Sarah Ann Hall

Reporting on writing in progress or, more probably, not; practising flash fiction.

OLWG#57, 58 & 59 – Missed Connection

with 2 comments

Hmm, well the least said about why I haven’t been keeping up with the New Unofficial On-Line Writer’s Guild prompts the better in terms of testing anyone’s boredom threshold. Herewith a story hopefully seamlessly incorporating the last three weeks’ prompts.

Thank you Thom for hosting as ever.

 

Missed Connection

It’s Friday again. Time to visit Nanna and make sure she eats. She will tell me she had corn flakes for breakfast smothered in strawberry yogurt. It’s what she always has. Always had. But I know the cereal packet will weigh exactly the same as last week and there will be the eight-pack of yogurts I left in the fridge last Friday untouched.

I no longer bite my tongue when Nanna tells me she eats her breakfast and prepares her lunch everyday. She has been telling herself, and us, these stories for years now. I will make her beans on toast; nutritious and filling, easy to swallow and digest, and tasty. Something we can share.

I find her watching The Walking Dead. Nanna used to hate watching the TV in the day, seeing it as a form of depravity, something the lower and non-working classes did to fill their time. All she has is time now, and a Sky box with buttons she doesn’t understand, so the telly blares daylong and she watches some really weird, age-inappropriate stuff. But it stops her wandering, and us wondering.

‘The dead don’t care much for fast food,’ she tells me as I stand in the doorway to the sitting room to let her know I am there. It does no good to surprise her, although by the time I have lunch ready I will probably have to introduce myself again.

Nanna remembers the dress she wore in 1936 when she sat on her father’s shoulders to watch the King and Queen pass by. Is it a sign, before the rot sets in, when people choose to show what a good memory they have for recalling way back then? She always used to tell that story, long before it was obvious she was leaving us.

‘Put that away,’ I hear her call out as I check the cupboards to make sure there are beans to eat. You never know when Nanna might have a lucid moment and regain who she once was. It doesn’t last long, but she has been known to prepare a meal, put it in the oven and forget, only for it to be found again when the smell and flies start to multiply. As for her admonishment, she might be telling the zombies not to eat their forebears or moaning that the adverts have come on. She never liked programmes being interrupted by ads.

The worst of it is, that when it started few could see it, and once it was obvious to all, she made excuses, had explanations, couldn’t, wouldn’t admit and seek help. It was hard to say she wasn’t lying to us, and much easier to talk about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories we use to make sense of the lives we lead. But how come Nanna couldn’t see she wasn’t coping when she called the fire brigade because the smoke alarm wouldn’t stop beeping? Surely even she could see that was inappropriate? Nope. And until she did something dangerous or talked complete gibberish to her GP, there was no one to help. She was convinced she could cope and convinced all those professionals she came into contact with the same. It was only the family and neighbours who saw, and screamed silently for things to be better.

‘The time got away from me,’ she said of burnt dinners, cold cups of tea, washing left flapping on the line for days and in need of re-washing.

The TV blares, zombies and humans screaming as I put the beans on to cook to mush. We both like them this way, not just reheated, but boiled until the beans collapse and the sauce reduces, a nice russet pulp. Yeah, I can only have beans like this when I visit Nanna. Everyone else complains, and so I don’t mind the weekly ritual. A full plate of beans on toast will keep her going until tomorrow when Sylvia comes.

I move to the sitting room door and say, ‘The beans are on Nanna. I’ll just do the toast and then come and get you.’

‘It’s going to be cooler this weekend,’ she says, not moving her eyes from the TV. It’s one of her stock responses, a space filler for when she knows she should say something but doesn’t know what. Or that’s what it’s become. It used to be a space filler whenever there was silence in a room. It was as if silence woke her and Nanna had to say something, anything, to maintain her connection with the world. And so began the nonsense conversations that were put down to her sense of humour and not recognised until much later as an early sign of her deteriorating neurones making surreal connections.

I toast the bread to mid-brown. There’s nothing nice about over or underdone toast. Nanna likes it perfectly cooked in the middle. It’s cooked, the beans are pulp, and I go to call Nanna from the sitting room. I have to switch the TV off, break that connection, to get her to move, but she stands happily enough and follows me to the kitchen table. Her legs are strong, and her arms. She could do for herself physically if only her mind was fitter.

‘A young man with a bad haircut came by,’ she says, fork loaded with beans and paused at her lips. ‘He looked a bit like you.’ She sucks the fork clean then examines my face, tilting her head to see me better, ‘Only he was younger and better looking.’ That was me then, last week, or a month ago, or three years. These days take their toll, and I only do one.

Carers come in to get Nanna up and put her to bed. That’s all they do, the washing, the personal care that family do not want to do. Nanna would hate to think any of her children or grandchildren were wiping her backside and so none of us do. But we feed her and shop for her and talk to her and love the woman she was. We are all tired. A day with her is enough for anyone. Mum has had it worse; being the closest child she takes on more. Her brother and sister really want to help, but mum is a bit of a control freak and says she’s fine. ‘Did you really think it through?’ Aunt Janet sometimes asks, ‘Did you think what a burden it is for you all?’ Because Janet is 50-miles away she does not do a daily run. No, those are for Mum, Dad, Josie my elder sister, Mum again, me, Sylvia my cousin and Janet’s daughter, and Patrick, some other relative of Nanna’s whose relationship to her escapes me. He’s a good egg that’s all I know, as patient as a saint, always cheerful, and not seeming to suffer as much as the rest of us do. He’s not ageing like the guy with the bad haircut.

Nanna and I eat quietly. I would like to fill her in on my week but I don’t have the energy to explain for the umpteenth time what work it is I do. It frustrates me when she can’t grasp what I’m talking about. I need to start making up stories for myself to tell her, stories about how I spend my days, with stock answers for her repetitive questions. She won’t remember the answers or be able to tell me when I say the opposite of what I said last time. Why haven’t I considered it before? My taste-buds are suddenly tasting smoky beans. No, I didn’t add barbeque sauce, but still they have taken on that soothing comforting tang.

‘I can’t find it anywhere,’ Nanna says, halfway through her lunch. She is very particular: eats one slice, cleans up all the loose beans, and leaves a second full covered slice with no beans on the plate.

‘What’s that, Nanna?’

‘I can’t find the hole in your soul.’

‘No. Oh well, maybe we can look for it after lunch. We’ve got strawberry yogurt for dessert. How does that sound?’

‘Very nice. I had a strawberry yogurt on my corn flakes this morning.’

‘I know, Nanna. But two strawberry yogurts in a day won’t hurt.’

 


 

This week’s prompts are:

  1. the dead don’t care much for fast food
  2. the time got away from me
  3. the hole in your soul

 

Last week’s were:

  1. a young guy with a bad haircut
  2. did you really think it through
  3. put that away

 

And the week before that were:

  1. cooler this weekend
  2. I can’t find it anywhere
  3. the silence woke her

 

Go ahead and dive in, set your imagination free!
Write something
Ready, Set, Go – you have 25 minutes, but if that is not possible, take as long as you need.

Have fun

 

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Written by Sarah Ann

July 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm

2 Responses

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  1. As will always be the case, this was worth the wait.
    Thank you

    tnkerr

    July 18, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    • You are too kind. I suspect this needs a lot of editing. Your 25-minute rule is one I always break, but something of this length needs to be left to fester for a while before all the mistakes emerge.

      Sarah Ann

      July 20, 2018 at 3:35 pm


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