Pages

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sandra



The double-decker bus sighs to a halt, and we disembark from the open platform to catch Ma, who's already way in the lead.  Mary and Peter trot with me on either side, as we scurry to keep pace.  She's on a mission, intently marching on ahead against the early evening drizzle. 

No idea where she is headed, half-jogging, we take in the wide, grassy stretches of lawn-flanked pavement standing sentry before row upon row of flat, trimmed hedge, guarding the uniformly neat and tended gardens laid behind.  Everything is so green and open, my head is on a swivel trying to drink it all in.

Finally Ma, finding where she is, stops and pauses for us to catch breath.

"Stay here a minute, I'll not be long."

She lifts the latch and sets down the path, as we huddle, necks craning to see where she's gone.  Lifting the knocker, Ma, jaw set, sharply gives it three loud raps.

Peter absent-mindedly plucks a leaf from the hedge, eyes never leaving her back.  Cold, I shove my hands deep into my pockets, squinting at the shape I see move past the window.  The door half opens, and a slender woman peeps out, smiles.  A little boy, perhaps no more than two, thrusts himself past her legs to gawk up and see who's calling.

"Hello Barbara, your sister home?"

The woman's smile fades, "She's working.  What is it you're after now, Elsie?"

"Tell her I've been, that I know what she is."

"Oh aye?  And what would that be?"

Ma turns and beckons to us.  Hesitantly, we file down the path.  The wee boy grins and says something to me, but uncertain yet whether to be friendly, I simply twist my mouth up as he meets my gaze.

"See these kids?"  Ma pulls me closer, "These are Larry's bairns, so they are, do you hear me?"  Embarrased, I try to wriggle away, but she holds me tight, "You tell her, and you tell that man of mine, his bairns are going without back at home, whilst he and that whore of a sister of yours is squandering the food right from out of their bellies, -"

Barbara, pushing the lad back behind her, snorts, "Now just a wee minute, here!"   Face sealed and closed, her voice is coldly clipped, "Our Sandra is far from desperate enough to cast her eye over your pathetic excuse for a man.  Who in their right head would be that hard up?"

"Just you tell her, and be sure to tell them both - I'm on to the pair of them, where they're at and what they're up to, you hear?"

"So what's that to me?  Away you go off and tell them yourself, since you're so well in the know, and be sure to mind to take this scabby litter of yours off away from my doorstep n'all, as you go!"  Making to close the door, she yanks the little boy farther in by his scruff, spitting a parting shot, "Small wonder if the poor sod's run off, with a nutter the likes of you to put up with at home."

The slammed door is far from enough to dissuade Ma from having her say.  Bending down, she lifts the letterbox, "Aye, that's right, run off and hide then.  You and that slag of a sister of yours are both one and the same, I even hear the Da of yon bairn there had to draw lots from the entire regiment, 'fore you guessed at who planted him.. ?"

Mortified, we watch, trying to avoid eye-contact with the small crowd of passer's-by who've begun to linger to enjoy the show.  Peter attempts to intervene, tugging at Ma's arm, "Ma, please, just leave it, eh?"

But she's only got her second breath, and on her knees, through the open flap, she continues to shout, "I can stay here all day and night if needs be - stop shielding the tramp and send her down, I'm going no where 'til I see her - too scared to face me are you then, bitch?  I know you can hear me."

By now, half the bloomin' street can hear her.

The upstairs window slides up and a head pops out.  It's not Barbara, but someone younger with curly, dark hair.  Ma pulls herself up with a triumphant curse, "Aye, see, there you are!  I knew, I knew it!  What did I say?"

"Go home you crazy, mad cow, I wouldn't touch your ugly, old man with a barge-pole, an alkie like that?  What do you think I am?  You're welcome to him, Dearie, aye, if you can ever find him, that is."

Ma is almost fixing to climb up and pull her down by the hair now, so furious is she.  "You need to watch your mouth so you do, and your back, come to that - "

Peter has heard enough, he steps between her and the door, forcing her to face him.  "C'mon Ma, let's go."  He grasps her arm, "Leave it, it's time to go home."

