Five Paragraphs on the shaping of me.

 

“How many times must I tell you?” my Mother shouted. “How many times must I tell you, question mark” Is what my young self-heard. Like all good girls, I answered. A question should be answered, or you might be remembered as rude. I twisted my fingers like a church and steeple; stood on tippy toes and wore my most thoughtful look. “Maybe twice Mummy, I might not quite hear you with once … If I was doing something else … like reading.”  Shuffling backwards I sucked in my breath. “I might not hear … the first time.” I continued, I was careful with my answer, making sure to not say too many words or smile too much while I spoke. Unbeknown to me, that was not the right answer. I knew this because Mummy’s lip curled and her face twisted, into that not nice face, the one that made my knickers wet, which she liked even less than my answer; Five I was then.


My school uniform was still being worn when Mum came in looking for me; frowning. My buttons all skew-whiff, socks wrinkled into my shoes and my book firmly clasped between ink-stained fingers; behind my back. I stood straight and looked into her eyes while she spoke, knowing I should have changed before finishing that page, then she would not be as cross. Why hadn’t I? Simple, my book called me. I looked down at my shoe while I rubbed it against my calf; blackening my sock. Both hands were behind my back; clasping Black beauty. This left me unprotected, unprotected against falling, losing my balance. But I was not showing my book, not for anything. “How dare you answer me back, you defiant girl” I felt Mummy’s spittle land on my face as she snarled and poked me with her finger. “I was, only trying to answer Mummy” I whispered. “Just you say that once more girl!” That statement was another trap I fell into when I was small. Even though I was being asked to repeat something, I should never, ever do it. If I did, sore legs, no tea and bed would follow. That’s when my books became best friends. Under the blankets with my penlight torch between my teeth; I treasured that torch. I could check for bogeymen or the devil  … she said he would get my tongue if I lied, so I had to be vigilant.

I was one of a family of five, at least until my youngest sister came along when I was six. Six years and four months old, that was when she appeared; all soft and smiley, smelling of milk and baby powder. She came with a plethora of things I had never seen before. Mum and Dad must have done a deal on a job lot; my eldest sister said. There came a van with a carry-cot a bath with a stand, a chair that bounced, bags of rompers, dresses, vests and cardigans. There were lidded buckets, nappies, both muslin and towelling. Then there were the toys. My toys, I had outgrown them … so Mummy said. Off they went,  with new ones in her box. How she came to be, or how that happened, I am sure my sisters wondered as much as me.  But it did, and there she was, making the family of parents with four girls. She was no bother, she would be asleep when we left for school and asleep or about to sleep when we came home; so I only recall her being around at the weekends and holidays. With two older sisters to help, I didn’t get much of a look in; not old enough to be trusted and not experienced at life. My help was to sit next to her chair and read her stories, and of course to call out if there were any smells.

Learning the meaning of things is easier on a page, you can see the question marks and commas. ” When is a question, not to be answered?” By ten years old I knew better, but at five I hadn’t realised. You had to read the face, and interpret the tone that words were delivered in; if you were to understand. At ten, I knew when not to answer … though answering back was still a confusing one. As is, ‘just you come here.’ You do have to go as soon as it is said; not too quick, or too slow. I do not remember being taught to read faces or voices. It was something it seems you just had to know. It felt like I had to … just know, quite a lot Whilst growing up.

By fifteen I had learned to negotiate, compromise and keep my head down and nose clean. I had been working since I was fourteen, after school and at weekends. Sweeping and tea making in the hair salon, fetching coats and always smiling; part of the job. I lived in a lodging house and had an apprenticeship in hair and beauty, and for the most part, I coped nicely. Being fifteen was a time of hard work and independent living. I paid minimal rent; part of which was to cook the odd lunch for the landlady’s Father. Rent was paid for with three jobs. The hairdressers, the night cafe behind the Mace shop, and working every Sunday in a posh coffee shop in a neighbouring town. The reading of expressions came in handy at the salon, especially for nodding and smiling in the right places. Having my hair and nails done at work was a perk of the job and gave me an air of sophistication, or so I thought. Mixing with the elite as well as knowing good manners. I was brought up with, and my compulsion to read anything I could get my hands on made for a well-rounded, smart, nicely spoken, hard-working young woman. During this time my evenings were filled with writing, poetry mostly, all tucked between the pages of my favourite books. There I was secretly hoping Louisa M Alcott would permeate my work; improve it, as if by magic. But, as all fifteen-year-olds were back then, I was very naive.

