© Steevan Glover (H.E Glover)
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This is a short story of 3,000 words. It prints to about 8 pages of A4.
This is a development of the story "Who,me."
// \\ indicates italics.
mighty like a rose
I can hear the song.
Now is not the time for singing.
I need to focus, concentrate on the task at hand.
Nonsense, now is always the time for singing. I shouldn’t hold back, I should sing if that’s what I want to do.
What’s that? Distant drumming? Or just the fingers of his hand?
He’s going to ask a question. I’d prefer it if he didn’t, I don’t want to hear him today.
“Talk to me? Tell me about your life?”
My life. Tell him about it!
No, not today.
Anyway, I don’t like the implication that my life is in the past tense. Is it over?
Has it ended without anyone telling me? That it has been and now gone.
That aside, life, it’s a big subject.
What part do we discuss? The education part? If so, do we focus on the formal schooling, or lessons learnt in the great university of life.
If it’s the latter, well that education has never ended.
It can’t. I’ll always be learning.
Hang on, my life is over remember, past tense. He asked ‘tell me about your life?’ He has to mean, up to now, to this exact point in time.
It’s still too broad a subject, far too many half-remembered names and faces.
“Which part do you want to know about?”
I like his shoes, tan leather with genuine leather soles. He hasn’t scored them. I’ll bet they're slippy.
Father always insisted on genuine leather soles and then butchered them with a craft or Stanley knife, whichever was handy. He claimed it added grip.
I never saw my father fall over.
I’ll bet he falls over all the time.
The right shoelace is coming undone. It will work loose when he walks, start flapping and trailing behind him. Maybe he’ll tread on it once, stumble a little. Make a joke to the pretty girl that sees him trip, pretending it didn’t happen.
He’ll ignore the lace because he won’t want to look stupid and he’ll just walk on. Perhaps he’ll step on it again and not be so lucky.
They’re nice shoes though.
Very nice indeed.
“Which part would you like to tell me about?”
I don’t really want to tell you about any of it. I don’t really know you.
We haven’t had the chance to become acquainted. I have no idea if we would genuinely like each other even if we had the time to chat and become acquainted.
I like his shoes but that’s no indication that we have anything in common. Maybe he likes football, I don’t, I hate football.
Maybe he’s a U2 fan. I think Bono is a tit. OK, chances are he’ll think Bono is a tit too.
If we met in a bar or at a party would we talk? Would we strike up a conversation, laugh, joke, and be friendly. I doubt it. I really do.
“Tell me about your wife?”
What can I tell you, of all people, about my wife?
“I love my wife.”
I do. I adore her, with every fibre of my being. She is extraordinary; the superlatives don’t exist to sum up my wife, clichés maybe, but not superlatives.
“It’s good that you love your wife. Tell me how she makes you feel?”
How does she make me feel? He wouldn’t understand, how could he?
He has unscratched Italian leather shoes, a Prada briefcase and a shirt that is too tight.
No he couldn't understand how a woman like that makes a man like me feel.
She is my sun.
When the wind blows, be it a gentle breeze or a raging gale – it’s the force of her touch on my soul. Her breath is the whispering of a summer’s breath that caresses my cheek and billows the sheet of my happiness on the washing line of my life.
The touch of her hand is an autumn gust that cools my tempered brow and melts away the frustration of a commuter day.
She is my dawn, my own living light.
Her voice melts the ice cream that is my heart. Her song is the sticky chocolate sauce that coats my hands and sticks to my chin.
I am a grubby mess of unadulterated joy to her spoken word.
“She makes me happy.”
A smile is not just a smile.
There are many smiles.
She has hundreds.
//Nobody knows it, but she has a secret smile and she saves it only for me.\\
It starts at the very edge of her full lips. A faint quiver, a ripple of the tiny muscles that cascade, like a tsunami of joy through the skin and tissue of her mouth. The quiver becomes a ripple, the ripple a wrinkle, the wrinkle becomes a grin. The right cheek bunches a little more than the left; the dimple grows faster on the right than the left. As soon as the dimple blooms, the smile broadens and the happiness chases across her lips, running as fast as it can across her face up the left cheek. That cheek plumps and the second dimple smirks awake. Two dimples, linked by the wide expanse of ruby lips stretched taut across ivory teeth.
Joy. Rapture and grace.
A smile that demands a smile in return.
A smile that puts the skip back into a limping leg, plumps a tired pillow and ignites an extinguished flame.
A secret smile only for me.
He can’t see it, no matter what he does.
“What does she do that makes you happy?”
She doesn’t do anything. Well not specifically just to make me happy.
I am happy because she IS.
She breathes walks, talks and dances. No matter what it is, her life is enough to make me happy.
