“What’s black and white and red all over?” Luke’s started riffing on the joke book, so I prepare my laughter.
“Don’t know. What is black, white and red all over?”
“A newspaper” shouts Matty. He’s read the book too.
“Ha. No!” Getting a point against your brother is always a joy. “I’ll give you a clue: cowboy movies.” He waits a beat, then announces in triumph, “A cowboy after he’s been shot!”
I can see Matty preparing to argue, but it’s actually funny… and for once I’m ready to deflect. “Good one! Let’s have Oreo ice cream with strawberry sauce.”
I occasionally take a photo with FF in mind but I always forget to send them; Rochelle’s call for pictures makes me think I must hunt some of them down.
My story this week took a lot of editing to fit the 100 word limit and has lost a bit of Mom’s internal monologue as a consequence, but I enjoy writing stories about this family, who are often a little like mine. I hope you enjoy them too – there are lots of other Luke and Matty stories on my blog, so if you are interested click on the tag or drop their names into the search box for more snippets about them.
The boys love spending time at Grandpa’s farm in the summer: they splash in the river, climb trees and barely even glance at a screen. But we’ve never been in the winter. The farmhouse is huge but won’t contain the boys’ pre-Christmas energy.
Grandpa cut a tree and dressed it with candles. It looks amazing and probably won’t burn the place down or ignite anyone’s polyester pajamas. I’m told they did it when Dave was young, so it’s like when the kids play in the river in summer, I just have to believe.
I am a sloth. I do everything slooowly. Talk slowly. Move slowly. I even eat so slowly that I never fart.
Fart is an F word. Other frightening F words are fast, far and falling. I do not like F words.
I do like S words. Like slow. And steady. And sleeeeep.
Sleeping is one of the things that I do best. Some of my human friends find it hard to go to sleep, so I help them with my special meditations. Friends is a special word because it is a GOOD word even though it is an F word.
Yeah, this one needs a bit of explaining! Sebastian loves sloths and collects them in stuffed form, but the original and best is Molasses. Like all my kids’ stuffies, Molasses has his own voice and personality (OK, that’s entirely my fault), in this case revolving largely around his irrational hatred of F words and his love of anything involving S’s (He also likes Ms). One of the best things he does is guided meditations to help Sebastian sleep. I’ve started writing a book of his meditations, because it feels like something that other families would love too – or at least that I’d like to record for Sebastian to look back on. This is a condensed extract from the Introduction to that collection.
Oh, and the title? Well, Molasses wouldn’t want to be part of Friday Fiction, so I thought this could be a Saturday Story. Just for him.
A little later, and in haste this week. I’ve been racing around doing Christmas preparations and other Good Things this week, but I didn’t want to miss FF so here I am, still on the same theme as the last couple of weeks, where the muse seems to be stuck for the moment. Thank you to our host, Rochelle, for lending us her own picture today.
Two women stand at a window.
Outside, wearing a coat from Goodwill so she could afford good ones for the children who pull on her arms. She wonders if more bedrooms would make for better family relations or simply more to clean.
Inside, the realtor slides a photo from a frame. This latest sale means she and her husband can fly First Class to Hawaii for Christmas. Maybe even upgrade the Tesla.
Their eyes meet, and each woman’s heart sinks a little. If she could step through that glass, how different her life would be. How much happier, more meaningful.
Last week I told Sylvie’s life story – it was interesting to see two perspectives on her experiences – some of you saw the hope and others the misery. She’s popped back this week with a single moment in time, inspired by this photo from Roger Bultot.
The Coming Dawn
In the distance, Sylvie watched the day arrive. Layers of crimson, magenta and gold brightened into white and then blue. Over there, people could already see the way ahead.
For her, it was still night. The baby was just asleep, but not enough to put down. Her eyelids drooped, but she daren’t let them – and him – fall. Instead, she watched the sun rise and hope creeping across the sleeping city.
When Glenn’s alarm chimed, she felt him take the baby. He kissed her forehead as she finally let sleep take over, knowing it would be light when she woke up.
“They haven’t cut the straps.” Luke kicks disapprovingly at the third discarded mask we’ve seen in the one mile walk to school.
“Huh?” I’m not really listening. I’m wondering what we’re going to do on Monday. The third strike day of his first ‘normal’ school year since Grade 1.
“Animals can get tangled in them and die.”
“In the discarded mask?”
“Yes. It’s serious, Mom.”
One of us is missing the point. “You want the careless idiots who drop their mask on the side of the road to carefully cut the straps first?”
“It’s environmentally caring.”
“Ah, environmentally caring littering.”
Today’s photo put me in mind of a song from my childhood, The Bedstead Men, by comedy duo Flanders and Swann. You can enjoy it on the link below (2:25 for the relevant verse). It occurred to me that 80 years on, the specific items listed in the final chorus would have changed considerably, and in the last few years, one piece of litter has taken over from the prophylactic as the most ubiquitous: the single-use mask.
I toyed with the idea of amending the lyrics for our times, but at 352 words, it’s a little over the limit and most of them wouldn’t change. My own Luke recently took on board an important lesson about mask disposal, and my own Matty is currently sprawled on the couch with ‘flu … likely to recover just in time to miss school for yet another strike.
And so today’s snippet was born. If you enjoy stories featuring the fictional Luke and Matty, you can find more of them here.
“Why do I have to practise every day?” he used to ask me, torturing that guitar just as I was torturing him. He loved being able to play, hated the process of getting there. If he could make it play the notes that was enough for him. Why should he practise again and again just to add timing and emotion?
Practising became playing, and playing eventually became gigging and riffing. One day, he’ll have a kid of his own who wants to be able to play but doesn’t want to learn. I wonder if he’ll torture them with practice too.
Melanie had opinions about this picture, but they were depressing and a bit repetitious, so I thought Luke and Matty might be interested in the playground instead. Unfortunately, Luke and Matty, much like my real life boys, lived through a pandemic, and the sight of a rain-soaked playground gave their Mom a very different memory you can read more about here. Still miserable, I’m afraid, but then – is there anything more forlorn than an empty playground?
Even when it poured rain, we went across to the park every day. Rain never stopped play. I remember getting annoyed about it, but I bought myself raingear and handwarmers, and longed for them to be old enough to send over without me.
They’re old enough now, but we all sit inside and look out at the street instead. On rainy days, there are puddles Matty longs to jump in, and mud they would happily dig through; when the sun shines, the slides glow, calling the neighbourhood children to flout the rules, risk the world’s new Big C…
In haste, this one. Half memoir, half fiction. You decide which bits are which! (Clue: It’s not the topsoil)
I never understood why Mum cried at the end of movies. The characters lived happily ever after, defeated the monster or even occasionally died… I just scoffed popcorn and ran off. Mum would sit, quietly sniffing; ashamed of the tears, but unable to stop them.
Shame’s a shitty feeling, but those other emotions – relief, happiness, sadness – that spilled from her eyes, those feelings are real and pure and nobody should need to hide them behind a handkerchief or an adjustment of the glasses. These days, I can cry at an advert for topsoil. If Mum were here, we’d cry together.