8.14.2014 Journal Prompt

Photo by Martin Parr
Photo by Martin Parr

August 14, 2014: My mother was a beauty.

One Reply to “8.14.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. Da was always saying she was a beauty and he said he’d won her in a game of cards or a raffle or a fight with a great pig. We looked at mam to see if anything of what da said was true and we could see she was beautiful and she blushed at what da said and so we passed our da’s heroics round the neighbourhood.

    ‘Here, take this to your beautiful mam,’ said Uncle Kit once and he put a folded piece of paper in my palm and he curled my fingers over it and said to grip it tight as holding fleas. I ran fast as spitfires, my pigtails slapping at my back, ran and ran till I rounded the corner and Uncle Kit’s eyes were no more on me. Then I opened my hand and unfolded the bit paper.

    ‘From your Uncle Kit?’ said mam, her voice so small it could only be heard by me. ‘And you didn’t read it now, lass?’ she said. ‘Swear you didn’t.’

    I got sixpence from Uncle Kit for taking his love note to our mam and sixpence from mam for swearing not to have read it and another sixpence for keeping it always from my da.

    I could see what Uncle Kit saw in my mam, what everyone saw. She looked like a film star, pretty and clean and perfect. But I never understood what mam saw in our Uncle Kit. He was thick-fingered and his nose had no shape to it and when he spoke his words sometimes came out spitting. I thought maybe he was the pig that da had fought and now he was bitter and trying to win mam back again.

    I saw mam kissing the beggar, Blind Tom, once. He was to our house and they were in the kitchen. He had his hands on her diddies, pressing ‘em like the baker kneading dough, and he was kissing her like our da sometimes did and mam with her eyes closed and not pushing his pressing hands away.

    And Archibald, the greengrocer, and he’s as old as hills and he makes deliveries personally to our mam and the curtains drawn on mam’s bedroom window when he does. And old Archibald gives me and Julia a gobstopper each and he says we is to come back into the house only when we’ve sucked ‘em down to the size of a pea.

    And ‘Charles the coal’ leaves the marks of his black hands on mam’s bum when he’s been and he lets us clap the horse. ‘Just till I’ve finished my cup of tea,’ only once when he said it there was no tea in the house that day.

    ‘Isn’t your mam beautiful,’ our da says when she sets the dinner down before us and he is beaming like a lighthouse, and we all agree that she is what da says she is, and he says how he won her in a bet from a man at the horses, a man as big as a door and his deep pockets full of crickets and moths.

    ‘And I bet him a shilling at first, against a kiss from your mam, and his horse came in second and mine first. Then not just a kiss but a pound I bet against the whole of her, the whole of your mam, and I won again. And he asked me to bet just once more, said I owed him that much. But he had nothing more to wager, ‘cept his coat with deep pockets and I already had me a coat.’

    We looked at our mam to see if there was any truth in what our da was saying. She scowled then, maybe in pretend, but scowling could not hide the beautiful that she was, and she said, ‘A bloody pound. Is that it? Is that the price of beauty these days? A bloody pound.’

    My da laughed and then mam laughed, too.

    I’m glad my da won our mam, however he won her, but I sometimes wish she was not so beautiful as she is. There’s Archibald’s boy, see, and he brought the delivery of tea that Archibald had overlooked, and I like the boy. If boys can be beautiful then Archibald’s boy is a beauty and something worth winning.

    ‘I’ll take the tea,’ I told him and I paid him for his trouble with a kiss, but all the time he was looking over my shoulder and I just know it was my beautiful mam he was looking for.

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