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 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?

Free as a Bird

Image Credit: Pobble365

Short fiction inspired by MLMM Photo Challenge #382

“I’m an earth sign,” I said, halfway through our second session, and the first time I’d volunteered information. So far, I’d sat in Trappist mode, occasionally grunting responses to her probing questions until Nerys narrowed her eyes and cracked my carapace.

“If you won’t talk to me, Jane, how can I help you?”

I shrugged. Even I was getting annoyed with my pig impersonations.

“There is nothing you can say that will shock me. I will listen to everything, no matter how worthless or trivial you think it is. We don’t need to talk about what’s troubling you. For instance, what’s your star sign?”

Pretty innocuous, I thought. We could spend the rest of the time cosily discussing my horoscope.

“Taurus,” I mumbled. Then added the fact I was also an earth sign.

“Interesting.” She made a note on her pad. “What does being an Earth-Taurean mean to you?”

I swear I saw the word bullish forming in her mind, which put me on the defensive. So I opened my mouth, intending to give her some drivel about having a practical nature, but out came a torrent of words.

“I need to be grounded, but I’m drifting through the river of life with no apparent purpose. Stuck between stepping-stones with no land in sight, and I’m not comfortable in water, I need the support and security of solid land. I realise I should try to move, but I am too scared because I can’t pull myself together. After Tim left, I sorted out the house and found somewhere to live with no problem. But trying not to worry about money and fear of what the future will bring is crippling me.”

I ran out of steam, and a big fat silence descended and tried to mop up the spillage. Nerys let it clear some of the debris away before she spoke.

“How do you see your life at the moment?”

“In what way?” I am so suspicious these days; the simple offer of a cup of tea makes me question people’s motives.

“Is life a burden?”

I gave no answer.

“Do you feel trapped?”

The verbal volcano bubbled up again. I seem to have no control over my life or my mouth these days.

“There’s a book, which I’ve never read, by Maya Angelou. I don’t know what the story is about, but I have a theory of why the caged bird sings. The poor sod is bored, trapped behind bars, with life slipping away. It doesn’t matter if the cage door is open because the bird is too frightened to leave.

“All she does is sing of places she will never visit and of things she will never do. Her body is captive, and only her spirit free to roam.

“But I’ve trapped my mind and forgotten how to sing. If I can get my voice back, then I’ll have the strength to break out of this prison I’ve locked myself in.”

Nerys was staring at me in, I like to think, wonder, rather than fear. “That was very eloquent, but I’m afraid we must end today’s session. I’m sorry to stop now, but I have another client due. However, this is an excellent start. We’ve made such progress today.”

“We have?” I said, sounding for all the world like someone fishing for compliments.

“Yes.” Nerys nodded. “And next time, we can talk some more. You will be here, won’t you?”

“You bet your life I will, Nerys.” I smiled at her for the first time. Maybe I wasn’t ready to sing, but I could try humming.