The Watcher by Lorna Fraser

I see everything. I’m very good that way. I take note in my mind - never write anything down you don’t want used as evidence - the departures and the arrivals, the regulars and the transients. 

My chair is positioned at an angle to allow me to see the span of the street with a mere tilt or turn of my neck.  The window is in three sections.  A bay window my Mam always called it.  Not all the houses have bay windows in our street.  Only the better ones, those built for a more affluent class of person.

Our house is almost one hundred and twenty-three years old.  My Mam always said they knew how to build properly in those days. None of that prefab nonsense that she had to grow up in and not like the boxes that are sprouting like mushrooms on the green fields at the edge of town. 

I wouldn’t fancy one of those.  Because of the incident, I have been told I could get a bungalow specially accommodated for me.  No thank you. I have lived in this house all my life. To be anywhere else would be no more than a waiting room for death. 

I’m not afraid of dying. When Mam went she just let her head sink deeper into the pillow and all the air breathed out her.  I watched her go. I sat with her for quite some time, maybe two, maybe three days.  When you find a dead mouse, you will see how its body has kind of deflated, only an empty fur suit caught in a trap.  Mam’s face went quite grey and flat too.

The postman has taken to parking his van in front of Mrs Mackay’s house. He does one half of the street and then comes back to refill his bag.  His van is there for at least thirty minutes. 

Mrs Mackay could choose to come out and I wouldn’t even know till she is already headed for the bus stop.   She never learned to drive. She sold Mr Mackay’s car, thirteen days after he died.  Mam said at the time she could have at least offered us first refusal, that there was low mileage and Mr Mackay washed it every other day whether it needed a doing or not.

Mrs Mackay’s got three grown up children. They all visit her in a rota system. I worked that out quite quickly. They bring grand-children. The young ones are harder to tell apart.

The last time I spoke to Mrs Mackay was at Mam’s funeral, three years, seven months and approximately two weeks ago. I was shaking everyone’s hands – I kept my gloves on – and she looks down at me and says she supposes I will sell the house now. Bloody cheek!

She doesn’t like that I sit here every day and take note. I am the longest resident of this street.  So naturally, I bear the weight of my role.

Mr Mackay’s car was a red ford fiesta. It never suited him. My car was white, a dreadful colour for showing the dirt. I only had it for thirty-six weeks and two days. Then the incident happened.

I suppose it was after that I knew for certain I would be living in this house forever. Mam and me, we looked after each other.

My groceries get delivered once a week. I can’t depend on it being the same Tesco driver, though they might as well be. They never want to put the bags in the kitchen. They do it anyway because they don’t want a guilty conscience. They look at my chair instead of my eyes.  They glance at the stairs - dark oak, more dust than polish – they think what a waste that I never go up there. 

All that I need is right here in this front room. My daily commute is to the kitchen, to the downstairs toilet and back to my special spot by the window. The wheels of my chair run like a train on a track, following a line between shadowy dirt sidings. 

I see everything.

The postman drove off half an hour ago.  Another car has pulled up to the same space. A flash, silver thing. This man in a suit has opened the boot and taken out a sign on a stick. He’s nailing it to Mrs Mackay’s gatepost. For sale!  Well, well, I bet her grown up children are making her do that.

Now he is pacing up and down the street, talking on his phone, one hand waving about as if the person he’s talking to can see him. Crossing the road now, stopping, shaking his head, turning back, standing right in the middle of the road, looking. Looking right at me! Now he is coming closer, to the left, he’s reached my gate. Out of sight for a second because of the tall hedge – I need to make an adjustment to my chair – now he is on my path.  He’s coming to my front door. 

After the incident, I was in hospital for a long time. Finally, I got home and a week later this man came to our door. He had a shiny suit too, said he could help me, get me compensation. Mam said he was nothing but a conman.

My doorbell rings, once, twice.  I do not move. Sure enough, after a moment he is back in view. He sees me. I see him.  He takes one step towards the window. Stops, pulls his phone from his pocket, begins talking, turns away. I watch him get into his car.

I manoeuvre into the hall. I use my picky stick to get the card lying behind the letterbox. I tear it into confetti. 

I would say approximately once a month someone or other will contact me with an offer to buy my house. It is the best placed one on the whole street. In my chair, at my window, I see everything.

***

Lorna Fraser lives in Bo’ness, Scotland. She is currently dedicating her time and energy to writing a 20th century historical trilogy.  She has been published in various anthologies. Her own anthology of prize-winning short stories, ‘ill-divided world & other stories’ is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book. You can also find her on Facebook.

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