Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Keep it Under Your Hat

LindaGHill hosts SOCS, today’s prompt is HAT. Use it literally or metaphorically.
Click HERE for the rest of the rules, and to play along.


Rat-a-tat-tat-tat… tat… tat-tat.

My heart sank. Only one person on this planet knocks like that.

“This had better be good,” I muttered before yanking open the front door to reveal Gus wearing a duffel coat, furry gloves and a bobble hat. I blinked. Only the lightest of breezes kept me this side of sweating, whilst he was dressed up like Nanook of the North.

Still, it was an improvement on his last look: a diamanté studded Stetson and a pair of cerise hot pants. His ability to make it across town in one piece amazes me. But he usually only comes out during school hours or at night. Apart from today, this was an unexpected, but not a pleasant surprise. I beckoned him in and sat at the bottom of the stairs, watching his ritual spin, star-jump, spin routine. I keep the dresser in the hall clear for this reason.

“Why are—”

Gus shook his head, the pompom on his hat bouncing in agitation. He tapped his nose, cupped his hands over his ears and pointed towards the back garden. Right, today we were obviously at home to Mr Paranoid. I nodded, and we set off towards the shed, stopping only to collect the tin helmets from the cupboard under the kitchen sink.

I went in first and set up the shower curtains while Gus performed the five ballet positions. Where he picked up that skill is a mystery, and thank god, I don’t have to join him in these rituals.

“Are you all right, Gus?” I said when we were both settled, then sat back, waiting for him to talk. He’d tell me why he’d come without an appointment in his own sweet time.

“Would you like a coffee?” I asked after twenty minutes of silence.

“You watched the meteor shower, didn’t you?” said Gus, the master of the non sequitur.

“Only for ten minutes,” I assured him, hoping he would change the subject.

“I warned you!” His hands beat a metallic tattoo on his head. “You told me you’d read The Day of the Triffids.”

“That’s a work of fiction.”

“Never heard of life imitating art?” He gave me a reproachful glare. “Now tell me what happened?”

“I ended up with one hell of a migraine and spent the next twenty-four hours lying in a darkened room with a damp flannel over my eyes.”

“And?”

“And what?” I snapped at him.

“The flowers? What about the flowers?”

I was about to ask how he knew about them but realised I’d be wasting my time, so I told him how I threw out a vase of lilies because the smell made me as sick as a pig.

“Thought as much,” he nodded and then lowered his voice to a whisper. “I had to come and make sure you were okay. They came and told me about it this morning.”

“Did they come in person?” I never humour Gus: his grip on reality may be a little shaky, but he deserves to be treated with dignity.

“Yes, but they were very nice to me, and I did the cognitive training thing like you said, and they promised to give me plenty of warning next time.”

“Good.” My smile was genuine. These techniques were helping him more than the medication he took. I just hoped they wouldn’t put too many barriers up in his mind. When he’s on form, Gus helps me immensely. How else do you think I could afford my new car?

Three Things Challenge #960 – The Staff of Life

Welcome to The Three Things Challenge hosted by Pensitivity101.
Today’s prompt words are DOUGH, KNEAD, YEAST.


My grandmother was way ahead of Forrest Gump and far more grounded. Life was not a box of chocolates for her. Because, as she said, her family couldn’t afford to buy such things. She was born on April the 26th 1926. The same day as the queen. But, there the similarity ends: no palaces, dazzling gowns or a handsome prince for my Gran. However, say nothing disrespectful about Her Majesty in Granny’s hearing unless you want a clip around the ear. Age has not withered her left hook.

A feisty woman who lost a fiancé in World War Two, a son during The Falklands, and her right breast in 2003: Gran does not suffer fools gladly. That includes Mr Gump. She saw the film for the first time last week. She approved of the movie but declared Forrest a simpleton. And here’s what Grandma said about his famous quote. (Sorry about the language, but when you are within spitting distance of a hundred, social niceties apparently go out of the window).

“Life is like a loaf of bread!” she declared. “You live in need, there’s never enough dough, and you have to find the means to rise above the shite we all wade through.”


