The day they knocked the flats I stood in the gravel by the side of the road with cars sloshing by and rain trickling down inside the neck of my leather jacket. Batty Nancy from No.1 was still alive, wheezing through her teeth and leaning on my shoulder in spite of the Zimmer frame in front of her.
“Oh now,” she tutted, “and not a day too quick neither.”
I thought of the stairway and all the up of the groceries and the down of the rubbish. Rummaging in my pocket for smokes, I tilted the box at Batty.
“It’s terminal,” she muttered.
“Then you might as well,” I said.
“Ta, Vinny,” she said, snatching one up.
We took damp puffs as the crane jerked to life like a stop-motion T-Rex.
“Sheila was your mother?” It was more of a splutter than a question.
“She was,” I patted her back.
The crane trundled into position and the ball chain started to swing.
“If I was in there now,” she started again with a whistle, “it’d be a quick one.”
I kept staring at the wrecking ball gathering speed and launching towards the third block. As the globe made to hit the concrete and the rusted railings, Batty took a fit of coughing. I held her shoulders as they shook:
“Ah mind yourself Ba- Nancy,” I said.
But she croaked and rasped like there was something trying to escape.
“Go-” she coughed, “Go-”
“What is it?” I asked.
She got her breath and straightened, still clinging to her cigarette.
“There’s enough ghosts in there without me joining them.”
I stiffened, watching the ball crash against the fourth floor and the cracks ripple outwards.
“Look! Look there, can’t you see him? Vinny, up there outside your door,” Batty laboured, digging her fingers into my arm and letting go of her smoke, “your old pal Barry, isn’t it? The wee lad, he’s knocking, see him?”
As the bottom floors started to drop and fall to the rubble beneath, I saw a wisp of something on the fifth storey outside no.47. Over the crash of debris I heard the rap of shaking knuckles in my ear, the same rap, rap, rap that I had once ignored.
BAYVEEN O’CONNELL is based in Dublin. Her short stories and flash have appeared in Molotov Cocktail, Tales from the Forest, The Bohemyth, Rag Queen Periodical, Nilvx, Drabblez Magazine and others. She loves all things strange and dark.
Image: ulleo via Pixabay