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Him Upstairs

by Jubbly 

Posted: 05 August 2006
Word Count: 475
Summary: My attempt at the wet patch challenge.

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The credits of ‘Where the Heart is’ were just beginning to roll when Heather Halliday arched catlike in her chair and yawned. Then she saw it, a little patch of damp in the corner of the ceiling.

I don’t remember seeing that, she thought, mm, what’s he been up to now?

Heather’s upstairs neighbour was a portly gentleman hailing from Eastern Europe, Mr Brinzi was his name, they rarely communicated. Sometimes the aroma of boiled cabbage and other earthy vegetables wafted through the building reminding her of his presence.

He was in his seventies and never had any visitors. Sometimes foreign looking letters addressed to him would appear on the communal cabinet in the front hall, a stamp featuring far away mountains or statuesque Generals announced his homeland.
The very few times she had spoken to him he’d mentioned a sister.

“She live in north, with husband, they have hotel, very busy.”
Two days passed and the patch was definitely increasing. It had gone from a small round stain to a sprawling oblong shape.
While the nurse on Holby City searched out a vein on her patient’s arm, Heather let out an audible gasp.

“What if?”
He’s all on his own; he wouldn’t be missed for ages.
That night she dreamt the rotting corpse of Mr Brinzi stumbled into her kitchen and shouted to her in broken English to help him, to do something while she still could,
Heather sat upright in bed, wide eyed and shaken.
First thing tomorrow, she vowed and tossed and turned until dawn.

As she managed a small helping of toast and sipped her milky tea, Heather dared to gaze upward. The mass of dark wetness had travelled and now the corner of her ceiling was a different shade to the rest.
That’s him she thought, recognising the obvious shape of a body, it was so clear, his large head and thick torso, it all made sense, the mail left uncollected in the hall, the lack of cooking smells and the total absence of those heavy footsteps trudging across the living room with tedious regularity.

What was that? Her mind raced and her heart drummed loudly. A noise, definitely a noise from upstairs.
Heather clutched a cushion to her chest and closed her eyes as she imagined his furious spectre come back from beyond to avenge her lazy- English- mustn’t grumble –or- get involved behaviour.

Knock, knock.

Trancelike she opened the front door.

“Hello Miss Halliday, sorry to disturb”
There stood Mr Brinzi, large as life and in seemingly rosy health.

“I’ve been visit my sister in north, have problem with washer machine, big leak, sorry for damage.”

But by then Heather had fainted dead away, striking her head on the corner of the Welsh dresser as she fell, leaving Mr Brinzi to wonder if she was dead or alive.

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Comments by other Members

tiger_bright at 11:56 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Hi, Julie. I liked this a lot - especially the moment when Heather becomes convinced she's seeing Mr Brinzi's body in the shape of the damp patch on the ceiling. I liked the double twist at the end - the return of the "corpse" and his wondering if Heather might be dead. There were a few places where the punctuation needed polishing, I thought, but I'm sure you'll spot those on a re-read. Oh and the idea that British soap opera TV might have helped Heather in her lurid imaginings tickled me no end!


Elbowsnitch at 13:31 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Coo, Julie - a lesson to us all. You convey Heather's lethargy/reluctance/fear really well.

Rather than 'big leak', may I suggest he says 'small leak' - otherwise it would be gushing through the ceiling? And perhaps instead of saying 'sorry for damage', he could enquire whether there is any damage?

Otherwise fine - I particularly like the ending, with Mr B wondering whether H is dead or alive, but seemingly not too concerned about her, either!

all the best, Frances

Account Closed at 15:03 on 05 August 2006  Report this post

i liked it. is there a word count you have to adhere to on the flash pieces? just that i thought the tension wasnt sufficiently ratcheted up enough for me to believe that she would faint like that. either that or we're meant to believe that halliday is a frail, easily frightened woman (but that doesnt come across in the piece) - then again, it could be a word count thing, if so, perhaps start off from a position of her believing already that it's a corpse and going off her mind with worry, rather than from her just spotting it and wondering...??

anyway, i did enjoy it.


Jubbly at 16:55 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Thanks Tiger, Frances and Sam, it was rushed out a bit. I wanted Mr B to talk in broken English, so that's why his sentences don't make too much sense. There is a word count and I was worried I was going to go over it but I think I'll do another rewrite and try and convey more tension.



ginag at 18:17 on 05 August 2006  Report this post

I really enjoyed this piece. I like the way you made Heather worry so much but still do nothing. Such a common trait!

The end got me laughing.


SamMorris at 18:17 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Hi Julie,

Excellent story.

I liked those incidental details of communal living. I've smelt that corridor cabbage smell before! The way that the wet patch grows above her as her fears grow is very effective.

There's two deads in the last paragraph though, that jarred a bit.

Very good stuff,


choille at 21:36 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Hi Jubbly,

I liked the scene setting and the way that neighbours can be so uninvolved - so unknowing of each other and their movements. The little info she had is used to good effect as that's where he had been.

Loved the stain spreading & with it her panic, but her reluctance to do anything other than quake -her in her flat worrying away yet doing nothing other than letting her imagination run riot.

I also thought the use of 'Mr' & 'Miss' was very apt and loved the description of the foreign stamps & the broken English was very effective.

Great stuff.

All the best

crowspark at 22:25 on 05 August 2006  Report this post
Great twist Julie. Loved the build up. The broken English was particularly effective and funny at the end.

“I’ve been visit my sister in north, have problem with washer machine, big leak, sorry for damage.”

Very funny.

Jumbo at 09:53 on 06 August 2006  Report this post

Nice story - you had me thinking the worst!

Clever, and unexpected, turnaround at the end - domestic appliances, eh!



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