2012 The Final Revelation, by Lisa J Flaus
Mt. Albert, Auckland City, New Zealand
Thursday, December 20th, 2012
Kathryn Scott pulled into the driveway of her grandparent’s home in Mt. Albert, a central Auckland suburb.
The beautiful house was built in 1960, a common style home for the time, made of solid brick and wood. It sat shielded by opulent gardens crammed with hibiscus trees and red flowering pohutakawa trees, a native of New Zealand.
The home was made up of three floors: basement, ground, and first. The huge basement was built completely underground, windowless, with stairs leading up to the next level. The ground floor contained the kitchen, a large living room, bathroom, and a study. A deck extended from the family room and overlooked a long, well-manicured rear garden. Four bedrooms and a second bathroom occupied the first floor.
As Kathryn got out of her car she could hear the lawn mower purring loudly in the back garden. Chester, her grandparent’s gray tabby, came meandering down the front steps and immediately started the familiar weaving patterns at her feet.
“Hello Chester,” Kathryn said, bending down for a pat. “Come on, help me unload the car. You need some exercise; you’re a bit chubby!” Yeah right! She thought as she watched the animal lumber off into the garden, totally disinterested in hard labor. “Consider yourself on a diet!” she called after him.
Kathryn took her suitcase upstairs and chose one of the smaller bedrooms, the one she had always stayed in as a child. The door was open, admitting a bright ray of sunshine into the hall. It was a cheery room, simply furnished with a single bed and a large oak dressing table.
She dropped her bag on the bed, walked over to the dresser, and picked up a small statue, one of countless adorning the top. A kiwi, New Zealand’s flightless native bird, was her grandmother’s little obsession. It was not an overly obsessive collection, but was certainly enough for anyone to notice a similar pattern throughout the home. There were glass, ceramic, wooden, and fabric kiwi birds in every room. Kathryn swirled the little bird around in her hand, a kiwi on a bicycle. She laughed and picked up another one, a kiwi sunbathing, wearing a pair of dark sunglasses and a blue swimsuit. She popped them back down and turned to her bed. It was draped in a pale green blanket; a large stuffed brown kiwi sat on the pillow, its long beak sticking up in the air, like it had detected a large invisible flying insect. Kathryn wandered over to the window, looked outside, and saw her father mowing the back lawn.
She headed downstairs and walked out onto the deck where she perused her new, temporary world. A pretty garden of flowers lined the perimeter fence. Two tall pohutakawa trees stood at each end, their flaming red flowers, some blooming against the vivid blue sky and others fallen onto the grass, amplified the image. The property was a peaceful and private place, and the sparkling day was filled with the sound of birdsong and chirping cicadas. A warm light played across the yard, redolent with the smells of summer, newly mown lawns, and the scent of fresh flowers.
“Hi Dad,” Kathryn called out.
He didn’t hear. His back was to her as he concentrated on emptying the clipper of fresh grass clippings. He was wearing a black cap, yellow sleeveless shirt, white shorts, and gumboots. Little green flakes stuck to the backs of his white legs. He was a vision of non-style.
When he finally looked up, Kathryn waved. “I’ll get you a drink,” she called out.
He signaled a thumbs up sign.
By the time Kathryn returned from the kitchen, her father was stepping onto the deck, puffing slightly.
Kathryn looked him over.
Robert Scott was fifty one. He had thinning brown hair with a small bald patch forming at the back of his head, similar to a well-designed crop circle. He had an average physique for his age and looked healthy. Inside his body was another story. He had smoked cigarettes for over twenty years.
“Why didn’t you mow earlier, it would have been much cooler then?” Kathryn asked.
“I was going to do it tomorrow morning, but your mother wanted me to bring a load of groceries over today, so here I am.” He rolled his eyes. He had sharp, knowing eyes and an easy smile.
Kathryn smiled and nodded. She took in his words. They registered somewhere in the recesses of her brain matter. In the days, weeks, months, and years ahead she would recall the memory and remember his every word vividly. Right now, it was just another casual, unimportant, normal conversation.
“Did Nana and Granddad get off OK?” she asked.
“Yes, all good; we were there in time and had coffee at the airport. They are excited about the trip. Nana is worried about Chester.”
“I’ll take good care of him,” Kathryn replied, looking around for the cat.
“They are very grateful you are looking after him while they are in Ireland.” Robert took a giant swill of drink from his glass. In those few minutes, the ice cubes had melted into little pebbles.
Kathryn watched her father rummage in the back pocket of his shorts and find his packet of cigarettes. He lit one.
“I thought you were giving them up?” she said, with raised eyebrows as her father lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.
“Yes…soon,” Robert replied nonchalantly, leaning back.
Same old story.
“Anything you want me to do tomorrow?” Kathryn asked.
“One thing, Katey,” Robert replied, using his nickname for her, “in the basement, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure thing, what?”
“I’ll take you down in a moment and show you. Let me enjoy this first.” He puffed comfortably on his smoke.
Chester wandered by. Kathryn bent down, picked him up, and placed him up on the outdoor table. She deftly examined the little creature, checking his teeth, feeling his bones and looking into his eyes. Chester sat quietly, only emitting a small meow when she squeezed his flabby tummy.
Robert Scott looked on. “How’s veterinary work?” he asked, watching his daughter poking and prodding.
“Great,” Kathryn replied smiling. “I love it. The people I work with are so nice. Some sad animal stories though, and I’m so relieved to finally be on holiday.”
Robert looked at her proudly. “You deserve it.”
“I’ve been so tired lately—late nights and hard work.”
“Well, you can have a good two week break now,” he replied, taking another drag.
