Parenting & Other Life Stories

Cramped Living


He struggled through the door that would only crack open. He needed to find time to move the boxes from behind it, the boxes that were now buried under a pile of old newspapers. Since this was the only door of 3 that he could still access it was really important to find the time. He inched his way through the narrow path in the garage stopping here and there to shift one item or another. As he entered into the house he was careful not to bang the stack of newspaper on the counter by the door. If those fell over it would take weeks to clean them up and that would be a disaster because this counter has enough free surface space to hold and use the crockpot.

The crockpot had long ago become his only method of cooking. The gas stove a few feet away wasn’t safe to use until he found time to clean up. There was just too much stuff crowded into this area that the open flame from the gas stove made it a fire risk. Plus, the fire department would never be able to get inside the house and he would lose everything, all the items and the memories that they hold. He visibly shuddered as this thought raced through his mind. He paused and looked around. He wondered what he could spend the night doing.

Slowly, he snaked his way through the narrow maze of winding paths toward the front television room. The main living room was packed to the brim and the light in there was dim having been years since he could access the curtains to let in any light. The

front television room was the only room off the kitchen that he could access. As he passed by the television he used the buttons on the front to turn it on and locate a channel that caught his interest. The television controller was somewhere in the room and he would find it once he had time to clean up a bit. He turned and backed up slowly until the back of his legs bumped something hard. He knew that the something he bumped into was a wooden bar stool that he had cleverly placed so he had somewhere to sit when he watched television. It was a good thing he knew it was there too because there wasn’t enough room to turn around and look. As he sat down he disappeared from sight having sunk down below the line of clutter like a child in a fort. The child though would complain about the strange smell, a mix of mould, dust and something more earthy and decaying. He didn’t notice; it was just the smell of home.

Someone knocked on the door and he cursed because he couldn’t get to it and by the time he made it through the garage and outside to the door being knocked on whoever it was would be gone. It had happened a couple weeks ago and it didn’t end well. It had been the hydro guy and the power got turned off. It had taken days to sort that out. The only thing worse than the door is the phone ringing. The portable is buried somewhere. It must still be on a base too because its muffled ring is a torment. The cord phone is reachable but there is nowhere to sit by it because the chairs have papers and various other items covering them.

He strokes the sides of his greying mustache thinking and not really seeing the image on the television screen. Three beers filled his tummy in the span of 30 minutes and now he is hungry for food. He knows he can’t drive now and the crockpot takes too long. He has to urinate and he can’t use his own washroom so he stumbles through the mess toward


the door. It takes an hour and twenty minutes to find his wallet on the cluttered kitchen table because it had slipped into a crevasse and it wasn’t easy to see.

He hums to himself as he walks down the sidewalk enjoying the wide open space and the brisk night air. He is anticipating the pub burger and fries paired with a few cold beers. He knows he will stay till closing and joking around and laughing with anybody who is within range of him. He knows that it will then be a slow walk home, a terrifying climb through the dark garage (where he has fallen on more than one occasion like this). He has been meaning to make a path to the light switch in the garage but hasn’t yet. Once inside he will take a firm grip on the railing leading up to the second floor of the house. He will use the grip to maneuver his way by objects piled on the stairs and twist and turn through the path to his bed and sleep amid the clutter of his home.

By Shari Marshall – 2019

**Names and identifying details have been changed or omitted to protect the privacy of the individual(s). **