The moldy smell of old decaying wood hit you as you entered the tiny unkempt premises of the Smiths. The boundaries of the lawn had overrun the house or maybe it was the other way round but neither looked any better for it. The rooms were on the first floor accessed by a rickety flight of stairs that belched and creaked to protest anyone stepping on it. The wood on the foot rest, undoubtedly having seen better days, held traces of carpet that was more torn than a discarded kitchen rag and so it having occupied the entire expanse was questionable, although its frayed remains reminded one that it did occupy a place wholly or otherwise, in that rickety rack some time in its distant past.
‘Mr. Smith!’ I called out slightly agitated after ringing the doorbell twice; finally I heard grumblings, curses and dragging feet drawing nigh.
‘What do you want?’ Holsen Smith with a bowl of cereal in his hands, milk spilt down his Van Halen T-shirt that seemed to be two size too small for him angrily asked me from within the screen door, a whiff of stale beer made me crinkle my nose.
‘Sorry for disturbing you Mr. Smith, but can I come in?’ I sternly stayed put, he looked at me for a minute his eyes hovered at the white envelope in my hand and he opened the door grumbling.
‘Sit if ya have to,’ he pointed at the chair by the window, the house seemed to be one messy affair, clothes strewn everywhere, shoes and books and CDs and magazines, a box of half eaten pizza and beer bottles all fitting in whatever spaces seemed available.
I tried hard not to put a handkerchief to my nose.
‘I don’t know if you remember me Mr. Smith, but I am the Administrator at the Lucius High, why is Edward skipping school?’ I came directly to the point.
‘What is it to you? He sneered.
‘Do not use that tone with me Mr. Smith, we already excused him this kind of absences last semester, It is important that he maintain his attendance at school.’ I was exasperated.
‘He is my son, he ain’t gonna be some black tie toff, you hear me?’ he raised his voice as I saw Edward standing at the landing, his ears red and head hung low.
‘Mr. Smith, I know you can never understand the value of education and I don’t blame you, I am sure your background ….,’ I had a good mind to give him an earful when he stopped me midway.
‘My background?’ What do you know of my background eh? He looked at me with such disdain.
‘It was a black tie high flyer! a black tie that hurt me, he say he look after me and took me away from ma brother, he and that **** wife of his, that filth who was worse than the Dawson couple at the orphanage, at the orphanage they at least let us sleep at nights, what do you know of my background eh!’ This outburst was something I wasn’t prepared to handle.
Little Rosie Smith came running with a teddy trailing behind her, her hair combed neatly although her frock wasn’t as neat as I’d have wanted, she went to the corner by the window and started playing with the CDs, arranging them clumsily. An overgrown dandelion swayed outside the window.
‘Sorry Mr. Smith..I…,’ I was at loss for words.
‘She worked in a school you know? The intellectual lot! She made me do stuffs for her video camera when all I wanted to do was sleep, I was ten year old for godsake! I ain’t gonna trust you intellectual lot, my children are happy with me, I ain’t gonna send them nowhere!’
Tiny thudding sounds came from the landing as Edward kept hitting the wall with his feet.
I placed the letter from school on the chair and walked out.