The floorboards sighed as Neil slowly stepped into the darkness of the attic. It was dark for several seconds before Neil’s eyes adjusted to the lack of light.
The room was windowless. The only entry and exit point were the drop-down stairs Neil had used to get to up. It was a moody, silent place. Neil could sense the room contained a lot of history, and not just by the many artefacts hidden away under sheets of plastic.
Neil spotted a large photo frame of his twenty-something grandfather smiling beside his newly wedded. This was the first time Neil had entered his grandfather’s attic. Neil didn’t like him very much. He smelled of old tomatoes, and he always dressed in that pale yellow shirt tucked into those grey slacks. Granddad would ignore Neil on his visits. He would stay out in the garden tending to his tomatoes, only speaking to Neil when it was time for lunch. Neil would’ve rather stayed at home, but according to dad, granddad was more cost effective than a babysitter.
Neil looked at the young thing that was supposedly his dad’s mother. It was hard to believe it was her, but there was a slight resemblance. When Gran was alive things were different. Granddad would still ignore Neil for the most part, but he didn’t spend all his time in the tomato patch. And although he didn’t speak much, Neil knew he was warmer, more happy. Not like he is today.
Neil heard a creak, and he turned sharply to the noise behind him. He wasn’t supposed to be up here. Light peeked through the attic entrance in the floor. Neil froze like a hedgehog under security lights. No other noises were made. The entrance stayed closed.
Must be the attic breathing, thought Neil. He moved on from the photograph to an old typewriter, and removed the plastic wrap in a single pull. An inch of dust now swirling in the air. Neil sneezed. His grandfather wasn’t a war veteran or anything of the sort. Just a plain old boring accountant. No exciting stories of chasing down Nazis and hiding in trenches. Boring granddad and his smelly tomatoes. Neil’s fingers lingered on the keys of the typewriter.
Life must have been rather difficult back then, pondered Neil. No computers, no printers, no scanners, or digital cameras. Underneath the typewriter were a wad of pages neatly stuck together with a rubber band. Neil lifted up the typewriter and retrieved the paper. The pages were yellow in colour, and Neil took out the first page rather carefully. The paper felt extremely frail in his grasp. The words ‘Autumn Song’ were written centered at the top of the page. Neil read the first few sentences and gasped. This was a story! It started with something about a hike through a forest and a sudden romance.
Neil grabbed the entire wad of pages and went to sit in one of the attic’s corners, his back up against the wall. There Neil read his grandfather’s story. Without pausing or taking a break Neil finished off the last page. He put the pages back together with the rubber band, making sure it was in the exact same position as he found it, neatly tucked under the typewriter.
Neil thought he heard something from down below. There it was again, but louder.
It was unmistakably the voice of his grandfather growing more and more agitated. “Neil!”
Neil ran to the attic entrance only to slip on the plastic wrap and graze his knee on the floorboards. Pain shot through his leg, but Neil got up and opened the door and lowered himself.
Neil climbed down the metal rungs of the ladder, jumped to the floor, and hurriedly pushed it back up. The attic door closed with a mighty thud. Neil stood hunched in the hallway breathing rapidly.
Down the end of the hallway was his grandfather. His jaw clenched and eyes piercing.
Neil’s grandfather didn’t say a word. He simply turned and left through the lounge’s sliding door, out to the garden.
Neil broke into a grin. His grandfather was a writer.