Day Thirteen: Serially Found
On day four, you wrote a post about losing something. Today’s Prompt: write about finding something.
Tell us about the time you retrieved your favorite t-shirt from your ex. Or when you accidentally stumbled upon your fifth-grade journal in your parents’ attic. Or how about the moment you found out the truth about a person whose history or real nature you thought you’d figured out. Interpret this theme of “finding something” however you see fit.
Today’s twist: if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined.
You could pick up the action where you stopped, or jump backward or forward in time. You might write about the same topic, but use a different style, or use the same style to tackle a neighboring topic.
Not sure how to approach continuity? Here’s a time-tested tip: pick a favorite book or two. Read the last page of chapter one, then the first page of chapter two. How did the author choose to connect these two separate-but-connected narrative units?
We’d like to stress, though, that the idea behind today’s assignment isn’t necessarily to write “chapter two” of a neat, predetermined sequence — though you could do that, too, of course — but to think more intently about the idea of continuity and designing long-term writing projects.
Okay, so it is a bit of a cheat adding another Blanche Street Tale, but it fits the brief. I’ll get back to new writing tomorrow.
The moment I walk into the chemist and see her I know she is my mother. I wait and watch her in the security mirror. When she turns the corner I bump into her, knocking her handbag and its contents to the floor. Dropping to my knees I apologise, “I’m really sorry. Are you okay? Here’s your purse.”
She’s so grateful she doesn’t notice me slipping her notebook into my coat pocket. As she wanders off she leaves behind a scent that is unmistakably Mum.
Only when I’m safely back in the side street do I allow myself to look at her little notebook. The cover is black, crinkled like crocodile skin. I run my thumb over the gold lettering, M.a.r.g.a.r.e.t. A tingle ripples up my hand. Over the years I have thought of many names for my mother, but it makes perfect sense that she’s called Margaret. Margaret’s are strong, honest, and reliable… just like that Mrs Thatcher.
On the first page mum has written her name, Margaret J. Lawrence, 11 Blanche Street. Her handwriting is so neat, I wish she had been around to teach me.
She’ll be home soon, if I’m quick I can surprise her. How pleased she’ll be to see me waiting. I catch sight of my scruffy face in a shop window, I can’t remember when I last shaved or washed. Mum will help transform me back into her son. Perhaps we’ll even make it on the front page of the Ipswich Star, “Long Lost Son, Home at Last.”
When I eventually get to Blanche Street my heart sinks. Opposite the row of tatty run down terrace houses is a dirt track where a couple of burnt-out cars and a white van is parked. This was not what I had been expecting. In dreams I saw us together living in a country cottage with roses around the door or perhaps a detached house with a long gravelled driveway. I’m puzzled. What could have happened to my mother for her to end up living in this hellhole of a street.
The front door is locked and the curtains pulled tightly shut, a good sign, you never know who might be skulking around in an area like this.
I think of mum, she looks so much different to what I had imagined. She’s aged more than I expected, but that doesn’t matter as greying hair can easily be dyed back to blonde. When we are together I will help her with her makeup. Her lips will be rose pink for daywear and poppy red for when we go out on the town.
Down the road a door flies open and out storms one of those skinhead types. I try not to watch as he bad mouths someone inside his house, then he stomps over to the white van. I hear a woman crying and think I should help, but the last thing I need is a fight, so I scurry towards the side alley.
A high brick wall guards the back of the houses. I get to mum’s backyard only to find the gate locked. With no time to waste I scramble up the wall. My legs flail about as I scrape my gut before falling flat on the bare concrete below.
I lay still, but no one comes out, nobody cares. Picking myself up I nip to the backdoor and cup my hands to the window, inside is a tiny kitchen. The door handle clicks as I push it down, I scold my mum for not keeping it locked. When we’re together I’ll make sure she will always be protected.
Safely inside the kitchen the first thing I spot is her little cup on the draining-board. I carefully lift the rim to my lips and imagine mum’s lips on mine…giving me a good night kiss.
