Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Clover and Bay Leaves

or 'Go visit Jeppedo'

A title by Kendle Sargeant

A story by j. f. hawkins.

Fussing around in her Kitchen, she was a tyrant, but a comforting sight. You knew you were home when you were sitting at the dining room table, awkwardly awaiting the arrival of a full English Breakfast – the one you told her she didn’t have to make, but she did anyway. She always had to make a big fuss over you. It was as though, somewhere in time, years ago, she’d convinced herself that it’s all she’s good for. Like you’d pick up and leave if she didn’t make you a hot meal. She was always scared you’d stop loving her.

Her house was amazingly clean. Old women tend to have to cleanest houses. It’s like they become obsessed. Always shifting dirt from one place to another, but it never really goes away. It’s just not where it was anymore.

There was a clear plastic run covering the carpet on the stairs; she had it custom made for her because she was paranoid that the carpet on the stairs would wear out faster than the rest of the carpet in the house. She called the stairs “An area of High Volume traffic”.
I hadn’t seen this woman since I was fifteen, a real kid, ya know. Dad sent me across the road to see her every other Saturday. She became a sort of Aunty. We hadn’t spoken in years, not since I left.

“And your brother, young Jeppedo? How is he going? You still see him don’t you? More often than you see me hope! You boys were such lovely kids. Though chalk and cheese the pair of you. With your looks and personalities compared – grounds for infidelity on your mother’s part I think. Don’t tell your father I said that. How is young Jeppedo?”

She was a particularly cantankerous woman and very happy to air her opinion; A quality which lent itself to her aptitude for ranting and rattling on. Her thoughts were so rapid and flippant that there was no point trying to conduct a real conversation with her. The only thing to do in such a case is smile, nod & wait for a direct question with a very precise answer. I didn’t mind very much though. You were never really visiting for your purposes anyway, more for her sanity. The nature of the conversation was inconsequential.

She was old when I was a kid, now she’s really getting along. She’d spent her youth as a nurse and was married to her job. She was a nurse in 2 world wars. She never got around to the whole ‘husband and kids’ thing in her youth, and when she was ready to, her time had passed. She really was very alone.

Dad did his bit for her; suffering tea and scones every afternoon for the last 20 years. I didn’t mind the visits so much, but they really were very uncomfortable.

She was sitting in the kitchen, yelling across the room and through the service window. She was very conscious about any lag in conversation; though I'll admit, I found them a relief. She had what I used to call lethal old lady syndrome; a motor mouth and partial deafness in both ears. She’d ask questions and talk over the top of your answers, then get cranky at you for not participating in the “nice and civilized conversation I’m trying to have with you”. I used to think she was just a crazy old lady, but now I realize, she’s just tired of the silence of living alone.

Finally, she came out of the kitchen with a tray full of food. She was still using the same serving dishes she always had, at least, since I can remember.

“It’s good to have visitors every now and then, of cause, I see your father all the time, but I enjoy seeing other people from time-to-time. Your old man can really harp on sometimes, not his fault though. You can’t blame and person for poor-social skills, you blame the parent and their upbringing. That being said, you turned out alright. Even though you’re so often absent. Jeppedo doesn’t visit me either. I can’t believe you don’t see him anymore. Shame. He’s your own flesh and blood, you know that.

“ Careful! The tea is hot. It’s not English-Breakfast Tea either; your parents gave it to me. Some sort of token to repay me for the years of scones and beverage I’ve served them I suppose. It’s a herbal tea, I don’t go much on it. I figured you would, seeing as it’s your parents who gave it to me. Some god-awful concoction of obscure herbs. How’s your trip been? Good?”

My brother, the one she calls Jeppedo, he’s been dead for years. Dad told her when he passed away, but I think she pretended like it never happened. Finally, one day, I think she bought her own lie. I wonder how much of what she believes she made up one day to comfort herself. It’s like I was saying before – with the cleaning. Nothing is ever really free from dirt; it doesn’t ever leave it just moves. I moved away, but I was never gone and my brother was gone, but to her, he never left. I guess she would rather the idea of him being alive, even if she never got to see him.

She was wearing a dress; it had a purple floral print on it and a lacy-fill type neck on it. I hated that dress, but like that she was wearing it. It never changed. She still wore the same clothes.
“What’s wrong? You seam disappointed. It’s the tea isn’t it. Oriental tea, I’d never buy it. I think it’s clover and bay leaves – I don’t know. Anyway, next time you see your brother give him the tea, he’ll like it and then tell him to call in when he’s got a chance. Don’t tell your father I don’t like the tea. Now go visit Jeppedo

jf. x

1 comment:

JC said...

I like this mode of writing. It's easier on the legs.