Short stories archive

Subsiding

Subsiding

I grew up in a council house, except it wasn’t owned by the council; instead my parents had bought it. You could tell it was bought by the simple fact we were the only house on the street that was painted. I’m still not sure why people paint their council houses once they buy them but it can make a street look beautiful. Unfortunately ours was the only house painted and it had been done by the last owners and it was faded. We never had enough money to redo the yellow which slowly faded from canary to mustard.

At the back of the house, just under my bedroom window, was a large metal diamond. In fact there were two. But I never gave them much thought. Just saw them as pretties on our house. I’m sure mum and dad knew what they were. I’m sure that is one of the reason’s they bought the house so cheaply.

When you think back to your home in childhood a house will come to mind. For me it is this house, I remember tea parties in the dining room and tents in the back garden. It’s where I learnt to ride my first bike, a tortuous process that took a year due to bad balance, and where I got my first adult teeth. I thought we would live there forever, so it was a surprise when mum said, “we are moving.”

I’d been surprised as we had been having builders visit to look at putting an extension up, but they had found it was subsiding.

“Haven’t you noticed the water?” she’d asked.

“Water?”

“In the bath.”

I had noticed that the water didn’t leave but had thought the bath had slipped or something, it didn’t cross my mind that the house had slipped.

“So the council are buying back the property,” mum explained and I’d nodded and then gone to do some research.

First thing I did was ask one of the builders. He was fixing a neighbour’s wall. They lived directly opposite and for some unknown reason the wall had just fallen down. He told me that it was because of the mine workings and that the area had been used as a coal resource for years. Unfortunately it appeared to have left the house, our house, prone to subsidence. At the time I thought it was odd that just our house was affected but I said nothing. I was, after all, just a child.

My parents found a house and it was big enough without the extension. We left. There was no fanfare and two weeks later mum and I returned to see what had happened to our slipping mustard home. Surprisingly there was someone there, in fact there was a family. The council had let out the house and it was filled.

“Can they do that?” I’d asked.

Mum shrugged and said she supposed so. It was then that we looked across the road. The house with no wall now had a little more of a problem. It looked like someone had come along and cut off the bottom half. It was all fenced off but if you could get in then you would have to enter by the top storey window. It was like someone had come along and made it a bungalow, taking the bottom floor.

“Where…?” I began.

“It fell,” mum said in a squeaky voice. Looking at her I saw she appeared shocked. She also seemed to be looking at the cracks in the road, cracks I hadn’t seen before.

“How…?”

“Subsidence,” mum answered, starting the car and leaving. I sat and pondered. I wondered what had happened to the neighbour and her three children, and how they had got out; I imagined them stepping out of the first floor window.

We never went back. Mum said she didn’t trust the street and we would even detour around the whole area in order to not drive over the cracks.

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