It was a big old kitchen cupboard, with two drawers at the bottom under a two door cupboard with plenty of shelves for storage, painted pale blue. Hannah and Andy bought it from a local farm, where it had been stored in a barn along with a lot of other old junk the farmer was trying to get rid of.
Fitted kitchens not being their thing, Hannah and Andy were looking for retro pieces that they could assemble into an eclectic and unique mix to impress visitors, and maybe get featured in an article in the Observer Magazine.
Hannah also bought an old stone sink, which she got plumbed in instead of the steel sink in the kitchen, but with ultra-modern fixtures and fittings. The Aga looked farmhousey, but it was all electric with internet connectivity so that when she was out she could start it up from her phone. She had never done that, but she could if she wanted to.
Andy stripped the cupboard down to the bare wood and varnished it. Hours of work, but well worth it, he thought.
It was when the kitchen was finished that Hannah began to have her doubts about the cupboard. True, it did go very well with the rest of the decor, the scrubbed oak table, stone sink, flagstone floor, recycled marble worktops and the carefully chosen Persian tiles, but it had too much presence.
Sometimes, as she sat working on her laptop at the kitchen table, her she could almost hear it breathing behind her.
Whenever she opened the cupboard to get out a jar of olives, she expected to find something else in there. Something alive.
She never did, of course, and she kept her imaginings to herself. There was no way she could suggest that the cupboard was not right for the space, because Andy was very proud of the work he’d put into it, and it was a handsome piece. So, Hannah tried to ignore her irrational feelings and think instead about the new flooring she planned for the bedrooms.
Not long after this resolution, Hannah was working at the kitchen table when there was a bang from inside the cupboard. Thinking that something must have fallen down, she opened the doors, but the shelves were completely in order.
There was a can of baked beans in the middle of the second shelf between the porcini mushrooms and the preserved lemons. A can of baked beans. Some sort of supermarket own brand. Fine Fare, it said on the label. She didn’t even know what that was, but she knew baked beans had no place in her kitchen.
When Andy came home the can was on the kitchen table, waiting like an accusation.
‘What’s this?’ he said, picking up the can.
‘I thought you might tell me.’
‘They were in the cupboard. You must have bought them.’
‘I did not. I haven’t eaten baked beans in all the time you’ve known me, have I?’
‘Not that I’m aware of.’
‘I did not buy them.’
‘Well, I certainly didn’t.’
After a day or two of mutual chill, the episode of the baked beans was almost forgotten.
They were making supper when there was another bang inside the cupboard. Andy went over to see what had fallen, he supposed. Hannah thought to stop him, but she didn’t.
‘What the hell is this?’ he said.
‘What?’ she whispered.
‘Vesta boil in the bag curry,’ he said, holding up a box with a picture of a nondescript lumpy brown curry surrounded by a ring of white rice on a plate.
‘What?’ she whispered.
‘Secret snacks?’ he asked, not having quite forgotten the baked bean accusation.
She shook her head.
‘I don’t know what it is or where it came from. It’s the cupboard. There’s something wrong with the cupboard.’
There followed a blazing row about stupid excuses and lies, interrupted by another bang from the cupboard.
After a moment of silence, Andy opened the cupboard doors again. In the middle of the second shelf there was a packet of Cadbury’s Smash Instant Mashed Potato. Next to it was the can of baked beans, back again.
Day after day, new old things turned up. They found out that they were all brands from the 1970s or late ‘60s. Soon there was no space for their own food.
The journalist and photographer from the Observer Magazine turned up. As long as the cupboard was closed and kept quiet, everything would be fine, but of course the journalist made a beeline for that very item of furniture.
‘How gorgeous,’ she said, and opened the doors wide. “Wow!’
Hannah and Andy were doomed now.
‘Wow,’ said the journalist again. ‘What a fantastic collection of old packaging. How clever, so stylish. we’ll have to get some photos of this. It’s all in such good condition, just as if they were bought yesterday. Where on earth did you find them?’
Hannah rallied first.
“Well, these things turn up, don’t they?’ she said. ‘It’s all from when the cupboard was new. Space Age food, you know.’
The posed, smiling, in front of their clever collection.
A short while after the journalist and photographer left, they walked back into the kitchen. There was a terrible rotten stink.
A few minutes of sniffing brought them back to the cupboard. Opening the doors, they saw a strange green triangular object on the second shelf. A close inspection revealed it to be a horrifically mouldy cheese sandwich.
Andy shut the door on the awful sight and Hannah went to get a bin bag.
There was another bang, and they found a putrefying Black Forest Gateau on the shelf, complete with maggot sprinkles.
‘The cupboard hates us,’ Hannah whispered.
‘It has to go,’ said Andrew.
The following week it was for sale at the local auction house, with nothing inside but a sticky smear of cherry jam on the shelf.