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This is a story that I wrote for the topic 'Belonging' at school, *groan* but I thought I'd share it with all you lovely people.


Submitted:Aug 3, 2014    Reads: 2    Comments: 1    Likes: 1   


Helen's hands shook as she entered the tiny museum; it was hardly more than a dusty room filled with the usual detritus of photographs, newspaper clippings and rusted pieces of broken metal that the dead leave behind in a small country village. It wasn't much of a tourist trap, but then Broken Hill had never attracted many tourists. Helen had lived here as a little girl, but she hadn't visited the place for years. Frankly, it was getting a bit run down. Helen wrinkled her nose at the thick layer of cobwebs infesting the corners; they swayed in the gentle wind as though daring her to whip out a duster and whisk them away.

She shuffled further into the room, her rheumy eyes passing over the rows of faded faces. Her bloody ankles were sore again, but there was no place to sit down. Remembering her youth used to make her feel young again, as if those days had never ended, but now she felt like a remnant, something out-dated; something that should be swept aside- much like the town itself. People used to be proud to belong here, she thought bitterly. But now it's a fond memory at best.

Helen jumped as she heard the tinny ring of a bell behind her; a couple entered looking windswept and harassed, while their young son kicked at their heels and yelled that he was bored. Why have a bell here? Helen wondered. There's nothing that anybody would want to steal. She watched with a mixture of annoyance and amusement as the couple furiously tried to hush the little boy, leaning on her cane.

All four of them were startled by the appearance of a wizened old man from a storeroom tucked into the back of the museum. Strange tufts of white hair stuck up on his head, and his nose was hooked like a raven's beak. Helen had wandered through the dusty little room full of memories many times before on her visits to the town where she'd grown up, but this curator she hadn't seen before. He looked like a fool or a king's advisor from a fairytale. The little old man seemed surprised to see real people in the museum; he bobbed his head at them amiably and toddled off to the back of the room, shuffling a pile of papers in his hands.

Helen tried to think positive thoughts, but the truth was that she was old and tired, and home didn't feel like home anymore. This was a town full of ghosts, but she couldn't join even them; they had moved on without her, and she was stuck with swollen ankles, stiff hands and a face that the suitors of her youth would no longer recognise. Oh, dry up, you sentimental fool, she told herself firmly. That sort of thinking never did anyone any good.

Suddenly there was a loud crash from directly behind her. Helen turned just in time to catch the young boy looking guilty as he knelt beside a large wooden drawer that had fallen from a cabinet. It had a heavy bronze lion's head for a handle, and the child had obviously been playing with it and worrying at it, and then accidentally pulled the drawer out. It was stuffed full of yet more faded documents and photographs; some of them had spilled out and the boy's stricken parents rushed to pick them up, scolding him. He began to cry.

Helen stood frozen. One of the pictures had fluttered across the room to touch the tips of her scuffed, brown boots. The young man in the photo stood with his hands jammed in his pockets, his grin exploding from the flat surface, a cap jauntily stuck on his head. His hair was short and curly, and even though it looked nearly white in the black-grey-white spectrum of the photograph, Helen knew that it was the colour of sunshine. She knew that his left ear was slightly higher than his right, that he could catch fish from the stream with his bare hands, and that his given name was James but his friends called him Joe.

Memories flashed before her eyes as if she was fast-forwarding a movie- Helen never could get the hang of the fast-forward button- and she could see her five year old self looking wide-eyed at her mother, poking the tiny bundle in Mama's arms. "This is your new brother," Mama had said, and Helen had tugged at the edge of the blanket to see the baby's rosy face, his eyelashes stuck wetly to his cheeks.

The photograph had been taken when James was fifteen, just discovering a new world of wives and manhood and responsibility on his thin shoulders. He had died a few days after in the mines. They had called it an accident, but that hadn't stopped Helen's and Mama's hearts from breaking. Helen's joints creaked as she bent to pick up the picture, her wrinkled fingers smoothing over her brother's smiling face, and Helen smiled too through a film of tears. Suddenly, inexplicably, home felt like home again.

