guest post – a short story


by Henry Last.


So, the thing is that I have to write it.

Apparently it is therapy. Therapeutic.  I don’t see why it should be, and I don’t need therapy. Where is the point in therapy for somebody like me ?  I don’t want it.

But I will write it.  I will write it because they said I should, and I might as well, and I have difficulty telling it.

I have always had difficulty telling it, regardless. 

I was not able to get it out, but they managed to piece it together.  I did try.  I opened my mouth to speak.  I wanted to speak.  But nothing came.

“Good man,” one said, trying to encourage me.

But nothing came.

I suppose I shall start at the beginning.  But where is the beginning?  Is it when I was born, or when I met Lucy ?  Or was the beginning when I first learnt to speak ?   Or when I stopped speaking ?  Was the beginning when Mum crossed the road one day, or was that the beginning of the end ?  It does depend utterly on how you look at it.

Emile's homework

I will start with Mum.

Boys love their mums and mums love their sons.  That much I can say for sure.  I loved my mum very much indeed.  She was fat and cosy.  She smelt of soap and hand cream.  She wore a floral pinafore and pink fluffy slippers and she made apple crumble with thick custard.  Most importantly she understood me and I understood her.  We spoke, of course, but we also had a secret silent language, made up of winks and nods and smiles and hugs.

They say I won’t remember that much about her, but I do remember very well indeed.  After all, up to the age of six, she was one hundred percent of my life.  I was with her day and night. Everything I wore and everything I ate was with her, because of her, for her.

They say that’s not true because I went to nursery school. 

I wish they wouldn’t split hairs.

When she died I was very angry.  Very angry indeed. 

After the screaming and the tears and the wailing out for her in the middle of the night, after the bewildering days of aunts and uncles, my cousins and my father – I became angry.  The man who had run her down and killed her had to die.  With my six year-old fists I would see to it myself.

The man who killed her lost his licence for dangerous driving. He lost it for two years.  It may be he had to pay a fine too.  I don’t know.  He had not been drunk or drugged, nor had he been over-tired.  So there was no prison.  Apparently he wept openly at the Court hearing and he apologized to my father.   He sent some Scalexric over to me.  I didn’t know it was from him until much later.

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I had never been a talker.  Some people aren’t, you see.  I chatted with Mum.  I remember holding her hand and skipping along and chatting.  I am pretty certain I didn’t have a stutter.  The stuttering started after my father got angry.

He took a long time to get angry.  Several months.  Might even have been a year. 

Typical of him, the brave, stalwart type, the gentleman, he forgave the driver and he forgave God, and took it on the chin.  Tried hard to start again.  Tried to look after me, take me to school, talk with me, even play with me.  His sister came round each day to cook and clean.  Auntie Gill.  She crashed about the house touching the things that were my Mum’s, things she had no business touching.  Tried to re-arrange my bedroom.  Moved stuff about in the kitchen.  I hated her.

“Can’t you be nice to your Auntie Gill?” my father whined. “It’s all difficult enough as it is without you being a pain!”

When my aunt took my mother’s clothes away I kicked her in the shin.  Several times.  I kicked as hard as I could and her stocking tore and a bit of loose skin appeared and a dribble of blood.  So I kicked again, while she tried to hold me back by my arms.

“They’re Mum’s things!” I screamed.

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I’ll give Aunt Gill her due.  Another woman may well have slapped me or flung me in to a different room.  But she didn’t.  She held me away from her, her hands like iron grips on my upper arms, and waited.  Then, when I had calmed down,  she sat me on the step at the bottom of the staircase and said:

“Little man. Listen. You have to face it.  Your Mum has died.”

I stared at her.  Suddenly I didn’t hate her quite so much and I wished she would put her arms around me, but she didn’t.  I have often thought that she should have.  I mean, surely that is something you do for a little boy whose mum has died ?  Put your arms around him ?

“I am sorry,” she said. “ We are all sorry.  It is hard on your dad and hard on you.  It is hard on all of us.”

I just stared.

“But we have to move on. Life goes on.  Your Mum died.  She has gone.  She will never come back. I’m sorry.”

And Auntie Gill never came back either.

 I started going to the cinema with dad, two or three times a week.  After the third film, dad got angry.  At first I thought he was angry because of the film.   Then I thought he got angry because I watched the film with him.  I thought he might not be so angry if I didn’t sit next to him, so I moved away to another seat, but that made him worse.  His usual evening beer or two became three or four.  And a tot of whiskey perhaps.  Then another.  Then, as the weeks went by, the whole bottle.  And that made him even more angry.

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The house smelt bizarre.  Part of it was where dad had been sick and hadn’t cleared it up properly.  Part of it was because dad never cleaned the loo or the sink … or anything in the kitchen.  We ate takeaways and I built magnificent buildings with the empty cartons.

“Get these bloody things out of the way!” roared my father, and he would knock them all off the table and throw them on to the fire.  Then, together, we would watch them burn.  Flames of orange and yellow leaping up, then black and curled cardboard char.

Then I’d wait till we had got through more takeaways and build another magnificent structure.  It became a ritual, our only form of communication.  Build the structure, knock it down, burn it.  Wait a week or two, build the structure, knock it down, burn it.

It was almost fun.  But mostly it was just a ritual. We expected it of each other, so we did it, even when we didn’t really want to.

Dad was always drunk.

