Childhood’s Cave

The worst times were Thursdays. They were the weekly meetings, when things were assigned, calculated, declared. A reprimand or an insult always brought her father home in the worst of moods. Her mother, on edge, the frozen mask of a smile on her face. Her father, clenching and unclenching his fist as he waited for his food. The silences she shared with her brother, listening to every clink of cutlery, each click of the kettle, waiting for something to begin. Sometimes they saw the slaps; sometimes they heard their sound from downstairs.

            In the summer, once a week, their neighbour’s family showed films out in their backyard, on a single sheet of linen draped across the lawn. If she ran upstairs she could just see it from her window: flickering images, sometimes action films, sometimes cartoons, dancing across a square of cloth, with a row of silhouetted heads in front of it. She knew the images were not meant for her, knew they came from a place which didn’t even know she was watching, yet they warmed her somehow. It was good to know that place existed, even if it was reserved for somebody else. At least these things happened somewhere out there. At least somebody was seeing them up close, even if it wasn’t her.


Arthur Mandal is a writer based in Eugene, Oregon (but grew up in the UK). Alongside writing he works as an independent craftsman. His stories have appeared in The Signal House Edition, 3:AM and in the US/UK journal LITRO