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  • Patricia Bernard

The White Cement Block

Ten years ago I bought a renovated terrace that has a two tiered back garden going uphill. The garden is crowded with gum, plane and palm trees. How lucky am I to live in a mini rainforest. True, the house is freezing in winter because the sun doesn’t get over the hill for more than one hour a day but it’s beautifully cool in summer and the birds are to die for.

I bought the house in a hurry as I only had 10 minutes to see it before the auction. I raced through it checking each room. The first had an enormous wardrobe. That had to go. I hate wardrobes big enough to hide people (read Ghosts in the House YA novel) It’s because my sister used to lock me in the bathroom that had a manhole over the bath and turn the light off from the outside. There I’d be in the dark scrambling out of the bath while waiting for something to drop down from the man-hole. Or it could be because my father’s punishment when I was naughty (which was often) was to lock me in the dark garage for hours. I would lie on my stomach with my eyes to the crack under the door while my best friend Janet lay on the other side in the sun-light talking to me. Unless my father caught her.


No one has died in this house I told my daughter, who wasn’t so sure as it was over 200 years old. Kitchen too small but big dining room with a pitched roof. ‘Look’s like a church’ exclaimed daughter. It did. Out into the jasmine-filled garden. The perfume clinched it. I bought the house.

Later I realized I had raced through it so fast that I hadn’t noticed the two womb-red walls. Womb-red is a no no’ for me since I saw a film called The Mattavile Horror’ It had a blood-red walled room.

Next I realized that the jasmine hid a shed in the top half of the garden. I hate sheds. Probably because I hate garages. So I paid a man to knock it down and cart it away. But he could not move the square of white cement. I painted it green and put a table and chairs on it. But it is so shaded that the only things that live up there are mosquitoes.


Now, have I mentioned I am afraid of the dark? But I had already checked for ghosts so I wasn’t particularly spooked by the now green cement square. But just the same I planted a ring of palm trees and tied a piece of ‘Good Wishes’ rope around each palm linking them together around the cement block. The palms are growing beautifully and once in awhile I take my computer up to the little table and I write a story. But the stories are always very odd. Such as the one about the little girl with the brown paper bag over her head who stands in the passageway of the house three houses up. Or the White Cement Block.

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