Helen's hands shook as she entered the tiny museum; it was hardly more than a dusty room filled with the usual detritus of photographs, newspaper clippings and rusted pieces of broken metal that the dead leave behind in a small country village. It wasn't much of a tourist trap, but then Broken Hill had never attracted many tourists. Helen had lived here as a little girl, but she hadn't visited the place for years. Frankly, it was getting a bit run down. Helen wrinkled her nose at the thick layer of cobwebs infesting the corners; they swayed in the gentle wind as though daring her to whip out a duster and whisk them away.

She shuffled further into the room, her rheumy eyes passing over the rows of faded faces. Her bloody ankles were sore again, but there was no place to sit down. Remembering her youth used to make her feel young again, as if those days had never ended, but now she felt like a remnant, something out-dated; something that should be swept aside- much like the town itself. People used to be proud to belong here, she thought bitterly. But now it's a fond memory at best.

Helen jumped as she heard the tinny ring of a bell behind her; a couple entered looking windswept and harassed, while their young son kicked at their heels and yelled that he was bored. Why have a bell here? Helen wondered. There's nothing that anybody would want to steal. She watched with a mixture of annoyance and amusement as the couple furiously tried to hush the little boy, leaning on her cane.

All four of them were startled by the appearance of a wizened old man from a storeroom tucked into the back of the museum. Strange tufts of white hair stuck up on his head, and his nose was hooked like a raven's beak. Helen had wandered through the dusty little room full of memories many times before on her visits to the town where she'd grown up, but this curator she hadn't seen before. He looked like a fool or a king's advisor from a fairytale. The little old man seemed surprised to see real people in the museum; he bobbed his head at them amiably and toddled off to the back of the room, shuffling a pile of papers in his hands.

Helen tried to think positive thoughts, but the truth was that she was old and tired, and home didn't feel like home anymore. This was a town full of ghosts, but she couldn't join even them; they had moved on without her, and she was stuck with swollen ankles, stiff hands and a face that the suitors of her youth would no longer recognise. Oh, dry up, you sentimental fool, she told herself firmly. That sort of thinking never did anyone any good.

Suddenly there was a loud crash from directly behind her. Helen turned just in time to catch the young boy looking guilty as he knelt beside a large wooden drawer that had fallen from a cabinet. It had a heavy bronze lion's head for a handle, and the child had obviously been playing with it and worrying at it, and then accidentally pulled the drawer out. It was stuffed full of yet more faded documents and photographs; some of them had spilled out and the boy's stricken parents rushed to pick them up, scolding him. He began to cry.

Helen stood frozen. One of the pictures had fluttered across the room to touch the tips of her scuffed, brown boots. The young man in the photo stood with his hands jammed in his pockets, his grin exploding from the flat surface, a cap jauntily stuck on his head. His hair was short and curly, and even though it looked nearly white in the black-grey-white spectrum of the photograph, Helen knew that it was the colour of sunshine. She knew that his left ear was slightly higher than his right, that he could catch fish from the stream with his bare hands, and that his given name was James but his friends called him Joe.

Memories flashed before her eyes as if she was fast-forwarding a movie- Helen never could get the hang of the fast-forward button- and she could see her five year old self looking wide-eyed at her mother, poking the tiny bundle in Mama's arms. "This is your new brother," Mama had said, and Helen had tugged at the edge of the blanket to see the baby's rosy face, his eyelashes stuck wetly to his cheeks.

The photograph had been taken when James was fifteen, just discovering a new world of wives and manhood and responsibility on his thin shoulders. He had died a few days after in the mines. They had called it an accident, but that hadn't stopped Helen's and Mama's hearts from breaking. Helen's joints creaked as she bent to pick up the picture, her wrinkled fingers smoothing over her brother's smiling face, and Helen smiled too through a film of tears. Suddenly, inexplicably, home felt like home again.





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