Horrified to read that the number of calls to domestic abuse charities has risen by 25% since the Coronavirus Lockdown, I was reminded of a story I wrote some years ago and which I recently dug out to form a chapter of my novel “First Boots”. The story was based on a true event and I share it here because I feel it’s both topical and hopeful.
“Going for my bath,” said Harry, Ryan’s older brother. He was looking in the mirror at his neck, which a day’s work in the foundry had tidemarked.
“Water should be hot,” their Mum said, “I’m doing us chips for tea.” So she went to the small kitchen to peel some spuds, eventually returning to the living room where Ryan was now listening to his records. “Who’s this?”
“Chuck Berry,” Ryan said.
“Rock n roll!” she said, gyrating.
Oh well oh well I feel so good today
We touched ground on an international runway
Jet-propelled back home from over the seas to the USA.
“One day you’ll play guitar like Chuck,” she said, over the lyric.
“You think so?” he said.
“I know so.”
“I’d need a guitar first,” he said.
“I’m going to buy you one,” she said, “When all this is over.”
Looking hard for a drive-in searching for a corner cafe
Where hamburgers sizzle on an open grill night and day
Yeah, and a jukebox jumping with records like in the USA.
“Hamburgers sizzle on an open grill,” sang Ryan.
“Come on sweetheart!” she said, and grabbed him by the arm and dragged him up to dance. And they did, Ryan self-consciously, for the rest of the song. Then as the needle grooved its way to the next, she suddenly put her hand to her mouth. “Christ the bloody chips!” And she raced to the kitchen, where the pan was on fire, flames reaching almost to the ceiling.
“Mum be careful!”
“Go and fetch your brother!” she cried in panic.
“Harry! Harry!” Ryan yelled from the bottom of the stairs, “Fire! Fire!” Within seconds his brother was dancing down, naked but for a towel and dripping wet. “In the kitchen!”
Harry was six years older than Ryan. Not long left school, working now, a man, and strong. He took the wet towel from around his waste and calmly placed it over the raging pan, then carried the thing from the kitchen into the yard. Ryan was in awe, wishing but doubting that one day he’d be just like his brother.
“It’s OK mum,” he said, eventually returning, “It’s out.”
“Thank God,” she said, struggling to douse the pent-up emotion as tears glassed her eyes.
And then they all returned to the living room, where Chuck was finishing the last song on the record.
“It’s all OK,” said Ryan, with no concrete foundation other than to sound mature to his mum.
“I don’t know what I’d do without my boys,” she said, almost crumbling under the weight of everything.
“We don’t know what we’d do without you,” said Harry, nakedly curling his arm around her shoulder and hushing her to a chair.
The hush reigned for a while except for Chuck’s needle scratching, repeatedly refusing to shift itself.
“I’m all over the place,” said their mum.
“You’re not,” said Harry, “You’re you. And he isn’t coming back.”
And then he deftly rose to eject the arm and switch off the record player.
“So,” she said, managing a watery smile, “Were the chips done?”
“Very,” he said, smiling back, “Fried to almost nothing.”
“Yeah,” said Ryan, “Like your ding-a-ling.”
It was the first time they’d laughed in a while.
Did I earn a coffee?
Hard times for everyone and hard times for the self-employed with no income. If you enjoyed the read and can spare just a small amount it would be truly welcome.