"See?  Look, even those poor bairns of yours have more sense than to stand here.  Some mother you are, God help them.  Go and bugger off back to where you came from, and give us all a rest."

Mary joins with Peter, "Ma, it's cold, let's go back, eh?"

Sandra's head disappears, and the window bangs shut.  Ma still stands her ground, watching as the curtains pull tight.  Peter gives a sigh, "Ma?"

Focusing, she suddenly becomes aware of the small audience we've attracted.  Pulling her spine straight, she turns on them, "What?  What you staring at?  Got a problem then, have you?"

No one has a problem. 

Disappointed, they slope away.

Ma grabs my hand.  "Alright, come along children, no point in over-staying our welcome, is there?"

The drizzle has turned to soft rain, droplets of moisture mist our face, dampening our hair.

So this is where Da is, then? 

Crossing through the gate, I tear a leaf from the privet-hedge, placing it in my pocket.  It feels cool and smooth between my fingers.

I wonder if he'll want us to live here, too?

Sandra would need to go.

42 comments:

Grayquill said...

Great post! From the story I guessed you kids were all pre-teen or early teen? It all sounded like an embarrassing and horrible time for you and your family – that sucks. Strong emotion can drive us to do nutter things at least from the eyes of the on lookers. Your mom was certainly a fighter and that is so much better than the passive, walk all over me type. Thanks for sharing this moment in your life.
Btw-I loved how you painted the scene, you made it come alive for me the reader. Great job!

Shrinky said...

Oh Grayquill, there is a lot of fact woven in here, 'tis true, but it's mainly just an extract from my "Wee Karen" saga's posted up here. I'm delighted you are aware of the young eyes witnessing the scene. Peter, the eldest, is 12, Mary 10, and Wee Karen (the story-teller) is only five, and struggles to filter a lot of what she sees into sense.. thank you for reading it so well, I'm "chuffed" you get it!

Ms. A said...

Beautifully written! When I read it, I FEEL the accent roll around in my head and I'm tempted to say them out loud.

Shrinky said...

Hahaha, Ms A, now that I should LOVE to see (and hear)! My Scots accent left me many, many moons ago (I left to live in England at the tender age of 8), yet curiously, it snaps straight back to me when I talk with my sibs over the phone.

Of course, neither of my parents ever toned down their broad, Scots brogue after moving away - I often literally had to "translate" to my English friends what they ever said! It's fun to recall those patterns of speech.

Marty said...

Shrinky, this was a great read and an interesting story. I never heard the word "bairns" before. Although I could guess at it's meaning, I did take the time to looked it up.

It is things like this that make a stories a little more interesting to me... drawing me in to hear the real voice of the people involved.

Shrinky said...

Why Marty, I am surprised you never heard of that term for child, before! But then, I am certain there are many American colloquialisms of which I probably am also totally unaware of too, and which for you is a taken for granted, normal usage of, eh?

Glad you enjoyed the dip in here, thanks for staying with it enough to google, too - that's made me smile!

Shopgirl said...

Like the others, I like how vivid and distinct you made the voice of ma sounded. I mean, they don't fight like that here in Cali. I love the raw emotions shown rather than told in this scene.

Skunkfeathers said...

A whole lot of truth here, whatever percentages of fiction and fact are interwoven. Been thru something akin my youth, tho' it played out far different, and contributed to my cynical eye nowadays.

But eh...'tis what it tis.

At any rate...a superb piece of writing, Shrinky ;-)

Leslie: said...

I think it's fiction, but then there can be a lot of fact in fiction. A writer writes what she knows, after all. Well done!

Shrinky said...

Oh thank you, Shopgirl, I am glad you caught the emotion, and no, I am certain they DON'T fight like that in Cali (although I am sure they have their own share of fighting, I am guessing such public displays as this would be a rare sight)!

Shrinky said...

Hi there Skunk, yeah sadly such is part of the rich tapestry of life, eh? Good, bad or downright ugly, it's not so much what is dealt, it's only what you decide to do with it that really counts.

