There’s always a rattle as I shut the doors. I never tremble. I’ve done this many times. It doesn’t affect me anymore.
I never slam the door now, not these days. In the past, the doors would fall open and I would have to slam them shut quickly. I didn’t want anyone else to know what was in the cupboard.
The stench had been almost unbelievable, but it made perfect sense to me. Many times, I had opened the door, gone in and given a cursory glance at the space. Every time, I saw nothing unexpected, so I would spray air freshener and then leave the cupboard to its own devices, aware that the doors would keep falling open. After several months, I tied them shut by wrapping elastic bands around both handles, the two doors acting as a shield for me.
But doors are not air-tight. The stench seeped under the wooden constraints of the cupboard, through the wooden panels as they breathed. I had to go in. Neighbours and visitors had started to comment on the smell that seemed to permeate every square inch of air in my home, and it affected my mood. It really was dragging me down.
I shone a light into the sombre cupboard. I felt something small scuttle over my feet. The torch swung at the direction of the small creatures, but I saw nothing but wooden floorboards. I had to go further.
Filth had been allowed to gather in the corners of the flooring and up the vertical seams. In the filth was life – crawling, wriggling, slithering in all its parasitical glory. The maggots framed the one thing I wanted no one else to see. I had to act.
I had built a beautiful home for myself, so I wouldn’t have that horrible thing in my lovely home. I could not take it out. I had to deal with it, here, in the darkness. If I didn’t, it would continue to spill out. I had to get my house in order by cleaning up the rotting skeleton in the cupboard.
Not one inch of my vibrant skin was exposed as I went to war with the ghost of my past. As my mother strips a chicken’s cooked carcass of meat to nourish our bodies, so I stripped the dead flesh from the gothic memorandum that hung before me. A knife given to me by someone who had once craved my heart was the instrument I chose as the best utensil for the job. I scratched away with the faded blade and the blackened flesh fell away easily into the bucket I carried in my other hand.
Yet some bits stuck, and the increased work on the corpse demanded more oxygen. I didn’t stop.
It was unpleasant, but it didn’t take as long as I had thought it would. It was easier than I had thought it would be, too. The most difficult part was cutting away the maggots and cockroaches from their positions where they clung to the walls, determined to stay. Scraping away the dirt that they clung to was the hardest task. It had grown solid, almost a part of the cupboard walls. The bucket was weighty.
I stripped naked, looking the skeleton directly into its eye sockets. The sullied knife, clothing, mask, goggles, gloves and boots went on top of the pile of filth in the bucket, blocking my view of the wriggling mess beneath that was searching for new filth to cling to.
Never again.
I stepped out from the cupboard, the bucket following with a heave, and I shut the cupboard door. This time, the doors did not fall open. Empty, save for the skeletal reminder, the cupboard doors no longer burst forth with dirt. With nothing more to say, the doors hung quiet and shy.
In the garden lit matches thrown onto the bucket soon caught fire. It took hours and days for all the filth to be burnt to ashes, but I ensured that the fire remained persistent. It all burnt easier than I thought it would. The ash was used to fertilise the soil in the garden, making flowers bloom brighter, livelier.
The cupboard remains shy and silent. I can open the door when I want, no longer imposed upon. The skeleton, empty and useless, hangs there unable to do anything anymore, unable to affect any change.

This piece simply came from the idea of a skeleton in a cupboard/closet. The literal picture I’ve written about is an analogy of what we must do with our skeletons to stop them from seeping out into our current lives, so that we can live happily.


About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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  1. Barbara Scott Emmett says:


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