Under the House

By | 1 February 2020

I would put on dress-ups and run around our house singing. You could run
right the way around our house. I would run, a little bit skippingly, with
draggle skirts and shawls awry. And the song I would sing was not in words
exactly. It was sighs and moans and shouts and also laughing. It was given
to me. It had a tune. A toneless tune. Just as the dark came in one night I was
belting down the long side, singing, flapping, and I came upon my young
and beautiful father sitting on the back steps weeping. I stopped, and drew
my shawls about me.

I would slip away and push open the wooden hatch to the underside of our
house. I would creep in and squat in the dry powder of the earth. I would
hear the life of the house going on above me. There were unconsidered
footsteps, and above them, everyday voices.

To the left of me, in the gloom below our house, was a hump of earth with
stark prickles of growing things struggling upwards. These upright shoots
had no colour. Even then I could not understand how they lived, in a place
where there was no rain and no sun. But something was trying to live and
grow. I do not know what it was. It was probably a grass. I was scared of it.

I called that hump of earth with its strange bristles ‘the giant hedgehog’. It
looked like a hedgehog slumped sideways in an extremity of exhaustion, of
birth or death, and something growing up out of its hulk, reaching.

As long as I lived in that house, above, I knew there was a giant hedgehog,


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