After quite a few months of not adding to my blog, I decided to feature my short stories. This first one is told in two parts, the remainder being added tomorrow. How will Joyce cope with the next generation, which moves in a very different world and is sure it knows better than her?
Morning sun warms Joyce in her recliner, and it’s heaven there by the window.
The spare room is ready for Andy and Angie’s arrival this evening. Joyce turns on the Jeremy Whatsit program on TV, expecting to view a family feud, all pricks and stings. Joyce’s own life is a smooth, plain, flat ribbon. It has no sheen, but is pliable, and that’s enough for her.
The program’s featured couple worships success. Success: what’s that? Motherhood in the Sixties defined Success as food in the mouths and shoes on growing feet. Somehow Joyce achieved that. Contentment nestles on her like a ribbon, but now it kinks a little at the thought that while Andy will eat anything, his wife is another matter.
Before five and while the beef silverside cooks, Joyce retrieves a stark black vase from the back of the cupboard and arranges flowers. By six there’s bacon-and-egg pie, silverside all sliced, salad, potatoes cooked, and vegie stir-fry started. To dress up the green bathroom she finds her best aqua towels.
The doorbell chimes.
“Hi, Mother! Looking good!” A hug from her son.
“Joyce.” The same from Angie with a staggering onslaught of something oriental. The kiss vanishes into the air beside her cheek.
“Dinner’s ready,” says Joyce. “Take a seat at the table and we’ll talk. How are the kids?”
“God knows. We only hear when they need money.” Andy has lost his paunch, but has schoolboy’s eyes for the food.
“Has Jaz any girlfriends?” asks Joyce.
Angie’s eyes narrow. “Lots. Typical over-indulgent male.” She consents to silverside and stir-fry. As she eats, she eyes the aeon’s old Queen Elizabeth bust that is now a doorstop, and the Fifties-style knitted ‘pumpkin’ cushion-covers. Always on the Alert she is, coiled for battle. Joyce’s lips tighten. No way would she remove absolutely everything personal. HRH is darned heavy, anyway.
Andy cuts a large piece of pie, ignoring Angie’s quick indrawn breath. He reminds Joyce of the toddler bounced on her knee and sung to; the kid with wounds to be mended; the young man kitted out for his first day at work. Oh, the memories…
“Ah, the vase we gave you!” says Angie, after twenty chews, indicating the flowers on the sideboard.
“Yes,” agrees Joyce, “black’s not choosy: goes with anything.”
“What d’you get up to these days, Mother?” asks Andy.
“Oh, trips, lectures and aerobics, chess and quizes…”
“Sounds great, Mother.”
“Yes,” says Angie, too quietly. “What were the lectures about?”
Oops! “A visit to the Holy Land, and someone doing environmental stuff in Alaska” — the only topics Joyce recalls listed, when she chose Bingo instead. She brings out shortcake and cream. Andy has both.
“S’good that you have quizes, Mother,” he comments.
“Yes,” agrees Angie. “What sort of questions?”
“Everything. Entertainment, sport,” replies Joyce. “Name the Marx brothers — the sort of things oldies remember.”
“Mmmm. Nobody’s too old to learn new things,” states Angie, tapping her fork on her placemat for emphasis. “Retirement provides ample chance for that.”
“Imagine what you two can look forward to,” ventures Joyce, “when you finally quit advertising and big corporations. I heard the best way to de-stress is to watch comedies.” She glances at Angie’s posture — rigid. Joyce smiles broadly, defiance tinting the edge of her consonants. “It releases beneficial stuff — chemicals — into your bodies.”
With the meal finally ended, out come cellphones and a whole string of urgent ringtones and text blips begins.
“Don’t you delegate when you’re away?” Joyce asks her son. “Trouble is, away isn’t away.”
Andy chuckles. “Delegate? Heavens, Mother, whatever would we get back to?”
Chaos, Joyce supposes. “I quite understand.” She really does. Understands the measure of Success is being stalked by Cellphone and terrorized by Text.
My next blogpost will complete Joyce’s story…