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Dirt Soup

Rebecca Parfitt | Sayantan Halder

The door to the sitting-room was banging. I could hear it from the kitchen and in the kitchen I knew that every window in this house was shut. She’s restless, I thought. She wants to get out. I counted: the sound came at intervals of 30 seconds — Bang, then a scuffing sound.

I cleared the filth from the plates, sinking each dish, each knife, each cup into the hot washing up bowl and watched the water thicken; the food scum building up until it was like a watery soup. She would like a watery soup, of the vegetable kind. I lifted the bowl up and began to pour the dirt soup down the drain. I counted,

10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

The thump came loudly. I am ignoring you, I said. Ignoring you. I cleaned the wilted, mushed, greying vegetables from the plug hole — slimy between my fingers. A bit slid and dropped onto the lino floor.

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

I’m not listening. I mopped up the last pieces. I’m not listening.

The house had a thick warm fug — the heating on too high as usual. The windows were steamed over, nothing but black night and emptiness outside. The place smelled like forever boiling indeterminate vegetables. Oh, to get this smell out of my sweating skin, my pores, my nose… but I can’t open the window, I mustn’t open the windows.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

Again, again, when will she stop? I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you anymore, I said, over and over again. I reached for the dial on the radio and tuned: voices. A babble of voices came out, low at first, then louder and louder.

I picked up each empty jar, empty can, empty packet from the shelves and sideboards and threw them in the bin. She’s restless. She’s restless. I must calm her by doing these things; one-by-one stripping the room of objects that had been neglected, left unused. I’m letting go, but not yet.


The voices couldn’t hide the noise she was making. I can’t bear it. There is nothing here, nothing in these jars, there is no need for them now. Can’t you see what I’m doing? I’m trying, but I’m not opening the windows. I can’t let you go yet.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

The voices were whispering, I could hardly hear them. I continued to fill each bag with the unused and the unusable. Rest, I said, as I threw each item away. Every fragment, every object left behind a dusty film, a filthy ring underneath. Of course, I can’t clean this away. I can’t clean you away.

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

The most violent yet.

Another rubbish bag full — and the heat, this heat, burning my cheeks, sweat pouring, but look: you’d be proud, I’m not opening the windows — you always said… I’m not going to let you out. You have to stay here with me a little longer. You must stay.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

The bag I was holding split open, the contents emptied out onto the floor. Just a little longer, please! I said. I had run out of bags, there was too much of her left, there would never be enough bags to fill. I knelt on the kitchen floor, scooping the rubbish up with my hands trying desperately to force it back into the bag.

It won’t go back. It won’t go back. None of this will go back.

I stopped scooping up the rubbish and left the bag on the floor, wiping the sweat which was pouring from my brow. I turned towards the noise, towards the kitchen door and began to walk into the hallway_. I have the rest of my life to ignore you, I have the rest of my life to forget. This is the last time I’ll come when you call, do you hear me? The last time I’ll come when you call._

I’m coming. I’m coming.

I see the door swinging backwards and forwards at the end of the dark hallway. I could hear the voices from the radio behind me, telling me to, ‘Go on.’ A low orange light glowed from her reading lamp in the sitting-room. I will stop this. I will stop this.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — Bang

As I get to the door it slams — look! The windows are closed! Look! I push the door back and hold it there with all my strength. Her chair, still there with her papers strewn about, I see her form as it was: slumped in the chair, her gloves, the fingers strangely elongated, cling to the arm and strands of hair stick to the headrest. I’ll let you out if you want to go, I’ll let you out. I’ll let you go if you want to. I’ll let you go. I walk to the window,

3, 2, 1 — Bang

The door slams shut behind me. I don’t turn around but lift the latch and push the window open as wide as it will go, freezing air floods in. The house sucks in the silence, holds its breath. Then I watched the dent of her body smooth out of the chair she had once sat in, the door was still. She was gone.

About Rebecca Parfitt

Rebecca Parfitt grew up in Brighton and now lives in Cardiff where she works in publishing and facilitates creative writing workshops. She has been published widely and shortlisted for awards such as The Bridport International Poetry prize in 2010 and the Terry Hetherington Young Writer's Award in 2011 and 2012 and has just completed her first novel. She has a love for ghost stories and the macabre. She has recently taken up the trapeze and hopes to be able to fly one day.

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