The Big House

By Joe Lucking


Her nerves needed the rest.

Barely seven, she sent him to the big house. A place where emotionally disturbed, naughty lost boys, without offence, were schooled in the terror and glory of life.

A red-faced sausage fingered woman eaten by doubts, rolling pin in hand, patrolled the dining room ensuring plates were licked clean with alacrity.

“Waste not, want not.”

After a cold bath and colder cocoa, time for night terrors.

Bigger older boys, kick scream and bite their way around the weakest’s beds.

A natural selection of the ones to be swung by the ankles, out of the dorm window, four floors up.

Pendulums reflecting the heavens.

Some escaped, then returned to face the strap.

On Sundays, cries of ‘suffering ennobles’ from the pulpit.

An hour spent peering through railings looking for a once a month visitor.

A rare letter arrives like apricity, tears miraculously dissolve words.

Later in life, a father, a distinguished gentleman, a husband, mined the last remaining piece of a free imagination, to tell anyone who might listen, with unmuddied simplicity, that it didn’t do him any harm.

“You can’t have butterflies without caterpillars.”

Sometimes we must get these things straight, alone.


Joe Lucking writes for Theatre, Radio, and Screen. You can find him on twitter @joelucking66 and read his stories at 

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