Not Another Cookery Book (1).
The bedroom windows were nailed shut. Condensation glistened on the walls in the moonlight shining through the torn curtains. There was an acrid smell of stale urine, sweat and bad breath. Everything was dirty including the three brothers who shared an ancient, hard, lumpy, feather mattress on the floor. The dust was everywhere and so thick it could be formed into mounds by a small child's hands when he was bored. There was no furniture and ragged clothes lay dotted around the room like islands on the floor. A single light bulb hung by a wire, shade-less, in the middle of the ceiling, but it had not shone for months. One day it would be replaced but until then the three boys would live by circadian time. There was no heat. There was a fireplace but that was merely an incidental source of ventilation. In the winter ice lay like double-glazing on the insides of the window panes while, in the summer, the heat was unbearable.
An army coat, a woman's jacket with a fur collar, two heavy overcoats and a tattered table-cloth covered the three boys when they slept. They had never known the luxury of sheets and blankets. They wore no pyjamas but were not bothered by the roughness of the bedding. It covered them and kept them reasonably warm. John, who was five years old, slept on one side of the bed. Peter, his elder brother, slept on the other side. David, the youngest, slept in the middle. Each morning, John woke up first and, as always, he put his hand to the area around his crotch to see if it was wet. It always was but as his two brothers also, occasionally, wet the bed he was never completely sure that it was his doing. He slept on a huge damp patch which, in the winter, never dried up and, in the summer, was like a marshland attractring flying insects from all over the house.
There was a chamber-pot which was emptied now and then. A lot of the time it was full and sometimes over-flowing. None of the boys thought to empty it. They had not been brought up that way. It was something for a grown-up and not their responsibility. Whe the pot was so full that the urine formed a convex surface the boys were not bothered. They could live with it until it was emptied. Sometimes mould formed.
John put on his trousers and shirt and went downstairs. The damp darkness followed him.
I am John.
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