From Minus One | A haiku for Venice

Last night I watched a documentary about the writer Colm Tóibín and a lot of it was set in Venice. His latest book “The Magician” is about the wonderful Thomas Mann who wrote the short story Death in Venice, which I loved. And I loved the movie – Dirk Bogarde leaning against a wall with black hair dye running down his face! And of course the music – from Mahler’s Fifth.

Narrow, stone-walled streets,

palace, church and square resound

with strains of Mahler.

The Red Bed – a very short story.

I was walking along the river this morning when I came across this old bed-head. I stood and looked at it for a while and then I took a photograph. You’d have to wonder whose bed this once was, a child’s anyway. A boy? A girl? We’ll say it was a girl. And what else was in the room with this old-fashioned bed? Some drawers for little socks and cardigans. Was there another bed in the room? No, there was not. There were a lot of teddies though, and two tall dolls dressed in knitted clothes. Their names were Vanessa and Valerie. On the window-sill lay sea-shells collected from the beach. And in the bottom drawer of the press there were some Enid Blyton books and illustrated fairy stories and a Beano annual, and different clothes for the dolls in a tidy pile.

The little girl, whose name was Rosalie, was never disturbed in this room although there was no lock on the door. This was her very own place where she didn’t have to arrange her face to suit her parents.

When Rosalie was seventeen she left the house and five years later she came back to collect her belongings. She wanted her old books, and she wanted her favourite dolls to put on a shelf in her new flat. She smiled at the thought of her small red bed.

“I’ve made a few changes,” her mother called up the stairs after her.

Rosalie opened the door and sat down on the floor beside her cardboard box. The red bed was gone; her teddies and tall dolls were gone; the shells on the window-sill were gone. She pulled open the bottom drawer of the press but all her books and annuals were gone too.

There was a new wooden bed, a bed for grown-ups, and a new wardrobe.

“Where are all my things?” she asked her mother.

“Oh, for goodness sake,” her mother said. “I knew you’d make a fuss.”

She banged the newspaper on the arm of the chair.

“What things? Oul teddies and muck from the beach? Aren’t you far too old for that nonsense now. I threw everything out.

Will I give Rosalie a happy ending? Will her old father tell her to look in a box in the garage behind his ancient motor bike?