And I would just like to say a big thank you to WordPress for a right royal screw up.
You didn’t publish this post as scheduled. Well done!

Camera Obscura

Image Source: Pexels.com

Written in response to Fandango’s Story Starter #44 and Flash Fiction Challenge #167.


He wandered aimlessly through the museum, seeking any form of distraction to avoid his mother. She was running loose with her camera, even though taking photos of the exhibits was strictly verboten. And rather than be discreet and use her phone, she was waving around a piece of apparatus that was probably in vogue when the Titanic sank. Bloody hell, thought Clifford, all she needed was the wooden tray of magnesium powder and a black cape over her head.

He caught up with her in the diamond room. And watched a security guard bearing down on her as she snapped off photos, the flashes bouncing off the assembled rows of jewels like a disco ball.

By god, it was working! He stepped back in disbelief as the guard politely but firmly told her off. His mother played a blinder with her confused, deaf, little old lady routine. He edged closer, as with fumbling hands, she tried to take the film out of the camera and spilt the contents of her handbag all over the floor. Quite the crowd was gathering. Even the CCTV monitors had turned their blank eyes to watch the fun. He nodded and positioned himself in front of the display containing the Noor diamonds.

A heartbeat later, the alarms started, and he felt a hand slip into his pocket. People screamed in shock as the gates slammed down. In the chaos, he brushed past his mother and what followed was textbook perfect.

The security guys calmed down when they discovered nothing appeared to be missing, and everyone in the Noor room agreed to be searched. Mother joined the queue, but the guards waved her away.

“Off you go, Granny,” said one of them. “You were with us the whole time.”

They escorted her from the building and even called her a cab.

Clifford grinned at the thought of five million pounds worth of precious gemstones making their way to an abandoned office block in Neasden.

Z is for Zoetic

Image source: wallpaperflare.com

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


I have a photograph I carry around in my purse. The one of my dad on his fiftieth birthday. Mum and I clubbed together to buy him a hot-air balloon ride. In the picture, he is grinning like a kid on Christmas Day. You can see his excitement as he hangs over the side of the basket. His hands are a blur, but his eyes sparkle with two-dimensional joy. The face staring at me now is nothing but a ghost of that man.

“Look, he’s smiling at you!” Nurse Tina announces when she spots me standing in the doorway. She means well, but does she honestly believe that this dribbling wreck is capable of recognising his daughter?

Right from the start, even when my father still had some of his marbles left, her fluffy bunny act grated on the pair of us. She never realised she was dealing with a pair of heartless cynics. Neither of us wept at my mother’s funeral, bereft though we were. The fact my little brother hasn’t spoken to any of us since he left home twenty years ago, we take on the chin. No time for sentimentality; we liked our lives to be real. Nurse Tina, with her uplifting quotes and soft manner, was anathema to my father. So was being treated like a baby.

“Would you like to feed Dad?” she said on that first day, a beaming smile on her face.

“No,” I shrieked, ready to run from the room. My father’s eyes implored me not to assist. He managed a shake of the head. Nurse Tina probably thought it was just a muscle spasm. She pushed a dish of something gooey and pale at me. Invalid food, for my father, the invalid. Once a man of action, dreams and laughter, now reduced to a twisted jumble of limbs. Sitting on his bed, holding his hand and reading the latest Stephen King, no problem, but spooning gloop into his mouth, no way.

“Leave him some dignity,” I said without thinking. “He’s my dad, not my baby son.”

“Lunch will be over in half an hour.” Nurse Tina’s smile faded at my callousness. “Come back then.”

She dismissed me with a curt nod, and I wandered off to the garden, where I smoked a cigarette and resolved to avoid visiting at mealtimes. I would hold Dad’s sippy cup and pop peeled grapes into his mouth, but nothing more personal. We weren’t that kind of family. After a few weeks, he regained some control of his right hand. Now I could help. With Barney propped up next to Dad, all I had to do was cut the food and hand over the fork while Dad fed himself and his grandson with aeroplane and train noises.

