Short Story: Keys

This story is dedicated to Svein Klunderud, who gave me the prompt: Keys, in his reader interview.  

key-281816_640He strides down the dark, dusty corridor, the thump of his footsteps echoing on the hard, stone floor.  A large set of keys, a mix of old and new, swings, pendulum like, hitting his thigh with every other step.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

He walks tall, head straight, daring not to look to either side, at the mess and the nightmare, at the problem cases he’ll soon need to solve.  One thing at a time, he thinks.  One thing at a time.  He’s got to reach the end of the corridor first.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

As a child, he’d see the ones with keys and he knew: they were the ones who had made it, they were the ones with the power and the strength, they were the ones who had succeeded in life.  Now, he wears his keys as a badge of honour, he hangs them from his hip with pride, the noise they make as a warning to those around him: he is the key-holder, don’t mess with him, you’ll need him one day.

Each key bestowed on him, he thinks, is a downloadmark of trust, a mark of faith.  Each key he obtains is another soul to add to his collection, another person putting their daily lives in his hands.  He wants to hold all the keys, but that’ll come.  In time, he thinks.  He rounds the corner of the corridor.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

He sees his door, the door to the room that belongs to the key-holder, the room that he – and only he – can enter, unless he decides otherwise, of course.  He belongs to a long line of predecessors who owned this room, each a solemn and serious key-holder in their own right.  In turn, it will belong to the one of his choosing, the one he will choose with care, the one who will take the room – and the keys – upon his demise.  He is close to his destination now, he can sense it.  Still, he continues to walk.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

The responsibility, he thinks, would be overwhelming for some.  He’s right, most could never be the key-holder, with the pressures and strains, fixing everyone else’s problems with little time for their own.  He thrives on it though, and he works through each issue methodically and calmly, knowing that panic will get him nowhere.  They come to him with their problems, their woes, theirs stresses.  He calms their fears and solves their snags.

He is the fixer.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

He is the man with all the power.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

He is the man with the keys.

Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.  Thump, chink.

He reaches his room and turns the handle, entering his small but perfectly formed den – a place where he can find anything and everything he needs to fix whatever needs to be fixed today.  The little screws and nails, the lightbulbs, the hammer, the spanner.  His mop and broom and buckets.  Paper and pens and all manner things.  But right now what he needs, to help him with this problem, is his kettle and a teabag, and five minutes with his thoughts.  He needs to work through this one on his own, before he takes action but he’ll do it, he always does.  After all, he is the caretaker!



  1. I love the repetition of the thump clink, it really gives the feel of the long walk .. and the surprise? I was immediately put in mind of the my children’s school caretaker – wielding more power than the headmaster or school secretary!

    1. Aw thank you!

      My grandfather was a college caretaker and as a child, I always used to think he was the boss! He had this little room that he could find anything in! I think you are right about caretakers wielding more power than the headmaster sometimes!

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