My top five books were:
Alice in Wonderland
Black beauty
Mary Poppins
Little Women.
These taught me that words were wonderful … as long as they are kept in order. Books were my friends and writing could catch your fears on paper. Much better than in your chest.

So here we are with the power of five. Five senses, five elements, five digits on hands and feet. Five paragraphs .What more could anyone want?

I am unable to add this to the blog competition that it was written for, as alas, I got carried away. 375 was the count to stay below to qualify. This piece, is three times longer so I place it here to share with those who might enjoy a read. Iwould like to know if you have found it impossible on occasion. To tame a flash fiction to sit between the numbers required. Please comment I love to talk. .. 🎶😲🎵

For The Love Of Milly.

This is a completely reworked story that I penned a while ago and hope you agree it deserves a second shot.

Press here to join in and post your own story, to read all the others tap the blue frog over at Esme’s place.

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At lunchtime Bob tied a napkin beneath her chin, he softly crooned as he spooned sustenance between her lips. With the touch as soft as mallow, he caught the spillage caring that none other could see. I watched Bob care for his wife over many years, he accepted help only when he had to. Milly would batt her lashes and flirt with Bob openly, I am sure she believed they were alone. Milly whispered and giggled, sometimes you could hear her singing to Bob. One summer evening through the window, I saw them dance, in some imaginary place they took to the floor; such an intimate sight.

What they had together was gentle, the connection was tangible, respectful yet fun.

Bob and Milly were the only couple living in the home where I work, Milly in the early days was fit and able, she took an active role in the running of the home. Bob for the first four years went out to work; until Milly’s episodes became continual.

When Bob was out or having a break we nurses, would cover our uniforms and distract her by being her guests. Me with a floral crossover pinny and a pink plastic curler in my fringe. In her own space she was calm and liked the familiarity, but she came alive, I’d say animated; when Bob was near.

Milly was failing fast and still, Bob continued with the rituals she came to expect. Many a day I came on duty to see his eyes cloud, his shoulders down; it took its toll on him, loving Milly. I went into their room with a tray of tea and cake, the intention was to assess discreetly the situation; to offer support. Milly was unresponsive, as If I didn’t exist. She lay very still, occasionally her eyes would flicker. Each time she heard his voice her mouth would lift and lashes would batt. He bathed and brushed, stroked, and dressed her. For six days he never left her side, the doctor had been and we all waited in a hushed silence for the inevitable.

Worried for him, I wondered how he’d be once she had passed.

I tapped the door; it remained closed, pulling a crack just enough to peek. I could see him, cradling her in his arms; on the bed with her. Bob’s face pressed into her hair, his cheeks glistened as he rocked her to and fro humming a long forgotten tune.

At the funeral I stood next to him; he seemed spent and sad. The small chapel was full of flowers, sun-streaked through the glass as bright as the cheerful hymns they played. kindly words and reminiscences were recalled. Bob stood at the pulpit and said his last goodbye.

Bob and five clients took the minibus back to Green Hays for Millie’s high tea. Once goodbyes were said and each person had gone, I sat in his armchair for the longest time remembering the fun that was Milly, not maudlin but good happy talk. I asked…
“How did you do it, Bob, where did you get the stamina to keep on for years?” He clenched his hands to stop them trembling. As if deep in thought, he slowly nodded. “Once her memories had disappeared, (his lip trembled) it was my place to make her feel love every day. So each day for her was our first date. Then whenever it was her time to pass, she would know… to-day she was loved.”

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Wouldn’t you wish to be loved as much as Milly? Leave a comment If I touched that spot?

An Educated Walk

To join Rochelle’s prompt press ‘here’

A hundred miles I walked. Stinking dirty miles, in shoes that didn’t fit. The right too tight, reminding me, squeezing too much in leaves little space to breathe.

The left, two sizes too big, rubbed raw my foot. It made me bleed until it seeped through the lace holes and rolled back the skin, but on I walked.

It taught me to say no, to leave room to be kind, so I can grow a better man.

It taught me, never to be too proud to admit, this is too big for me.

It needn’t hurt to learn that lesson just take an educated walk.

Thanks for the Photo @Sarah Potter

The End of Summer.

When illness stole the Summer.

I was distracted when it came in, what with moving house.

When Easter’s sun puddled chocolate; it seeped through the foil.

Life exhausted my bones, each sinew ached for rest, but on I’d toil.

Pleased to be in this lovely space where history would join with our taste, we’d make a home.