Nurse Tina approved. “It gets easier, doesn’t it?” she would say and pat my shoulder. And I would smile back while stealthily wriggling out of her grasp. She was too used to touchy-feely families; bless her! When she told Dad about the room next door and how the wife would feed and toilet her ailing husband. Dad rolled his eyes and mumbled he would rather die.

“You are dying!” I said.

“Behave, or I’ll use your inheritance to pay for a trip to Dignitas.”

“You can’t: I’ve got power of attorney,” I reminded him. “And large fluffy cushions.”

“Do you hear that, Nurse? My daughter’s planning to kill me,” Dad slurred between snorts of laughter. “Don’t you dare try to stop her.”

Tina smiled in the way of one who will never get the joke, but hopes it is one.

Before I left that day, I told her Dad had a dark sense of humour and enjoyed shocking people. Not a total lie, but Nurse Tina relaxed. Although she has never been completely happy around me.

Today, she is wearing her compassionate face because my father is unlikely to last the night. His life force, the vitality that made him my dad, is ebbing away. Even I can see it.

I take my customary seat and clasp my father’s hand in mine. When Nurse Tina squeezes my shoulder, this time I don’t shrug her off, but I reach up and entwine my fingers with hers.

X is for Xeric

An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.


Everyone else carries a satchel or a laptop bag, except my son. He is the only fourteen-year-old on this planet who carries a briefcase. It belonged to his mother, but she never used it. Her father bought it for her when she became a fully-fledged accountant. And my wife ditched that career almost before her father was cold in his grave.

When we met, Elise was training to be a chef. When she died this January, our restaurant had a coveted Michelin star and a three-month waiting list for a table. Just because she wasn’t a number cruncher didn’t mean she didn’t know how to use those skills. 

My son still misses his mother, but my daughter is coming through her grief. And only she and I accept the fact Elise isn’t coming back. I confess I still talk to her before I go to bed, and I still wear my wedding band. But life goes on, and I have to rebuild mine and start again. Every day, I force my desiccated heart onwards and upwards. It isn’t easy.

The grandchildren help. I take them to school for Charlotte and my son-in-law and at the end of the day escort them to whatever after-school activity is on the timetable. Ballet, chess club and judo are the current subjects du jour. Then it’s back home for tea with my despondent son.

Maybe it’s the age gap. Charlotte is sixteen years older than Jeremy, or Jez, as he likes to be called. But Charlie has always been self-sufficient when it comes to emotional intelligence. She wept at the funeral, and that was it. She mourns our loss, but to her, the past is the past and her family is the future.

I confess I enjoyed telling Oliver and Ruby my version of what death is, and where you go afterwards. It balances Charlotte’s rather brutal narrative of worms and a state of nothingness. Bless their hearts, but to my grandkids, death is not a thing to be afraid of. It’s what happens to old people. How I adore their unknowing innocence!

It’s only Jez who still struggles with the concept of gone for good. He tried a religious journey from Baptist to Zoroastrianism, but none of these satisfied his need to know what happens next. The idea of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven was a bit too Disney for him. And he couldn’t abide the thought of reincarnation. How dare some celestial being judge his mother and find her wanting? We are all human and all subject to human vices. Or as he said of these divine justices: who died and made them pope?

He tried spiritualism, but that didn’t help because of the tendency of the dead to come back and remind their loved ones to pay outstanding gas bills, and waffle on about how they were doing fine. Jez said it was like being at a party for the terminally boring.

The poor lad is suffering a psychological drought and wandering blind in the desert of misery. I don’t tell him to be brave or strong. I tell him to go with the flow because some days he cries like a baby, and on others he laughs himself into a hernia. And if he wants to crawl under the covers binge-watching Game of Thrones, then so be it. Sometimes I join him.

One thing I tell him, which I know he finds hard to believe, is it gets easier. In time, his pain will lessen, and the grief will be something that he will manage rather than it managing him. And on that day, his life will bloom again.