She hated that wardrobe. It stood, hulking and ugly, in their small bedroom, occupying nearly all the wall it lay against.
It was fatly encased in ugly faux-pine veneer and had a mirrored double front – he’d insisted on that – and he would often stand before it, with his shirt off, pulling what he considered handsome faces and sucking in his enormous gut.
She hated it. She remembered the day it had been delivered. He had summoned her to help construct it and in his wisdom, he never bothered to read something as basic as instructions, preferring instead to get her to read them out so he could then shout at her for her stupidity and slowness in not passing him what he wanted before he even knew himself.
He made her cry about it, so she hated the wardrobe with a passion, its smirking ugly veneer and harsh mirrored surface intruding on her sleep at night times. It loomed threateningly over her while she tried to sleep and made ominous creaking noises. The mirrors showed the smallest blemish and were often covered in strange smears that she had to polish away.
He loved to open the wardrobe’s sliding doors, like great jaws, and admire his collection of clothes, running his hands lovingly along the carefully ironed shirts on their padded hangers, relics of a youth when he was thinner.
“Yer can ‘ave all these when I die,” he’d say to his son, caressing one particularly vile embroidered shirt that was still in its wrapper, twenty years after its original purchase.
His son nodded politely, a bemused expression on his face as his father started pulling out heaps of musty woollen jumpers, never worn, shirts that were so out of fashion they wouldn’t even qualify as vintage and trousers that were a record of the old man’s ballooning waist.
She watched, and burned, hating the way he ran his hands tenderly across the piles of decaying clothes, the jeans and expensive trousers, when he was so fat now he could only just manage to pull on tracksuit bottoms. With a curt order to her to put everything away, he left the room.
The wardrobe squatted malevolently in the corner. She hated it. The clothes inside were musty, the shoes decaying, the trousers dusty. There were sweaters in there older than their son, that had never seen the light of day, much less been worn. Her own humble collection had been pushed into drawers, shared a small space of her son’s wardrobe, while his wardrobe spread and dominated.
She yearned for something small and elegant, an antique, bow-fronted graceful piece of furniture, perhaps, with a kind mirror, one that complimented, rather than sneered, that co-existed pleasantly, rather than dominated.
Then one day he died.
After the funeral, she and her son came home, and there was a lightness in the house, a lessening. She turned to her son, and with a smile, she said:
“Fetch me some large plastic bags and the screwdrivers…”
She kicked off her shoes and cast off her coat and set to: the musty jumpers, the faded shirts, the rotting trousers and frayed t-shirts were all ruthlessly pulled from their hiding places, the guts of the wardrobe stripped out, and stuffed into bags.
Carefully and skilfully, she dismantled the wardrobe, and her son helped her to carry the pieces downstairs and into the garden. It didn’t go easily – oh no, it put up a fight and she had several bruises and a broken fingernail to show for it, but she was determined.
The far wall of her bedroom – for it was hers now – stood naked and honest. She would need to re-decorate.
She returned downstairs to her son and together, they fetched the petrol from the shed. Carefully, they piled all the old clothes on top of the wardrobe pieces and baptised them with petrol. The son struck a match, and dropped it on to the pile, stepping back to put an arm around his mother’s shoulders.
Fat billows of greasy black smoke rose into the sky, chased by red-gold flame; and much badness and ill-feeling was cleansed away that night.