The cupboards are jam packed with loads of outdated tinned stuff and not much else. The fridge is empty, apart from a half bottle of milk and some mouldy cheese. I make a promise on the spot that I will learn to cook. My mum will have tasty meals every day. I’ll give her shepherd’s pie, toad in the hole, liver, bacon and creamy mashed potatoes with really thick onion gravy. On Sundays we’ll always have a roast and none of the vegetables will come from a tin.
I turn to face the door leading to the rest of the house. My stomach tightens. This must be how proper kids feel on Christmas morning. I throw open the door only to be faced with the same old disappointment. The room is dark and drab. Flicking on the light only makes things worse. The room is bare except for an empty birdcage hanging from a stand in the far corner. There is a thick layer of bird shit around the floorboards; for once something smells worse than me.
The front room isn’t much better. There’s a single chair, Mum’s throne and a little side table next to it. I run my hand over the grease spot at the top of her chair and pocket the few hairs I find. The ticking clock on the wall reminds me I have little time to explore. In the table’s side drawer there’s only money off coupons and a stash of useless Green Shield Stamps.
The clock on the wall begins to strike, pushing me on. Back in the middle room I notice the staircase; I take the steps two at a time. I reach the small landing and step into the front bedroom to find It’s empty: ready for me to move in. I quickly step into the back bedroom and admire mum’s single bed. Throwing back the blankets I grab her pillow close to my face, filling my nostrils with her distinctive smell.
Outside I can hear the world outside, reminding me to move on. There will be plenty of time soon to be close to my mum.
The only other furniture in the room is a chest of drawers. I’m about to pull open the top drawer when I hear the front door open; Mum’s back! I frantically empty each drawer on to the bed. The first has nothing but slips, knickers and bras. The second is jammed full of the same grey coloured tights, there must be fifty shades of grey all bundled up. The third is full of neatly folded cardigans. I rummage through her belongings, then stop. I can hear her moving around downstairs.
I tug at the bottom drawer. A stack of used wrapping paper, all ironed, spring out. Under that is a mound of yellowing documents. A quick scan shows they are of little interest to me. Then at the very bottom, I find the treasure I’ve been looking for: our photographs.
I tip the photos out on the floor and spread them out. All the faces seem to follow me, making my head really ache.
I cock my head and listen. I think mum is in the kitchen, my head throbs so much it’s hard to tell. I look down at the photos and just like a puzzle everything falls into place. In front of me is her life. There’s mum on a beach with friends, laughing. Other photos show’s mum in the park, a woman by her side. Another shows mum out for dinner, dressed up to the nines with the same woman. I look closer, trying to see my features. I know for sure that I definitely take after mum. I can’t see any pictures of my dad. I wonder what happened to him: I hope he is dead.
Now as I look down at the photos all I can see is the same two grinning, taunting faces, but what has she done with the pictures of me? I dig deeper into the pile and wonder where all the baby pictures are; what had I done that she would want to get rid of all memories of me? That woman is going to have to work really hard for me to forgive her. I pick up a picture frame with her silly grinning face looking back. I’m beginning to feel differently about my mum, I’m starting to feel really angry and throw the frame down. The glass smashes. I hear a creak on the stairs. I try and clear up the mess before she gets to the top of the stairs. I cut my hand, blood spills all over the pictures. Shit! It wasn’t meant to be like this. I stumble to my feet, smooth down my shirt, now it’s covered in blood. I try and slick my hair into place as I hear her pause on the stair. This at least gives me a moment to pull on my best smile. The top stair creaks, I reach my arms out to welcome my…..shit…a miserable policeman steps into the doorway, slowly shaking his head.
He slaps on some handcuffs, they dig tight around my wrist. He pushes me down the stairs, out of the house and into the back of the police car.
Most of the street has come out to gawp. A policewoman has her arm around Margaret. Now that I look at her properly, I can see she could never have been my mum. My mum is strong, upstanding, reliable…not some sad lonely lesbian.
Eventually everyone goes back indoors, the police get back in the car, the driver looks at me in his rear view mirror and sneers, but I don’t react. We drive away in silence. We turn onto Cemetery Road, I let out a heavy sigh of relief. There! I see my mum, a fine upstanding blonde haired woman, dressed in a red coat, matching shoes and handbag… I wonder where she lives?