Shrinky said...

Cheers Leslie, you are right insofar as I know all of my characters well, they are often blended from more than one person, but the mindset and traits they own tend to be based in fact.

Minnie said...

Golly, Shrinky - glad to hear this tale is not entirely factual! Love the strong Ma; her squirming kids, the usual squad of nosy neighbours - and the feisty floozy at the window howling defiance from a safe distance. So much disruption and unhappiness packed into one incident, spiralling outwards ... the stuff of recurring nightmares, but a great story!

Akelamalu said...

Loved this extract from your 'Wee Karen' saga Shrinky.

Shrinky said...

Hey Min, so great to see you back in here! Oh yes, she is a strong Ma, indeed - despite her occassional lapses back into full blown madness! I enjoy fiesty creatures, they are so larger than life, and much easier to "flesh out" on the page than their subtler companions are (grin)!

Shrinky said...

Thanks Ake, I'm trying to pick up her pen again..

Grandma's scrapbook said...

Great post!Thank you.

Shrinky said...

Grandma's Scrapbook, one day I might call you on what one of my posts actually is about..!

Jinksy said...

A totally believable story, told well from a youngster's viewpoint. I'm glad I came to call!

Shrinky said...

As I am too, Jinksy. Believable is not only important, but essential, and I rely on you (with everyone else in here)to guide me on that. It means much to me to have you endorse that!

foam said...

ack! .. lordy, how embarrassing for the bairns!! i like how you rounded out the story with the picket hedge leaves ..

Joanna Jenkins said...

Another fantastic chapter. I could feel the rain on my face as I read.
xoxo jj

The Blue Zoo said...

Great story, sad though. Is it true or fiction? Amazing writing!

SJ said...

The Wee Karen posts are always great. It's like getting a preview of bits and pieces of a soon to be launched big novel.

Shrinky said...

Hi foam, yeah, it is a kinda' cringe-inducing read (awkward smile)..

Shrinky said...

SJ, soon to be launched? Haaaaaaaaa, dream on (sigh).

Shrinky said...

Aw, thanks jj, but don't encourage me, I might write more!

Shrinky said...

Hello Steph, nah, it's purely fiction, part of something I'm working on.

Kristina Hughes said...

Brilliant, as ever! Get ye to the publisher, lady xxxx

Shrinky said...

Hey there Kristina, hmph, maybe in a decade or two, eh? "Proper" writers graft and see their scrips through..(wry pout). It's such a curse I have upon me to've been born this lazy!

mythopolis said...

...it seems so real....almost too real....

Shrinky said...

Dan, I have a vivid imagination (grin).

chewy said...

I love when your accent and native tongue kicks in. (smile) Their voices really set the scene. Their Ma certainly was on a mission... and right she was... Sandra was there!

I really like the little bit about the leaves. Peter took one absentmindedly and Karen took one on purpose.

(Pulling up my covers and settling in) What happens next? Where's Da?

Shrinky said...

Ah Chewy, it's you I write for, since you already know the full story, BFF. Patience, girl.. you have a good inkling of what comes next.. and of how hard it is for me to keep true to it's flow! ((x))

Putz said...

is sandra anything like karen???????????????????????????????????????

Barbara Shallue said...

Wow, brilliant writing! I was right there and could picture them all and even feel the rain. I'd love to read more!

Shrinky said...

Putz, um, Sandra isn't likely to be around that much for us to get to know her or of what she's about - but I rather doubt she and Karen share anything much in common, other than Karen's Da..!

Shrinky said...

Oh Barbara (turning pink), you've gone and made me toes curl in delight - thank you so much for that (see the smile plastered all over my face?).

Putz said...

i have never seen anyone with their toes curled up in delight<<<><>i changed my manchester to preston england for a delightful placw

Putz said...

40 comments, WOW/?????????

secret agent woman said...

Oh, my. That was painful to read.

Pat Tillett said...

That was so darn good! You REALLY got the accent woven into this great writing. I loved it! I'm sorry about the parts that actually happened though...
Hope you had a good Mother's day!