She woke to the sound of the monsoon drumbeat and all she could think was ‘my sheets!’ She had left them on the washing line all night. She had stepped out into the garden before going to bed and the air was so starched linen clean that she’d stopped – the dusk against her cheeks – and taken in a cool breath. She had spoken aloud ‘They will be alright’. The stars winked.
When she went back into the kitchen the milk was still left out on the table, the butter unlidded, knives and forks at cross purposes, splotches of Rorschach sauce across the tablecloth in which she saw an octopus. The tarot of her son’s collector cards scattered on the floor told her that there would be an arduous task ahead but that she would triumph over adversity.
In the bedroom her husband slept open mouthed, agog at his dreams. A fly buzzed against the side lamp, sleazily addicted to light. He rose and hovered over her husband’s face and oh, she feared for him. She made a SWAT team out of the many facets of her love. But she couldn’t stand his snoring. When she knew he was safe, she went to sleep in the spare room.
There was a ‘less-of-the-old!’ woman who lived on a shoestring budget and had so many children that she had a difficult time fitting in all the lunchmaking, drop offs, pickups, activities, homework, bedtime routines, behaviour management with the requisite reward and sticker charts, naughty steps, timeout, privilege curtailment, grounding, not to mention all the cajoling, counselling, clothing and the cooking of large tender casseroles and quantities of broth and porridge. How she longed for a magic porridge pot that would continue cooking until the town was filled up and people could only trudge in its gloop instead of racing about trying to get places, get ahead of themselves so they could see their space-time anomalies coming back richer, happier, more productive.
And the children. There was so much hothousing going on that many of the children she saw these days were round and redfaced like tomatoes, ready to split at any minute.
She unwrapped her Mummy self from the sheets in the spare room and went to bathe in clamour.
After she’d got the kids to school, long after she’d snuck into the bedroom to see if her husband had dined on minibeasts at all, long after she’d woke in the night to the sound of sheets drowning and felt guilt about everything, she drank a cup of coffee so slowly that the coffee beans grew back into the ground and rooted her. She remembered a day in a long life ago when the filamentous achenes of a dandelion clock scudded across a sun sodden sky. When she scooped all her whoops up and ran with abandon
Oh, oh, oh.
Her handbag was heavy with undertakings. Lists that sucked the life out.
They had played games with ropes that she could always get out of, spies and hostages, nothing sinister. They walked across the tops of gates and never fell off. She liked the adventures best.
‘Many of the men I know are former boys’ she thought as she pulled up at Tescos.
At the trolley bay she grabbed a man walking past with his jiggly fizzy toddler, kissed him on the mouth. She got the taste of the cheese and onion crisps that he was sharing with his son. They had always been her favourite as a child. Later she had switched to salt and vinegar.
The man was scratching his almost bald head.
‘You’re lovely but it’s nothing personal’ she said. She pictured him walking across the top of a gate. The toddler laughed warily.
She went inside to do the supermarket shop.