THAT House

Everyone knows that house; the overgrown mess that no one ever leaves because no one ever enters. Finn knows that house too and he wants to know its story.


2. Chapter 2

Finn was sat on the inside of the nurse’s door with a translucent, green mask sucked to his face. He inhaled deeply. He was still fairly shaken, but it had been an hour since the incident. The nurse, Mrs O’Keefe, removed the inhaler from Finn’s face.

“How’s that lad?” she asked. Her voice was northern and reminiscent of someone who had lived in South Shields all her life, though she told Finn that she had never been any further north than Milton Keynes. He hadn’t asked her. She’d just told him.

Finn nodded in reply.

“That’s it,” she chuckled. “Good lad.”

She went back to the store cupboard in her office and pulled out a plastic cup. She filled it with water from her own water canteen and then handed it to Finn. He thanked her quietly.

“Bit wobbly, are ya? Yeah, don’t worry. You were brave and just as soon as your dad gets here you can go home. What happened wasn’t nice, I know.”

As Finn took a sip of his water she flicked through the papers on her desk.

“Now, where is that dad of yours?” She began, startling Finn. “I don’t know. I phoned him forty-five minutes ago. I would’ve said that he’d have been here by now.”

“He has a lot of meetings,” Finn answered. “It’s hard for him to get time off. Or at least that’s what he tells me.”


Finn had never had the pleasure of knowing what exactly it was that his father did. He knew he was an estate agent for TopHomes and had clients that were calling right, left and centre to speak to him about the deals on their houses and maintenance fees for renting them out. But all those calls and mid-morning appointments didn’t explain Finn’s father. The appointments didn’t explain the sudden yet half-expected calls that came at eight thirty pm from his father saying that Finn should think about getting himself a take-away, if he hadn’t already sorted himself out with dinner.  Neither did those twenty minute calls didn’t give any hint as to why his father should come home slurring and pungently scented with a tangible mix of alcohol and Lacoste pour Femme at whatever hour of the night. There was something rather inexplicable about Mark that allowed a sore distance between father and son to intensify.

“Ah, Mr Mackenzie!”

“Mrs O’Keefe.”

“Finn’s just in here. He’s a little shaken, but other than that, recovered.” Mrs O’Keefe motioned to Finn. “Your dad’s here,” she whispered.

Finn grabbed his schoolbag from his feet.

“Mr Mackenzie you’re looking thinner. Have you-”

“Ten pound weights at the gym, cross trainer and treadmill.” Finn’s father adjusted his cuffs and loosened his shirt sleeves.

“Right,” she replied sceptically. “Anyway, there you go Finn. Good boy.”

Mr Mackenzie put a hand lightly on Finn’s shoulder.

“We’ll be seeing you Ms O’Keefe,” he ended and led Finn out of the room.

“Alright, then. Take care.”  

Out of the school gates, Finn’s father let his hand hang by his side again.

“Finley, I can’t have out taking me out of work like this. I was with a client.”

“I’m sorry, but it wasn’t my fault,” Finn reasoned.  “Those boys jumped on me. I didn’t know it was going to happen.”

“I’m not saying that you did. Just…go easy. Ok? No more funny business.”



Finn had come to realise that his father never followed the bus route when he picked him up from school, even though the way he did choose was a longer way home. Instead, he drove home through Brook Grange, which was a busy town where everyone seemed as though they were in a rush to do everything. Sticking to precedent, today Finn’s father drove the long way, stopping to order a chicken and sweet corn soup and a beef in a black bean sauce with stir-fry noodles.

“Have you had lunch?” his father asked as they pulled up to the pavement outside their house.

“No. I’m not hungry.”

“You’ve got to eat something. Here,” he said, handing over the meal in a paper bag. It was white with red symbols on and transparent blotches where grease had seeped through. “Take this inside and make sure you finish it.”

“Aren’t you coming in?” asked Finn.

“Finley, it’s eleven o’clock. I have work to do.”

He leant over and softly planted a kiss on Finn’s cheek.    

“I’ll be home as soon as I can.”

Finn stepped from the car and immediately his father left him at the curb side.

Hugging the warm Chinese to his chest, Finn walked inside. It occurred to him, as he set the meal down on the work surface that, perhaps, the only way that he and his father could truly communicate was by means of Wong’s Chinese. He hadn’t thought of it this way before, but as he sat down to eat his first black bean beef and noodles alone, his solitude overshadowed the meal. In the Mackenzie household, Chinese was the saving grace. Or at least it had become of late. Mrs Mackenzie wouldn’t have tolerated it. But she wasn’t here now to say otherwise.

Finn seemed apathetic to his father – a bit of a drab – but what he failed to notice was that it was he who had made his son that way. Increasingly longer work shifts amongst other things had taken their toll on Finn.

He dug his fork into the noodles and scooped them up, lifting the food so that it was level with his eyes.

What if his father had a normal job, like the other kids at his school? Jonathan’s dad was an on call plumber which meant that he was free whenever Jonathan wanted. They played cricket at the weekends together and he took him to London to see league games almost every other week during the season. Or what if his father stacked shelves at the Co-Op, like Colette’s mum? Then Finn could be sure of his father’s hours, and even pop in to see him after school. Then maybe his father could get both of them ice cream from the supermarket freezer and they could stock up on sweets then rent a movie from the Video Shack in town.

What would be even better, thought Finn as he slurped down his noodles, would be if dad had no job at all. Then he would be almost the same as nearly every other parent at the school; unemployed. I could spend as much time with him as I wanted. We could go to the cinema after school or I could even take days off, like Margret, just to spend time with him.  

Finn finished his plate and brought it to the sink. He was free to daydream but that thought hadn’t done him any good. He could never be like anyone else and he knew it. His father would always have a job that would, almost on purpose, wedge its way between the two of them. The other children at school had mothers who could earn for the family even if the fathers didn’t. They had the ability to choose that life. Finn didn’t.

If a death could be seen as inconvenient, this was the way Finn viewed his mother’s. 

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