Oh No was previously featured on the Scottish Book Trust website as part of their 2016 Secrets & Confessions competition.
It was all my brother’s fault. He did it. I admit the whole thing on his behalf. Yes, I’d had a good life, albeit brief. However, I’d never imagined it to end so ignominiously at a motorway services car park one damp Saturday in 1986.
As if only dreaming of waking, I awoke to the hum of Dad’s window descending into the door. His elbow rested upon the frame and I could just about see the glow of his cigarette in the wing mirror. The summer breeze blew his smoke back into the car accompanied by the sound of distant vehicles hurtling along the A1 somewhere behind high hedgerows. We should’ve been unlocking seat belts, dashing for the loos, but something was afoot – there was murder in the air. My murder, perhaps. Certainly my brother’s. I looked to the back of mum’s head as she sat strong and silent in the passenger seat that she occupied when dad was home on leave. My brother looked at me as smoke stung my eyes.
‘Right,’ said dad, sucking on his teeth and turning to stare at both of us with equal malice – he was always even-handed. His mirrored sunglasses reflected our nervous tension, ‘I’ll ask you again, what happened?’
Neither of us were in the mood to confess, as to confess would be an admission of lying, a more heinous crime than the one actually committed. More to the point, my brother would kill me. My brother’s habitual attempts to kill me in those halcyon days had been the root cause of dad’s spontaneous interrogation and so there I was, betrayed by central locking outside a Little Chef in no man’s land, desperately in need of the loo – well played, father. Two choices, be killed by brother or by dad. I looked at mum.
‘She can’t help you,’ said dad, his salt ’n’ pepper hair ruffled by the breeze, nicotine-stained finger taking aim. ‘Now, tell me what happened.’
What happened occurred a week earlier when my parents had gone out leaving my brother in charge. My parents were by no means irresponsible, they had locked both the front and back door to protect us from the world and the world from us. Before puberty elongated me to a lank 6ft, my brother would take to pursuing me within our Barratt house, usually cornering me at one of the two locked doors and thumping me until it hurt him. On this occasion, however, I made it into the bathroom and locked the door just in time. Why he was trying to kill me was by-the-by. The flimsy door handle of the flimsy door squeaked as it jerked up and down repeatedly.
‘Occupied,’ I said.
‘Open the door!’
‘Erm… no,’ I said.
‘Open the door or I’ll kill you.’
‘Isn’t that why you want me to open the door?’ (You can probably understand why he wanted to kill me)
‘I’ll break it down, I swear.’
‘Do you mind? I’m having a pee and would appreciate some privacy,’ I said.
‘Maybe I’ll have a nice long bath until mum and dad get home,’ I said, flushing.
‘You’re not allowed to have a bath by yourself. Open the door or else.’
I turned on the bath taps.
‘That’s it!’ The door thudded some more, then a crack followed by a whimper. I turned off the taps to silence, silence in a house with two young boys.
‘Oh no,’ said the door. ‘Oh no, oh no.’
I unlocked the door and opened with caution, caution that soon dissipated when I saw my brother’s glazed eyes. The wood effect of the door was more effect than wood and the hole in it was about the size of the foot that my brother had used to kick it in.
‘Oh no,’ I said.
‘But they’ll be home any minute,’ I said.
‘He’ll kill me,’ said my brother to himself.
‘And me,’ I said, more importantly.
‘But he’ll kill me more.’ He had a point.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective, all the doors within the house were identical. Armed with common sense, we set about swapping the door for one that lacked a hole.
‘But there will still be a door with a hole in it,’ said my brother, another salient point.
We decided to swap the bathroom door for the one of my bedroom, the Spider-Man poster on which would serve to cover the hole for the rest of time. Locating dad’s toolbox, we set about unhinging both doors and fitting the damaged one to my bedroom. Our brilliance soon dimmed.
‘Oh no,’ I said.
‘Oh no,’ I said, staring at the lock affixed to what had been the bathroom door.
‘Plan B,’ said my brother. ‘Let’s swap them back!’
Swapping them back must’ve masked the sound of our parents returning home, as it was a surprise to see their heads appear above the landing. To be fair, they were just as surprised to witness their sons carrying a broken door towards the bathroom. We froze, the door heavy in our hands. My brother looked at dad. I looked at mum.
‘She can’t help you,’ said dad. ‘Now, tell me what happened.’
Sounds from the motorway faded as I stuck to our story.
‘It’s like we said. I was trapped, Stu was worried, tried to open the door. His elbow knocked against it, made a dent. We didn’t want you to kill us. Honest.’ A matter of fiction becoming matter-of-fact.
‘And you expect me to believe that?’ said dad, peering over his sunglasses.
I saw myself as he did until he turned away, smoke blowing back into the car, mum maintaining a straight face. That was the last time dad asked about the door and for that reason I remember him right there and then. In the years that followed he never once killed my brother or me, only himself.