He’d been under the stairs for years, forgotten and neglected. This wasn’t what his family had envisaged when they’d sold him. The money had been much needed, but they’d also liked the idea – as much as anything – that a future full of purpose and respect lay ahead for him.
At first he’d received much attention and care, always admired, studied and appreciated. Even though his eyes were gone, he’d sensed their awe, fascination and respect. Hushed tones caressed him: “He’s real?”
But times changed. The day his owner retired, she’d packed him into a box and taken him home. Naively, he’d assumed that after decades sharing the same office, he’d be given a quiet corner of her lounge where they’d enjoy her retirement in companionable silence. Instead, she’d stuffed him into the darkness beneath the stairs, where he lay, listening to the slow thud of her footsteps pass overhead morning and night.
One day the thudding stopped.
Some time later, the little under-stairs door creaked open. Youthful, energetic arms hauled things out into bright daylight. Fingers grasped his ankle and soon he was sliding, clattering, across the wooden floor towards the light.
“Gosh, look Dad! Did Nana kill someone?!” A young girl’s voice cried.
Heavy footsteps approached and a deep voice laughed. “Don’t be daft, Mum didn’t kill anyone! That’ll be her old Chinaman.”
“From medical school. She bought a real skeleton back in the day. Must’ve kept him all these years – goodness knows why.”
If he’d had skin and muscles, he’d have scowled. How dare they think he was Chinese! He’d never set foot outside India in his life. In death, perhaps, but he accepted no responsibility for that. He felt himself held up high for inspection.
“Perfect for Halloween,” said the deep voice. Suddenly, he was violently shaken from side to side in an undignified dance. “Mwah-ha-haaar!”
“Oh Dad, don’t!” protested the girl.
Outraged, he allowed his limbs to flail more than necessary, his bony fingers outstretched. He felt them scrape something soft.
“Ow!” came a low growl. “Git.”
If he’d had lips, he would have smiled.
Jo Davies is a new British writer. By day, she works as an editor and publisher in the civil service; by night her imagination comes out to play in the form of flash fiction and short stories. She lives in Berkshire and enjoys finding story prompts in everyday life. Her work has appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and Spelk.