I am happy because of her existence. Knowing her, knowing she is somewhere is enough for me to be happy.
She won’t need to tell me jokes or do something funny. I don’t expect dinner on the table or blowjobs at six, or doe eyed adoration to make me happy.
All irrelevant. Nice, but irrelevant.
“She shares my life; she lets me share her life.”
His shirt seems to be getting tighter, maybe breakfast is settling.
Those are very nice cufflinks.
One picture is of a women riding a horse and the other says “Ride’em cowboy.” Not my idea of stylish.
I’ll bet he thinks they're witty.
Still, they work on the shirt. Thomas Pink I think, it's a quality shirt.
I’m so tired of looking at him, his expensive shoes, nice shirt and quality suit. A well fed belly. You sir are comfortable, in life, if not in that chair.
“And that makes you happy?”
Fuck it, doesn’t he listen.
It makes me more than happy.
It’s a reason to breathe in and out, the very light to spark my engine.
The petrol in my tank.
I hate his hair. That smug sweptback salt’n’pepper colouring shouts pomposity and obvious success.
You can’t hide the fact you are going bald, thinning all around the crown. Cutting it short and brushing it back is merely a tame disguise.
Like hiding a grand piano under a table cloth.
The moustache is a bad idea as well.
George Galloway should have convinced you that it wasn’t working.
A moustache is a tough thing to pull off; yours makes you look like a liar.
“What about your son?”
My son. Why would he ask about my son?
I love my son. I’ll fight any man that says different. I’d kill maim and destroy for my boy.
My darling wonderful perfect boy.
“What about him?”
He’ll be a handful when he’s older. A lover and a fighter. He’ll open doors for ladies, offer his seat to the elderly. He won’t be me.
He’ll right wrongs and oppose injustice, stand his round in pubs. He won’t be you.
He’ll tell jokes and make people laugh, be a ‘must have’ guest at any social function.
My boy. Mighty like a rose.
He’ll love his dad and thank me in acceptance speeches, maybe even dedicate his first novel to me.
“Did his arrival affect your happiness with your wife?”
We moved from joy to bliss. Lying in a Moses basket, snuffling in a cot, sitting up, crawling, standing and toddling.
A baby is a baby for so short a time.
Defenceless, dependent, but so beautiful. I held my boy in the crook of my elbow and the palm of my hand. Less than a foot long and weighing not much more than a few bags of sugar.
You wait with bated breath for that first smile, a gummy grin and as for the first time the eyes focus and recognise their parents -heaven.
Your heart sings and a flotilla of butterflies charge around your stomach. Listening at the nursery door, scared they’ll wake, terrified they’ll never wake again.
Joy and fear wrapped in the spectacular package that is parenthood.
“Of course it did, but not for the worse. For the better.”
A shared creation, a life built from our component parts. The very essence of two people is merging to create another.
An investment of our love, hopes, dreams and happiness.
You're terrified of what they’ll become and petrified of what they won’t.
You question yourself and your view the world through different eyes, willing it to change. Hoping it can be just that bit better, that bit more welcoming to the new arrival.
“Would you say fatherhood suits you?”
Is he trying to be funny? Is he inferring that fatherhood doesn’t suit me?
If he is, it isn’t funny.
If he isn’t making that inference it still isn’t funny. Maybe I don't have a good sense of humour. He should know that.
How can it not suit me? I am a father, it suits me. Ipso facto.
The two are not mutually exclusive.
Fatherhood isn’t a shirt; you don’t put it on and ask if the colour matches your eyes.
You don’t wonder if fatherhood will go with those new Jasper Conran jeans.
It is what it is.
“That’s a stupid question. It infers that fatherhood might not suit someone. Fatherhood isn’t an object of selection. It’s a physical and emotional situation.”
Fuck you funny man. I can argue back.
Ask me something else, move on.
Leave discussions of fatherhood and my boy behind.
“Did fatherhood affect your relationship with your father?”
What’s that supposed to mean?
How do I know how my father reacted to becoming a father?
Christ, first time it happened I wasn’t even considered.
I was his second bite of the cherry. Arsehole.
If you’re asking me did my relationship with my father change when I became a dad…well fuck you what’s it to do with you.
“My father is dead. So fuck knows how it would affect our relationship.”
That’s right, I know what I am. No need for new conclusions..
Aggressive. Confrontational. Antagonistic. Difficult.
//I am what I am, my own special creation.\\
Sing it loud and sing it proud.
Ask me about mommy now. I dare you. I double dare you. Ask me about my mother.
“And your mother?”
"What about my bloody mother?"
Ask a question.
It’s what you do, it’s all you do. Always a question and never a solution.
I really hate your moustache, it’s annoying me.