He’d gazed a face like this before. His eyes focused, periwinkle blue. That doctor, one Summers day … he knew.

When sun and storms made gardens green,The well was clear and ducks shared our stream. I missed those days and slept it seems; through Summer,

The missed paddles and golden dreams.

That summer will be remembered … or not, as the one, I slept away.

The summer of misty minds and forgotten days that was, the end Of Summer for me.

Now Autumn calls, I hope not to miss the golden leaves or the morning mists.

A bike to peddle the flab away on crisp voluptuous days like today.

I hope you enjoyed my freeform write, leave a word, I hope you might.

A Disguise like Autumn

Many thanks to Sandis Helvigs for loaning the photo.

He was bold he was cold he lived in a disguise.

He used a leaf to cover his eyes

With Autumn.

He Wore A Disguise like Autumn.

A fancy dress parade was to follow the carnival. The Carnival comprised of floats and majorettes, brass bands, boy scouts, tumble tots and brownies not forgetting the women’s institute and the natty knitters. The music blared from speakers followed by dancing dwarves; who were following snow white on her bed. The shop doorways lined with stalls, mulled wine, hot soup, cards, gifts and all manner of cakes and crafts for sale.

They paraded through the town twice, full of fun and revelry. The floats were to be judged and prizes awarded. Collections for the hospice and the homeless had been going on several weeks before, and at the event. The parade culminated in the turning on of the Christmas lights by some vacant reality television star; that no one remembered.

As a watcher, I stood out, not dressed fancy or otherwise.Because of the cold all the clothes I owned I wore. As one of the recipients of the collections, I thought a few scraps of food would be given me, a few bits … to ease my bones in the late Autumnal weather. Especially knowing it was only going to get colder and harder sleeping rough.

I thought of the cost of the lights, music and costumes, I weighed up the fuel spent and calculated how much the prizes would be. In a previous time, I was a numbers man, a number cruncher and balancer of books. I wandered through the park to where finally the tractors rested their wheels and the children were reunited with parents and teachers. Backs were slapped, kisses freely given and received. Many prizes were happily accepted and some tears were shed in tiredness. Pride shone from the faces of people in fluorescent tabards who were clutching stuffed buckets of dosh.

I bent down and picked up a leaf, I twirled it in between frozen fingers, a beautiful Horse Chestnut leaf as big as a tea plate. The leaf was golden and rust, as if kissed by the turn of autumn its last disguise, before withering away. From my spot, I watched as a photographer took snaps of all he could see, a journalist took notes, then they spied me. I lifted the leaf to my face to hide, a voice asked: “Excuse me can I take a shot … what have you come as?” I stood still, my identity hidden from all but me. “Me,” I said, “I have come as autumn.” A look of confusion crossed his brow, he took the shot purposefully and slowly walked away. The girl tapped her pad with a chewed pencil she nodded my way. She glanced back once or twice as she disappeared into the crowd, I knew she was there somewhere, lost, like me, anonymous, unseen.

I wasn’t given any soup or mulled wine. The vicar scowled and turned away when I asked for a sleeping bag and a scarf. No eye contact was made, no smile thrown my way. I wondered what people thought their money would do, how much it would help … a man like me. Someone down on his luck, shabby, hungry and cold; wearing a disguise like autumn.

Please readers, let me know your thoughts, leave them in comments and I will get back quick sharp. Happy Autumn.

Dirty Sun.

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In Somerset this morning I woke to a pink sky. For the first time in weeks the wind and rain had stopped battering us, leaves could stop swirling around in never ending circles on the lawn. Squirrels could collect and bury their nuts without their tails slapping their faces as they did so.
The sun is now streaming through the windows to remind me of the things I need to do, or didn’t do as well as I thought. I refer to this type of light, the sort that comes in low and shows up every speck of dust and glass streak it can find, as ” Dirty Sun”
Grunts and rumbles can be heard from overhead, a tap runs a cistern noisily empties.The Husband wanders down stairs fresh from sleep, scratching his head and looking about the room with a bemused squinting smile on his face.
I get it in first ” Can you see what this dirty sun has done to the table and windows?” without stopping for breath… ” How very dare it leave such a mess.
Lets just close the curtains again then we don’t have to look, what do you say?”
He smiled and replied, “Makes sense to me”.
Such a considerate man. * sighs*
I then go back to writing while the cups clink in the kitchen and his voice full of laughter said “Tea”.

I would love to hear your comments, at least to read some. I follow other commenters blogs and would love to get to know you. “How’s your morning?”