A Walk in the Dark


It was past 6 o’clock on Halloween and already dark as she crossed the road into the Yew Grove estate, the little duffle-coated figure trailing behind her. Oh, how tired she was, how she longed to get home and shut out all the posturings and jargon of her day, but he hadn’t wanted to leave his childminder – he’d refused to fetch his things, wanted to stay in the warm watching tv, and she’d got angry and said there’d be no trick or treating, since he couldn’t do what he was told. And certainly the idea of tramping from house to house smiling politely while hissing at him to say thankyou made her want to scream. But it was mean of her, she knew. She’d tell him he could go after all, just as soon as it was decent to relent. Meanwhile he was dawdling. He was in a sulk.

The houses in this estate were large and blank for the most part: neat blinds, trimmed borders, prosperous cars on brick-paved drives. There weren’t many children here, but a few people had decorated for Halloween, and they hadn’t settled for home-made cutouts or plastic skeletons from Centra. One house had a row of ragged scarecrows in the garden and a single pumpkin carved into a leering face; another had a giant black spider on the wall. “How clever,” she said to herself, but her pace quickened. “Hurry up!” she called to her son.

As she rounded the corner it turned quieter and far darker. Two of the streetlights weren’t working; instead of their yellow glow there was an intermittent white flicker which she realised after a moment must come from LED projectors. On the side of the nearest house a procession of stooped, bony shapes endlessly crept along the wall. Further on wispy ghosts scattered into the eaves. Behind, now the noise of the main road had receded, she could hear the stubborn little footsteps. Suddenly, a great shadow swept across the pavement, so dark she couldn’t help but jump and cry out – what was that? It looked like a clawed, grasping hand, but it missed her, thank god – and of course it must just be another projection, but what a horrible one! She scuttled a few yards more and then stopped and waited. “Hurry up! Run and hold my hand!” She heard him stumble, and looked back, but for a moment she couldn’t see him at all, and the dark lay over the pavement. Then there he was, walking on at the same pace as before. Well, be like that! If he wasn’t scared, he was tougher than she was. She turned and resumed walking.

Round another corner, and they were out of the Yew Tree estate and into the brighter and smaller streets of their own neighbourhood. Soon she’d be able to turn on the television, put on a kettle for pasta, make tea. She hurried to her front door, opened it and flicked on the lights. The small figure finally caught up to her; she let him in and firmly closed the door. And then gazed in horror at the blank white eyes of the creature that was no longer her son.



The Piper by Dot


I wake to find him beside me, head on my pillow, one arm flung across my breasts in a gesture of casual possession. I don’t remember him coming in; I must have been deep asleep; but now in the still dawn light I watch him dream. I wonder what occupies his sleeping mind, what fears or fantasies, scenes from TV or echoes of the everyday. His lashes curl against his cheek; he’s so close I feel the soft touch of his breath. He is mine and I am his.

Then, quite suddenly, he’s awake. Now he’ll want me to go downstairs with him. I’d like to drift slowly into the day but I know from experience that doesn’t work; he won’t get up without me, but he’ll become more and more lively and loud, starting with inept knock knock jokes and progressing to somersaulting onto my stomach. This is not a recipe for family harmony. So I get out of bed and take his little hand, and we go downstairs together.

Continue reading “The Piper by Dot”

In which Dot finds she has a future as Norman Bates’s mum

Dot writes: Hugh likes to become sad and tell me how much he loves me. He is melancholy about my absence from his school sports day (I had to meet the Vice-President of Memorial University, Newfoundland, but I still feel guilty). He wants to be assured that I will continue to live with him after he gets married. (I tell him I will if he wants me to. That seems safe.) Also, he talks quite a lot about my death. I rather wish he wouldn’t.

A couple of nights ago he told me that, if I died early, he would put my grave in his bedroom and sleep next to it. He would go out to earn money and use that money to buy me breakfast, dinner and lunch. “And maybe God will help you eat them.”

Another day, another general anaesthetic

Dot writes: I think I have written maybe one post this year that wasn’t about illness, operations or accidents. I’ll try to think up some different topics soon. Anyway, today was just another normal day chez Ken and Dot, which means that Frank and I got up at six, stayed fasting, and drove to Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children at Crumlin for him to have another little procedure. There were a couple of wobbles, first when we checked in and our appointment came up on the screen marked “cancelled” (but the nice lady decided to ignore this), and then when it was noticed that Frank had rather a fruity sounding cough; but a doctor and anaesthetist both listened to his chest and decided it would be safe to go ahead. He was in theatre at 9.15, back in recovery by 9.45 and returned to my bosom just after 10. I spent the period of the operation running all the way around the outside of the hospital to find some shops with a cash machine in so I’d be able to pay for the parking. This is also a traditional and reassuring part of the Crumlin experience; last time the ATM in the hospital was just behaving erratically, but this time it had been entirely removed.

I did worry that Frank would be upset and reluctant to go for another operation, given how sore he was after the last one, but mainly he was keen to have another chance to play with all the toys in the Surgical Day Unit. As soon as we got there he dug out the same dumper truck he had played with in January. And yet it was clear he remembered quite a lot about the previous trip, including the story about Barnie going to the sleepy room that he hadn’t seemed to be listening to; when I told him we’d be going to the sleepy room he said “Will I turn into Barnie?” Anyway, he was co-operative and sweet-tempered. And now, only a few hours later, he basically seems fine. Thank goodness.