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THE MISERY OF AGE

©  WRiTER oN THe MoON

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PART ONE

BRiSTOL

1

The Cornucopian Mirror and

the Craftsmen of Death

The almond tree at the entrance swayed to the beat of a secret. Chocolate, a bit of bread, crumpets and two big glasses of milk with powdered cacao and sugar were all Alan and Javier needed to sit down and watch the movie. It had been thirty-three days since the one hundredth anniversary of the premiere of Joe Dante's The Gremlins and they still hadn't taken the time to watch it.

It was raining.

A train rattled in the distance, hidden by the trees. A huge spider web clung to the window pane. A scolding bluejay could be heard on the corner of Fitzroy Street, right in front of the red Edwardian house.

"It doesn't say anything about the extras, Mom! Come on, we are going to watch the movie that you wanted to see soooooooooooooooo much. Are you coming or not?" Alan asked his mother, Sara. "It's the one about the little green animals."

The woman, with brown hair, green eyes and dressed in purple, was reluctantly putting clothes in a basket, half listening to the unexpected racket coming from the street and half thinking about the future of the laundromat.

You! Hey you! Bloody bastard!

"Park Street Launderette must be older than the cathedral." she whispered to herself , distractedly. "Jack could tell me in a second. Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit. The Lambs didn't always come here and it was also the place that made Emma go crazy."

She let out a small sigh as she named her mother-in-law.

"Moooooooom...." insisted Alan impatiently, arms crossed over his chest and tapping his foot to show his impatience.

"Park Street Launderette. If I'm not mistaken, something similar happened at the laundry in Amsterdam."

Sara was not paying any attention to what her son was saying. The boys put their afternoon snacks on a tray. They heard one or two police cars speed past on Wells Road, uniformed for combat without weapons,heading in the direction, certainly, of Knowle West.

"Hey! Mom! Are you sleepwalking or what?"

"What," she answered suddenly, coming out of the trance she was swimming in.

"Never mind. It doesn't matter," desisted Alan, somewhat irritated, shielded by the armour of pre-adolescence, "We are going to my room, that's all."

"Good! If you want anything I will be outside in the yard. I'm going to hang out these clothes while the sky is still clear and we have a bit of a truce. Listen! No video games! OK? And don't be alarmed by the idiots arguing out on the street. I suppose they will eventually be quiet...It's just the same old story, the same time, the same place. Dear Lord please take me soon!"

She disappeared into the yard to hang out the "laundry" that only an hour ago she had washed by hand, as the tradition called for, in the Conservatory. She hummed a tune. She said nothing as she saw the children going up to their room for their snack, hypnotized from the effect of the bromazepam. "I'm positive, darn it! it's older than the cathedral!"

"Man, your mother is really weird this afternoon, or am I just a little bit paranoid?"

"You're a little weird yourself. We all know how moody you can be, especially when your feelings get in the way."

"Idiot."

"Idiot you," said Alan.

"But she was so excited the day they announced the anniversary on television. She even told us that she would let us know as soon as it was available On Demand. And now it is! What are you going to do?" asked Javier.

"And what do you propose we should do? She isn't paying us any attention. Didn't you hear me call her a million times? Look, I think she's just weird. She comes and goes, she talks to herself like she is crazy or something." replied Alan.

"You know better than anyone how furious she gets when you don't count on her for something she wants to do, and she warned you that she wanted to see this movie. Later on she is going to say how sad it is that we didn't count on her to watch it with us." Javier said, blowing upwards at a lock of hair that was hanging down on his forehead. "I can just hear her now, she'll say something like, "I couldn't go up to the attic for five years at my parents house in Chinchón."

"Oh, don't pay any attention, really. She just loses it sometimes. Or can't you see that?" Alan asked, pointing at the window where the yard was. "Come on man, I want to see this old flick once and for all and see if it's like I remember."

They started up. Alan took three steps at a time, not stopping to look at his reflection in the cornucopian mirror that terrified him. He reached the top and stood there, turning his head to watch his friend from the heights. Javier climbed cautiously, awkwardly, carrying the tray in slow motion and listening to the creaking of the steps that witnessed his clumsiness.

"Say whatever you want to. Your Mom wanted to see the movie with us," Javier complained insistently, "Didn't she say it was one of your Chinchonian grandmother's favorites?" he asked Alan loudly, as his friend had gone into the room and was whistling, laughing at him and his sentimental paranoias.

"Forget it," Javier said to himself, "Let me tell you that today Alan and his sexy mother will have a big blow up at dinner and I will end up in the middle, as always. What a summer, and I am supposedly their guest."

He interrupted his ascent and stopped for an instant on the thirteenth step, the exact place where the cornucopian mirror hung on the wall. He read the engraving on the lower part of the glass: There is no death without a mirror to see it. He stood there stupidly, looking at the reflexion of Sara blending into the hydrangeas and azaleas. The sun was melting the clean cloths and the smell of soap, moved by the summer air and the recent rain, filled the air that touched every corner of the house. The house where the rusty old sign of Alan's family's business hung; Park Street Launderette, on the first third and uneven numbered side of Winter Walk Street. Finally, reaching the top of the stairs, Javier closed the door to the room with his heel.

"And what about all this unconditional love for old movies that you make me watch. You don't even ask me if I want to see them. I mean really, I've seen some pretty bad shit with you when you go off your rocker."

"It's my grandmother's fault. Blame my grandmother from Chinchón."