Betty Donovan – a story circle

The apartment was filled with debris from years of neglect – many moons’ worth of dust accumulated on every surface. All manner of hairs – at least a half a dozen types of animal – had settled throughout the cramped and rancid space.

Betty Donovan swore she’d clean it up one of these days. Particulate swirled around her whenever she stirred from her easy chair – which wasn’t often, these days.

Plans are made and broken – made to be broken, like the proverbial rules, perhaps.

And yet she swears it’ll happen, a tidy-up, a quick spring clean, one of these springs. She tells this to herself, mostly – she used to tell visitors, when she had them.

Late this evening, after startling awake from a fitful doze, she shuffles from her chair over to a greasy mirror, smears some of the filth from it, leaving uneven streaks from her brittle fingers. She gets a glimpse of herself – thin hair loose and wild, lips dry – and the hint of a tear wells up in the corner of one eye before she blinks it away. She returns to her chair and sleeps.

Logan Bright

exercise: N 2.12: see character through her surroundings

N exercise 2.12 – see character through surroundings

The walls of her apartment are a bare cream colour, the same cheap paint they’ve been since before she moved in, when the management company sent its team in to quickly clean and repaint before the new tenant arrived. She hasn’t put many pictures up – there’s one of a pastoral scene from some verdant countryside, with a small log cabin in the hazy distance of the painting. There’s a snapshot of her parents thumb-tacked to the wall beside the painting. In the photo her parents are smiling – her mom is giving her dad bunny ears.

Her kitchen, though, is floor-to-ceiling pots and pans. On her stovetop at any given moment is a stack of Pyrex, each chunk of glass slotted snugly into the next; two or three cast iron pans, each of a differing diameter and more or less gone to rust; a soup pot with a thick, rust-brown stew endlessly simmering; and several silicon hand protectors, to facilitate grabbing all of this screaming hot metal.

The countertop is an array of cutting boards, each gouged and scarred and filled with all the rainbow’s colours; paring knives, santoku knives, steak knives – all manner of blades rest upon these boards of plastic, bamboo, even one made entirely of glass. On the wall above the countertop hang several clocks, like an airport lounge, except each of these is set to the same local time. She has a microwave, too, but the timer function is broken.

Her refrigerator is jammed full of leftovers. Casserole trays and anchor bowls with ill-fitting lids have accreted like geologic sediment on the rack shelving of the fridge, and a foul, garlicky odour seeps from the appliance whenever its door is opened. In fact the entire apartment smells of garlic – it’s just most apparent when the fridge is opened.

Cupboards spill out plates and dishes and mugs with deep tea stains. Occasionally one of these items will have had enough, and plummet to the floor. She sweeps the broken remains out of the way with her slippered feet, until they join the rest of the dust and debris in the dark and forgotten corners of her apartment.

Logan Bright