It clings to your top lip like a furry squatting limpet. It’s like some kind of malevolent parasite.
“Did you have a positive relationship with your mother?”
Jesus, I need to sing.
//Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel\\
My mother. An unhappy woman. A sad woman. A desperate woman.
She just forgot how to care. She knew how to love, that was instinctive.
//Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel\\
She would have run through fire and bullets for her boys, but sometimes she just missed some important details out when trying her hand at motherhood. Packed lunches would be forgotten, slaps were common, talking with a fag in her mouth; minor details that would fill a manual of what not to do in motherhood.
“Yes it was positive.”
My mother is a good woman.
She has done plenty not to be proud of.
But if you judge someone on just the negatives then they’ll always come out bad.
I think we should let the subject of my mother slide.
“My mother’s illness and her problems are a matter of public record. I don’t feel we need to discuss them further.”
I love my mum.
She’s the only one I’ll have.
I would have liked walks in the park and playing on the swings.
I’d like to look at family photo albums and smile at the memories of fancy dress parties attended and pictures of me beside birthday cakes.
I’d like to treasure the emotion of realising that my mother is more than the person that feeds me.
But I can’t. I can’t tell tales with friends about how I banged my knee and she kissed it better, I can’t hold my boy and say Grandma used to sing me this to make me sleep….
//Sweetest little fellow ev'rybody knows
Don't know what to call him but he's mighty like a rose
Lookin' at his mammy with eyes so shiny blue
Make you think that heav'n is comin' close to you\\
“Talk to me about how you felt. I need to hear about that?”
No you don’t.
You don’t need to hear about her and why she lost her boys.
No one does.
I saw her do those things.
I felt many of those things.
Have you smelt flesh burnt with an iron? I have.
Has your flesh been burnt with a lighter? Did someone nail your hand to the table to make sure you kept your brother company at the dinner table?
Did you watch as your mother piled all you clothes and toys in the garden and torched them with petrol?
No. You didn’t. You came along later.
Men in expensive suits and nice shoes don’t experience things like that.
Not in this world. They hear people like me talk about it. They emote and empathise. But they are never the victim.
“You’ve seen the pictures, work out how I felt.”
Can he go home and sit with his Laura Ashley wife at his Habitat table and discuss his day. Will this come up? Would he broach the subject of whether, she as a mother could envisage a time when she would hold a child down and pour boiling water down its leg?
He should ask her?
Ask her if her son would still love her if she did that.
“I can imagine the pain. But I can’t imagine how you felt about the fact that your mother was doing this to you?”
Elated, I was over the fucking moon, Enraptured about it you moron.
I felt betrayed.
//As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind\\
I felt abandoned.
The one person, the only person you should rightfully expect to shield you from the world, cocoon you with love, is your mother.
You can offer nothing in return but love. A common singular currency.
You see others get it; you read about it or see it on the TV and in films. You know how others have it, or maybe how it is supposed to be expressed.
I just got something different.
You get used to it.
It’s how my mother showed love. I’m bitter she didn’t know how to do it another way, the better way.
But I got what I got.
“I wished I’d got a cuddle. Everyday I hoped for it. It never came, that wasn’t her way. Did I think I didn’t deserve a cuddle? No. I knew I was a good boy. I think someone should have shown her how to cuddle, maybe she didn’t know… If someone had been the right way with her… She might have been right with me.”
//In the windmills of your mind\\
“If you could ask someone a question about your experiences, any question, what would it be?”
Hallelujah - a fucking decent question.
There are too many questions, not enough time left in my life to ask them all and have them answered.
Could I ask just one?
It could be this; Mum, why me and Adi but not Karen?
Maybe it would be; why did my teacher not notice?
Maybe I could ask Mrs Green if she thought it normal for a ten year old boy to bleed from there?
Maybe I’d ask god what I’d done to deserve this?
Or perhaps I’d ask that man with the sandals and greasy hair if taking my mums benefits was a smart thing to do?
I’d ask why they sell strong cider so cheaply or why you can get class As almost anywhere?
Perhaps I’d ask the person I beat up outside the Lambert Arms for forgiveness, or maybe I’d just say sorry to Claire Hill, no virgin should have me as their first.
I’m lying now; I have a question, one question I’d ask.
I will always ask it because I know it can never be answered.
“One question? I suppose I’d ask my dad something.”
“Your father? What would you ask him?”
“Dad, why didn’t you protect me?”
It’s a killer line.
I have to go, I’ll be late. No more questions. Not today
I hate my fucking moustache, but I do like the shoes.
My dad swore blind that leather soles was the way to go.
You need to scratch them or you’ll fall flat on your arse someday.
I never saw my father fall…
It’s ok, I’m mighty like a rose.