Dear Diary

You are the only one I can tell about this.  You see, I’ve done something very silly, and I don’t know what to do.

When I took the washing out of the machine this morning, a soggy wad of paper plopped on to the kitchen floor. Filled with an all too explicable mixture of curiosity and apprehension, I picked it up and peered at it, quite forgetting the basketful of tangled clothes which glowered at me, impatient to be hung out on the line. The sodden mass of paper appeared to consist of more than one sheet, folded over and packed tightly so that the whole structure resembled a miniature Swiss roll. However, this wasn’t what you might be thinking (a roll of banknotes). Oh, no. Indeed not. This was something far worse. This was an exam revision paper. And not just any revision paper. This was Physics! My son’s most difficult school subject, and the exams coming up in a few days. Calamity!

I had to act quickly, Diary. I remembered what the main character had done in a book I read recently. Sian, working on an archaeological dig in the atmospheric town of Whitby, with its brooding, haunted abbey and its hundred and ninety-nine steps. You see, she was given some terribly creepy papers in a glass bottle and had to unroll them with infinite care to reveal a (possibly) terribly creepy secret which had been locked in the bottle for ages. It helped that she was a qualified conservator of old papers and parchment and knew exactly what she was doing. Whereas I only had my panic-driven instincts.

Diary, I used something I can most accurately describe as intuitive autopilot. Gently, I peeled and separated the delicate layers: damp, dulled, greyish. Soon enough, I found myself able to make a judgement about the size and age of the paper.  A4, folded into an A5 booklet.  Photocopied approximately two weeks ago. Tiny black letters and numbers plotted together into questions and equations. Dotted lines for answers, like tiny black beads of Whitby jet. Which is where Sian was working on her papers.  (You know, Diary, the terribly creepy ones.) Spooky. And … no! A tear, a hole, a gap, as the stubborn pages stuck damply together, and I unwisely tried to pull them harder.  But it was too late to stop, Diary. And so the sorry process continued, until I was holding two rectangular doilies up to the light, hoping the Physics in them hadn’t slipped through the holes like potato water through a colander. Would my son notice? Would he still be able to do his revision? Should I own up?

I’m not ready to share the secret of what I did next, so no one will ever know.  Not even you, Diary. Though the truth will out, they say.
But you can find out what happened to Sian by reading ‘The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps’ by Michael Faber.
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