I was certainly stuttering by the time I started school.  People always assume I was teased, but I wasn’t.  Or, if I was, I don’t remember it.  I think the teacher, one Miss Gains, was clever and knew how to make sure I got involved in things where I didn’t need to speak.  Basketball and football.  Art.  Writing.  Sewing.  Writing, writing.

I had a friend called Lucy.  She was my Excellent Friend.  I always thought of her with capital letters.  Lucy my Excellent Friend.  

Lucy lived just down the road from me and we played together every week-end.  In the summer I went away camping with her and her folks.  We went to the Lake District.  It was brilliant.  I slept in a tent of my own.  Dad bought it for me, and a sleeping bag.  He forgot about a pillow, so I rolled up some clothes.

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At school break time and at lunch time Lucy and I sat together.  People thought we were brother and sister perhaps.  Certainly nobody ever teased me for playing with a girl.  Or, if they did, I don’t remember that either.

When I was nine somebody bought me a kitten.  It may have been my father, but I think in fact it was Lucy’s father.

Secretly I called her Mum.  That was a good name because she and I snuggled up together, and she was soft and warm and made me feel nice.  I never told anybody because I knew they’d think that was stupid. Out loud I called her Violet.  That was also a good name because everybody approved, and it was the name of the flower my mother liked best.  At least I think she probably liked them best because she had a picture of some in the bathroom and some more in the hall, and they grew in the garden.  There were loads of them in the garden.

On my tenth birthday I went to the cinema with Lucy.  Just the two of us.  I had enough money to buy popcorn and drinks.  It felt really grown up.  For a while I wondered if Lucy was expecting me to hold her hand.  I didn’t want to hold her hand, so I didn’t.  When we came out, I mean when the film was over, we went to MacDonald’s.  It was the best birthday ever. 

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I went to bed that night and snuggled up with Mum, and thought what a happy time I had had.

Then the phone rang.  It rang for a long time and I was just about to get up and answer it when my dad did.  His voice was a bit slurred, but not too bad.

“Yes!” he said, “it went well.  I think he had a really good time.  I’d prefer him to be  out and about with some mates, but Lucy’s a nice kid.  Looks after him.”

Silence, while he listened.  I guessed it was one of the aunts.  Probably Auntie Gill because she phoned the most often.

“At last,” said my father then “it has taken him a long time.  I made a better recovery myself.  Moved on a long time ago.  But poor lad, it affected him really badly.”

More silence while he listened.  Then:-

“Nah … I don’t think so …. Nah.  He’s over it.   He has recovered now and forgotten his mum, bless her.  Best that he forgets.  It’s better all round.”

Forgotten my mother ?  Forgotten my mother ?

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Suddenly the tears welled up, just the way they used to.  I hid under the covers and struggled to not make any noise.  All the loneliness and all the pain came flooding back in as I realized I was alone with my memories of my mother.  That dad had moved on and I hadn’t.  Worse, dad thought I had moved on too.

In the morning I took Violet in a plastic carrier bag to the park.  I hid behind some bushes.  She was not Mum and I felt an idiot, a complete idiot trying to make some kind of comforter out of the cat.  A bloody cat !   For Chrissake !   I tied the bag up very tightly and shoved it under the bush.  The cat struggled inside.   Made quite a lot of noise actually.  I decided I’d come back later with a spade and dig a hole.  Bury the thing.  I never got round to it actually, but about a year later I looked behind the bush and the bag was there, still all tied up but the cat was silent.

I don’t know why it should be but I felt so angry with Lucy’s father.  Or my father.  I am pretty certain it was Lucy’s father had given me the cat.  Trying to fob me off with a cat !  Thinking a cat would replace my mother.

I have noticed over the years that anger is a bit like an illness.  It can grip you and stay with you.  I have often thought about it.  Sometimes I feel angry with my mother for crossing the road.  Surely she’d seen the car ?  What daft thing was she doing to not see the car ?  Mostly I felt angry with dad, with school, with Lucy’s dad.

Speech became very difficult.  You cannot imagine what it is like trying to say something and being unable to spit it out.  Lucy always seemed able to understand me, even when I couldn’t say the words.  Other people became impatient.  Dad was impatient.

“Spit it out!”

That’s why I started writing.  If you look in my room (is my room still there or have they thrown all my things out?) you will find an entry for every single day of the year since I was twelve.  That’s four years.  There are 365 days in a year, so you do the maths.  That’s a lot of writing.   Writing is so much easier than speaking.  Spit it out yourself.

Oh, so you want me to get to the point do you ?  I see you glancing over at my paper.

But the fact of the matter is I don’t know what to tell you next. I don’t know why that happened except that one day Lucy said she liked to mother me.  She had been my Excellent Friend all those years and then let me down.  Mother me ?  What in hell did she think she could mother me for ?   I can’t tell you more than that, and perhaps you think that everything I have said so far is not relevant.  Perhaps it is not.  Perhaps I should have started with Lucy.

I am sorry I killed her.  Even though I set out to do it, I am still sorry.  Very sorry actually.  I don’t think I’ll miss her.  We had grown out of each other in lots of ways.  I do realize, you know, that she could have been somebody else’s Excellent Friend.  I do realize, and for that I am sorry.

But there. What’s done is done and my wrist is aching from writing.  You said to write it down, so I did.


The end


Henry Last is English and has lived in Ross-on-Wye most of his life.  This is the first short story he has written and he (we hope jokingly!) says it is his last.  By trade he is a Crafts teacher at a local school. He is married with three children.


Posted on 30/12/2015 by Catherine
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