty Susan for a lovely day Nell." I
said as I glanced at Susan.
"Thanks Aunty Susan."
"It's my pleasure Nell."
I said my own cordial goodbyes and Nell and I walked down the neat
path, feeling my neck twitch as I got into the car; as if someone had tapped
me lightly on the shoulder. It hadn't done that for some time just as I
hadn't thought about the events of two years ago for some time, well at
least a week, my own personal record in fact, and wasn't it just like Susan
to drag it up again? When things seemed to be getting better, Tina and I
seemed to be moving forward with things.life was good again, the last thing
I wanted was to think about anything other than the future; which would
hopefully be a happy one.
Nell appeared worn out for much of our journey, resting her head on
the door no doubt regaining her strength and by the time we reached my
mothers she would be ready to go a few more hours and would complain when
she had to go to bed.
"Daddy?" Nell said, breaking her silence.
"Yes Hon." I Replied as we sat in traffic my eyes on the lights
ahead, waiting for go.
Nell was stroking her balloon dog. "When is Mommy coming home?"
"Well..." I said, as I placed a hand on my daughter's back, realizing she
had not been tired but deep in thought, I paused, careful to pick the right
"Just because Mommy doesn't live with us anymore doesn't mean she loves you
any less Nell, you know that don't you?" Nell nodded her head. "Mommy and
I.well, we used to fight sometimes, she had to leave to make herself better
"O.K. Daddy. I understand" She replied a somber look on her face "I named
him Ralph. Ralph the dog."
"That's a nice name.." I replied watching the lights change to green, and I
began to wonder at the extent of Susan's concern.
"Is that what you would call a real life dog?"
Her eyes lit up. "Could I have a real Doggy?"
"Well you've been a good girl haven't you?"
"Well, we'll see what father Christmas thinks when you send your list this
Off the main road we made quick passage down the quiet, leafy suburbs on
route to my mothers where Nell would stay the night while I was at work. For
some reason I couldn't shake the feeling that Susan had been interfering,
bringing up the past. The thought disturbed me.
"Did Susan mention your Mom at all?" I asked with a raised eyebrow we pulled
onto my mother's asphalted drive
"No." Nell replied.
"You would tell me if she had, wouldn't you."
"Of course daddy."
"O.K. scoot, your grandmas waiting."
I watched as Nell ran up the path, blowing her a kiss and waving to
my mother, I pulled back out on to the main road.
I turned the key in the mortice 5-lever deadbolt lock then took another,
this time of the long serrated variety, from my key chain with which I
opened the additional hinge bolts. I was big on security these days. Inside
I tapped in the four-digit number into the alarm, a number that I changed
periodically, the real benefit in doing this was perhaps negligible, and
served only to placate my paranoid mind, which was benefit enough. Intending
to have a quick shower and a shave then watch the football match on
television before my night shift at the factory was to start, I placed my
coat on the hanger and made my way up the stairs, three steps into my ascent
an odd feeling of unease spread throughout my body akin to someone stepping
on my grave although this felt more like a whole party of mourners had
decided to collectively jump up and down. I stood there momentarily frozen
like an animal with the scent of prey in its nostrils. On cue, my neck began
Back to finish the job?
Impossible! My feverish mind asserted without much conviction.
Earlier in the day when the sun had ruled the sky with it's golden light I
would have been able to believe that it was, but now I was not sure of
anything; darkness had fallen and the late October moon had taken up the
night shift and I stood metres from where I had lain in a pool blood waiting
to die, drifting off into a cold blackness with the sound of sirens nothing
more than a far off lullaby of hope
With trepidation and every fiber of my being pulling in the other direction
I continued up the stairs; I listened for any odd sound: the squeak of a
floorboard, the hinge of a door any movement that would alert me to the
presence of another, by now I felt sure I was familiar with every sound in
my house but I heard nothing; only my own heartbeat as it thudded in my ears
and I watched with a degree of revulsion and shame as my hand shook on the
banister sure in the knowledge that if I were to find a burglar riffling
through my sock drawer in search of valuables I would feel relief and direct
their search to the third draw where I hid money and invite them down for a
cup of tea.
Having checked every room and finding no knife wielding maniac awaiting me I
entered Nell's bedroom at the far end of the house that had been an
additional room built by the previous owner and found the source of my
jitters immediately, her window was slightly ajar causing the light breeze
to gently rap the blinds like tuneless wind chimes. I closed the window,
locked it, and felt the tension immediately wash away, making a mental note
to double check all the windows in future as I turned to leave the security
light lit up the window, in a heartbeat I resumed panic mode expecting to
find an intruder in the garden; finding one of sorts in the shape of
next-door's cat; Imaginatively named Molly who was slinking down below and
had by the looks of it had been on the window box outside the kitchen window
as I noted mud strewn on the floor I banged on the window at the Cat, who
seemed to regard our backyard as its second home, it froze and with another
bang on the window, ran off into the night.
Feeling confident I was alone I showered and shaved; even finding time for a
few out of tune renditions of my favourite songs as I did so which would
surely have given all but the hardened criminal cause to leave. Feeling
refreshed, albeit slightly ashamed of my earlier episode, I headed
downstairs in the direction of the kitchen to grab a cold beer from the
fridge; one or two wouldn't hurt. I flicked the television on at the wall
and sat down to enjoy a few hours of relaxation before work and I felt
optimistic about things again, the residual fear of that day two years ago
would never leave and I would have to learn to live with it, that was all.
What concerned me was Nell: "When is Mommy coming home." Her face had been
so sad, laced with a pain no little girl should have to feel and I couldn't
help but partially blame myself for my marital problems and subsequent
deterioration, still, I hoped that one day Tina could move in and a new
chapter could be made; I had always wanted two girls and a boy and perhaps
it was high time Nell had sibling.
I turned my attention to the television, the game had not begun yet and two
newsreaders smiled inanely in my direction. I reached over to where I
usually left the remote to change the channel, finding nothing, I placed my
beer down and searched the remote controls usual haunts it was one of those
'All-in-one' types at the moment more aptly described as lose it
'All-in-one' After damn near looking everywhere I could think of including
the sides of the sofa, a search of which had yielded two pens one elastic
band and enough fluff to re-upholster the couch, but no remote, I finally
turned my attention to under the sofa; Nell had habit of kicking things
under there, sure enough there it was. Right at the back. On my knees with
my left arm perched on the sofa I reached under to grab it.
'Nearly there!' I said aloud as my fingernail touched the remote, my brain
registering from my upside down view of the television that the faces of the
newsreaders had turned from inane smiles to that of grave concern. Suddenly,
the camera panned to the image of a familiar face:
'That looked just like..'
I swung up remote in hand aiming it at the television like a man aiming a
gun at a target, quickly restoring the sound.
".Escaped form the maximum security prison and was last seen at precisely
one o'clock today, she is considered extremely dangerous and should not be
I felt the cold steel on my neck, mommy was home.
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