Kathryn continued her examination of the now wriggling feline. “Bit of a chubby fella, but ever so cute.” She put him back down on the ground and gave him a pat.
They both watched him saunter off, no doubt puzzled by the sudden intrusion.
“Right…inspection over?” Robert said, stubbing out his smoke in the glass ashtray, kindly left out by his parents-in-law. “Let’s get down there.”
They left the deck and walked through the hallway. Kathryn opened the basement door. The room was in total darkness. She fumbled to her right and found the light switch. It lit the room in a dull pathetic light. As they both descended down the staircase, Kathryn jumped as the spring on the door emitted a loud whistling noise. The door clicked shut behind them.
“Sheesh that gave me a fright!” she exclaimed. “It’s still a bit dark down here too,” Kathryn said, slowly walking down.
“I’ll oil that door on Saturday and put in a new bulb. There is a good lamp over there by the chair. I suggest you use that for now. That main light is on its last legs.”
Originally, the basement contained only the house support beams and dirt. Renovations had seen the excavation of the area and a room had been designed and built into a comfortable space. The foundation beams had been fashioned into large wooden columns which still strongly supported the house above.
As they slowly descended down the stairs, Kathryn waited for the inevitable statement.
“I met your mother down here.”
There it was.
“I know, you’ve told me four hundred times!”
“I was a young, handsome buck of a lad,” Robert continued on, ignoring her comment. “She came floating down the stairs like an angel on a cloud. I felt the spark instantly. That spark is important, Katey,” he said, and meant it. They had been married twenty-seven years.
“Four hundred and one,” Kathryn said quietly.
Kathryn’s father, a builder by trade, had spent his first job and apprenticeship renovating the property. As a young tradesman he had met the pretty young Barbara Kennedy, the family’s daughter. After one year of courting, they had married in the local church.
They entered the room. Kathryn’s eyes spanned the cozy and familiar space. It had a quiet charm. It was chilly. In the winter months, the room was so icy it could turn your skin blue, but now, in the summer time, it was a cool, refreshing reprieve from the scorching day outside.
The carpet was tired and worn. The walls were covered with pale yellow wallpaper and family photographs. There were two completely different sofas. One a soft floral, the other a faded brown leather, worn on the arms. It was her grandfather’s favorite friend, where he spent his time hiding, reading, and watching sports on the television. A deep indent on one of the seats indicated his typical body position. Like tailor-made fitted clothing, the shape perfectly measured and molded to envelop his body.
“Bit musty down here,” Kathryn said, scrunching her nose.
“What do you want me to do?”
“This bookcase—” Her father walked over to a large wooden bookcase in the far corner of the room. The case was filled to the brim. Vases containing tired faded material flowers and dusty ornaments filled in the spaces between the books, serving as bookends and space fillers. “I need to fix a broken shelf,” he said, pointing at the culprit. “Can you please clear it?”
“Just pile everything on the floor for now. I’ll do the work on Saturday.”
“You could give it a dust too,” he winked.
“Yip,” Kathryn replied, not intending to. She hated cleaning. Her eyes spanned the room and she spotted her grandfather’s old television set, still in good working order. There was an old record player sitting beside it, with a large pile of dated records and cassettes piled high on the floor. Kathryn smiled as she remembered the times she and her sister Sarah spent in the basement, playing records for hours, singing into broom handles they had fashioned into microphones.
“Oh look…the Christmas tree!” Kathryn said, noticing the cardboard box propped up against the far corner.
“You OK with the bookcase?” her father asked.
“Sure, clear it and dust if I feel like it.”
“Well, try,” her father replied. “Now I’d better put that lawnmower in the back shed and check the tools.”
“I think I’ll head off for a quick run,” Kathryn said. She left her father pottering in the basement and bolted up the stairs, two at a time. She changed into her running clothes: short sleeved white shirt, baggy shorts, and trainers. She unfastened her hair from her clip and re-tied it up into a pony tail to save annoyance when she ran. Grabbing her music player, Kathryn headed outside to do warm up exercises. Her father soon joined her and sat on the front step watching her. He lit a cigarette— an ironic scene.
“How long will you be?” he asked, puffing away.
“One hour,” Kathryn replied.
“I’ll be gone when you get back. I’ll leave the key under the mat. Are you sure you’re alright to run in this heat?”
“Yeah, it’ll burn off some energy,” Kathryn replied. She hadn’t been good to her body lately. As she touched her toes, Kathryn recalled her late nights, parties, and excessive drinking. She began a series of star jumps. Her father took a puff of his freshly lit cigarette. He looked exhausted just watching her.
“Right,” Kathryn said, now ready to head off. “I’ll see you on the twenty-second.”
“Try and get some sleep,” her father called after her.
Kathryn pressed play and ran.
When Kathryn arrived back at the house, she was hot and thirsty. She headed straight for the kitchen to get a cold drink.
A large yellow note was perched against a packet of tuna flavored cat biscuits on the kitchen table. She picked it up and read. “I put the tree up for you, decorations in box beside it. Don’t forget the bookcase job. I expect a large expensive present. Love, Dad.”
Kathryn smiled. She had bought her father a camera, a car cleaning kit for his new car, and two crime novels.
Kathryn decorated the Christmas tree with lights and tinsel and laughed while Chester tried, unsuccessfully, to capture the little swinging ornaments. She placed some presents underneath it, all beautifully wrapped. The left over wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon remained strewn all over the carpet. She would clean it up tomorrow.
Kathryn watched television, ate a quick meal of chicken salad and chatted to her new boyfriend, Peter, on the telephone for hours. Finally, exhausted, she went to bed at eleven o’clock.
Tomorrow would be the twenty-first of December, 2012.
Her exhaustion would save her life.