EXCERPT FROM “LIVING UNDERGROUND”
Many nights Sigmund fell asleep to the waxing and waning whirr of his mother’s mechanical sewing needle, and the soft thump, thump, thump of the foot treadle. Sometimes, he would wake to the same sounds in the morning.
Sigmund scarcely remembered the time far from the cramped flats and the sounds of sewing machines. But he could recall a long-ago Christmas: the scent of pine and the flicker of tiny candles; the delicious odours of citrus, cinnamon and ginger. Even then, his grandfather never looked at him – always, his grandfather turning away, turning away. Strange that he could not remember his mother in that great big house with the dozens and dozens of doors, always closed. But he did remember his grandmother, his busy, flustered grandmother. She wore big wide hats with jewelled hatpins, and fur stoles and collars. He recalled how she fussed with his nurse that he would catch a cold or be overheated. Always calling on the maid to see to this or see to that – schnell!
When he was barely four it all changed and they moved here. No dozens of doors. No servants. He remembered that his grandmother hated their new way of living, complained constantly about not enough to eat. He had a clear memory of her at the small table in the kitchen, her blue eyes wide and staring at her plate and the single grey potato there. She pushed the plate into the centre of the table and rose, her voice quivering and high-pitched. “I will not eat again unless there is white bread and lean, unspoiled meat. Nothing to pass my lips until then.”
The influenza epidemic helped keep her oath.
* * *
Be sure to catch Ruth’s reading at the Richmond Hill JUzDIzRTS Author Event at Covernotes on Saturday July 27th!