Books : AS YOU STEP OUTSIDE - 2008 - Extract
Extract from the short story, Shirley Poppy
We swerved into the drive. Jackie tried to help me out, but I was having none of it. I didn’t dawdle; I grabbed my stick and walked as fast as I’m capable, back inside. Behind me, I heard Robert shouting; Get her raincoat and handbag, Jackie. where’s that damn present?
It was cool in the hall; smelt of the pine cones Jean collected in autumn and left in old chipped bowls on every windowsill. I knew the smell of the house now and liked it. I made for the kitchen and Jean with her Sunday paper, the surety of a strong cup of tea and my own familiar chair.
I thought I barged in noisily. If I did, they didn’t hear me. How foolish they were in any case - in front of the kitchen window in broad daylight, but then perhaps I’m the fool to imagine that would matter to them. I didn’t understand at first. I thought Jean was comforting Whiz, or Whiz was comforting Jean, and then I saw that Whiz’s blouse was undone, her white brassiere, pulled down on one side, so that her breast was exposed and Jean’s hand was cupping it, as if holding something precious.
Mum, the present. Good god, whatever’s going on? Robert pushed past me into the room. Whiz turned away towards the window, Jean faced us, as if ready to die than let us hurt her.
Do you mind? she said, this is my kitchen.
I shoved Robert out into the hall and closed the door.
Robert, your mother’s things, you could have helped, Jackie complained from the hallway. The house seemed full of their noise and movement - it needed quiet - to slip back into normality.
||Just leave everything and go, I said.
Now look here, mother...
No more talk, I’ve had enough...
You’ve had enough. That’s priceless.
Robert calm down.
Do you know the pretty scene my mother has just been subjected to?
It doesn’t matter, I said.
I’ll bloody decide whether it matters or not.
For heavens sake, haven’t we had enough unpleasantness this afternoon?