Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Mother's Pride

I'm very happy to be able to feature Susan Howe as the ReadWave Writer of the Month. Sue is a brilliant up-and-coming writer of short literary fiction, whose stories are often tinted by a wonderfully dark kind of comedy. She runs the literary fiction theme on ReadWave (all you writers out there, feel free to submit some of your stories). Here's a piece of flash fiction written by Sue that won the Flash500 competition. I also recommend that you check out some of her longer stories as well. Enjoy!

Mother's Pride

She strolls in as cool as you like and says, “Hello, Joan” as if we’re old friends. She hands me a bunch of flowers. I hate lilies. So funereal. 
Daniel’s bobbing about behind her. I see she’s already got him where she wants him.
“Come through,” I say. “Dinner’s waiting.”
I can’t imagine what’s made them so late. They obviously haven’t spent any time deciding what to wear. Shorts and open sandals on a Sunday!
She offers to help but Jim and I can manage when he’s finished fawning. He wouldn’t think she was so wonderful if he'd slaved over two dinners just because she’s a vegetarian. Attention-seeking, that’s all it is. Daniel won’t be able to keep it up. One sniff of a bacon sandwich and that’ll be it. I've got some rashers in the fridge. 
I wish Jim would take that silly smile off his face. She’s only talking about her job for goodness’ sake. Anyone would think she was a brain surgeon, not a nurse. 
She seems to like her broccoli bake, but Daniel keeps looking over at the joint then shutting his eyes. Poor love, he must be starving. I’ll try and slip him some later, while Jim shows Her Highness round the garden. Listen to him! Who on earth wants to know about his stupid dahlias? 
I’ll clear the plates while they’re yapping. 
“That was delicious, Joan,” she says.
Daniel smiles and nods but I can see he isn’t happy. 
I’ll show her I know my boy. He’ll love the pudding. It looks smashing even if I say it myself. Watch his face when I set it down. 
Now what’s the matter with her? Come on, missy. Spit it out. 
“I’m sorry, Joan, but does it contain gelatine?” she says.
Well of course it contains gelatine! How else would you get it to stand up like that?
“Sorry, Mum. We can’t eat it,” Daniel says. 
“What do you mean?” I say. I’m struggling to keep my voice down. “It’s your favourite.”
“I wish you’d listen, Mum —”
She puts her hand on his arm like she owns him.
“What Dan means is gelatine’s made from animal bones.”
I feel my blood pressure rising. If I’d wanted him called Dan I’d have christened him that myself! She’s ruining him with her ridiculous ideas. I’m trying my best to make it a nice day and this is the thanks I get!
“It looks lovely, dear. I’ll have some,” Jim says, as if that’s any damned use. 
“How long have you been vegetarian?” he asks her. 
“Only since I met Dan,” she says. “He’s really committed and I’m trying to support him.”
Daniel leans over and plants a kiss on her cheek.
“Isn’t she great?” he says. 
Jim nods. He always was a rotten judge of character but she doesn’t fool me
I look her straight in the eye. She flinches. Her head tilts. Lips tighten. Now I think we understand each other. 
“Coffee?” I say.


Peter Hogenkamp said...

Great economy of writing, Susan. I can't believe how well you developed your characters with only 500 words. Nice piece.

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for reading, Peter! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

Excellent character development in an economy of words; really enjoyed. Thanks for sharing it with us today!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jan!