The road that led to Kit's house was called Mallory Lane. It was named after an early pioneer who had settled in the district, strangely enough, a relative of Kit's. The locals all called the road,' Memory Lane' with very good reason. Strange, inexplicable things happened to people who passed by. Long forgotten events seemed to pop up in their mind's eye. The hiding places of long lost sets of keys, misplaced wedding rings, reading glasses and even dentures were miraculously revealed. It was part of the local folklore, something that was taken for granted. If you had something precious and needed it found-"Take a walk down memory lane", the old timers would advise.
Kit's house was an interesting dwelling. It had evolved over the years with verandas being turned into bedrooms and loft rooms added to accommodate the growing family. Kit loved the place and had lived there all her life. She had grown accustomed to its idiosyncrasies; the unreliable plumbing, leaking roof and the 'noises'. Night-time moans and creaks, never quite frightening but never friendly either.
Kit was in the throes of a house clean-with some purpose! Her living room had become so crowded with objects gleaned from chuck outs and thrift shops that there was hardly any room to move. The floor was barely visible beneath the clutter.
She had set her mind to having a polished wooden floor and after two solid days of shifting furniture here and there she was ready for the task of scraping and polishing the painted, baltic pine boards. For hours on end she beavered away using chisels, scrapers and window glass snapped into ellipses that shaved off thin layers. After a week of solid hard graft all the paint and grime of 100 years had been painstakingly removed, apart from two incredibly stubborn grooves worn deep into the timber in front of the fireplace. No matter how she tried, using all her implements, shop bought and improvised, she could not budge the marks. No matter how she pondered she could not deduce a reason for them being there either.
That night she slept the sleep of the righteous, her head hit the pillow and she was out for the count. Some time during the night, however, there were the 'noises'. She could hear movement downstairs coming from the living room. "Must be one of the pets" she thought. Avarice had been particularly upset by all the commotion and had slunk off to hide in his favourite spot; the Hills Hoist! The cat too was often fond of a nocturnal ramble, in search of a titbit or mouse. These sounds were heavier though, the footfalls of an adult. Chairs were being moved. She ventured softly down the stairs, calling as she went, "Who's there?" The sounds stopped abruptly and when she flicked on the light she could see no sign of what had caused the ruckus. A peculiar notion suddenly filled her head as she stood there in her night gown," Yes" she thought,'"That's where it is!" A Memory Lane moment.
She had remembered a piece of furniture buried deep in the shed that would be perfect for her new minimalist living room. The next morning, at first light, she fed Avarice and went out to the rickety old barn behind the house and started rummaging through the bric-a-brac and junk that was piled to the rafters. After an hour of digging she finally came across it; the old rocking chair that had belonged to great grandfather Mallory. It was in a dreadful state but as far as she could tell, all there.
Now that Kit had made such an effort to clear some space in her home she was most reluctant to replace all the old furniture and clutter that she had removed. The solution was clear; a garage sale, although it did make her feel like a gamekeeper turned poacher. She placed an ad in the paper and spent the next few days sorting out prices and categories-mustn't confuse the kitchenalia with the garden tools! Aggie and Tyrone came over to help with the sorting but the girls wanted nothing to do with it. Tyrone found some tangles of string to tidy and thoughtfully turned 5 metres of chicken fencing into a neat spool of wire!
The Saturday morning was hectic. Men in hats and white vans turned up at 6:30AM-Kit was not impressed! By the end of the day just about everything of any use had gone; all the old furniture from the shed, all the crockery and cutlery. Just a few odds and ends remained including a box of books that had been overlooked, tucked under the trestle table. Kit didn't remember the books coming out-Aggie must have found them she concluded.
She flipped open the box lid and looked inside. They were old school books, rolls and primers, exercise books and old fashioned references, all dusty and worn. There was also a class photo from the early days of the settlement when the school had been a one room, one teacher affair. She looked closely at the picture and the names written beneath. They included Cecil Mallory-Principal. Kit had quite forgotten that grandfather Cec had been a school teacher. She hadn't really known him as he died just a few years after her birth. No one said much about him, but she had the impression that he was a difficult man, hard to please, a misery guts. In the picture he looked stern and self important. The children looked puzzled and a little scared, all except for a little boy in the front row who had a glint in his eye that looked like trouble! James Laces she read, Tyrone's grandfather, well well!
In amongst the school stuff there was also a mysterious black book that had no title; Kit was just about to open it when Aggie called across the yard to say that she was off home with Tyrone. It had been a long, tiring, but very successful day. Kit forgot about the book and returned to her tidying up. The things she hadn't sold she piled back into the shed, she would decide what to do with them later.
The following morning she set to work on the rocking chair. Many of the rungs had come loose and she spent a long time carefully gluing and windlassing them back into place. She left the whole thing over night, allowing the glue to set firmly. She noticed that both the rockers had been strengthened with pieces of metal that looked like strips cut from tin cans and tacked carefully into place. It was a neat job in a bush sort of way.
When the sash cord was taken off the next morning she took a chance and sat gingerly down in the chair, it was remarkably comfortable. She polished it up with steel wool using a concoction she had boiled up on the range; beeswax, linseed oil and a few drops of lavender essence that she had pressed herself. The finished rocker gleamed in the late afternoon sun. She carried it into the living room and placed it in the middle of the floor-Smashing she thought! A crocheted rug would set it off a treat-mental note-don't let Tyrone near it!
That night there were more shuffling noises, again coming from the living room. Kit was so exhausted she ignored it this time, rolled over and went back to sleep.
In the morning when she went down stairs she noticed that something had been moved. The rocking chair now sat in front of the hearth, its two rockers slotting exactly into the grooves she had tried so hard to clean.
On the seat of the chair was the black book, opened. On the page she read the name; James Laces-Back chat-3 cuts. On the next –James Laces-Late for roll call-4 cuts. It was a record of all the schoolchildren's misdemeanours and the punishment they had received as a result. Cecil Mallory's 'black book'. What a beast he must have been she thought. Her heart went out to little James, his name was on nearly every page.
When Aggie called round for a cup of tea later on that morning she immediately noticed the chair. " I know that old rocker," she said,"it's the one that Grandpa Jim fixed up with the golden syrup tins. He did it for great grandfather Cecil-didn't even charge him for doing it. He was always generous with his time. Cecil never got to see it fixed up; he never came out of hospital after his turn. I wonder how it came to be here?"
"Don't you remember," said Kit,"this was his house, when he was the headmaster."
It was chilly that evening so Kit lit a fire in the grate and rocked in front of it while she drank tea and toasted muffins.
That night there were more noises from the living room. Kit crept down to investigate and was surprised to see the fire burning brightly. The black book was turning to ashes in the flames and the empty chair was rocking gently in its grooves.
There never were any more noises to disturb Kit's slumber, other than the occasional creak of a rocking chair and some contented humming of hymns.