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by LMJT 

Posted: 17 June 2009
Word Count: 500
Summary: For this week's 500 words on 'in the old manor/manner' challenge.

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She would die in the old manor where she’d lived for all of her eighty years; Michael knew that the moment Sarah called to inform him of their mother’s second heart attack.

‘You’ll come home, won’t you?’ said Sarah.

‘Have you taken her to hospital?’

‘She won’t go.’

‘Then I’ll be down in the morning.’

His sister sighed. ‘You can’t come now?’

‘It’s midnight, Sarah.’

‘And I suppose you’ve been drinking.’

‘I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine. I’d hardly call that drinking. ‘

‘Well, it’s nice to see where your priorities lie.’

‘I’m not arguing about this. I’ll see you tomorrow,’ Michael said, hanging up.

At forty-five, Sarah was five years Michael’s junior, but it was in the old manner of their relationship that she talk to him like a misbehaved child; more so in the months since she had moved back with their mother, looking after her as she would the family she so longed to have.

‘What’s happened?’ Phil asked as Michael pushed open the bedroom door.

‘Mother’s taken a turn for the worse. I’m driving back in the morning.’

‘Shall I come with you?’

Michael smiled as he slipped into bed. ‘I can’t see Mother being keen on that, can you?’

‘Well, I’ve never met her.’

‘So isn’t that answer enough?’

Phil took Michael’s hand in his, a touch - after twenty five years - as familiar as his own reflection.

‘Are you okay?’

‘I’m fine,’ he said, in all honesty.

Lying in Phil’s embrace, Michael stared at the red digits of the digital alarm clock. Was it normal for him to feel numb at the news that his mother was close to death? Probably not. But their relationship had never been one he’d call normal. In fact, he wasn’t at all taken aback that the only emotion this news stirred in him was relief.

‘She’s in the kitchen,’ Sarah said when he arrived.

‘How is she?’

‘She’s had a heart attack. How do you think she is?’

Michael followed his sister into the stuffy room where their mother’s two tortoiseshell cats were curled in front of the Aga.

Their mother was in her rocking chair beside the television that she never watched, a blanket over her knees.

‘Look who’s here, Mum,’ Sarah said softly. ‘It’s Michael.’
Michael sat in one of the kitchen chairs beside her.

‘Hello, Mother.’

It’d been a year since last he had seen her and her deterioration was immediately apparent: no shine in her eyes, no colour in her skin. The pale purple cardigan she wore had more life in it than the body it covered.

Looking at her now, Michael couldn’t see even a shadow of the woman he’d long held in such contempt, and he felt a pang of regret for so defiantly cutting her out of his life. Could it really be too late to make amends?

‘Michael?’ his mother said, putting out her hand.

‘I’m here,’ he replied, taking her hand in his. ‘I’m here.’

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Comments by other Members

Prospero at 06:53 on 18 June 2009  Report this post
Very moving, Liam, and beautifully written with great dialogue, however the homosexual relationship between Michael and Phil didn't seem to have any relevance. If this relationship is the cause of the breakdown in his relationship with his Mother and/or his sister it wasn't really clear.



Jordan789 at 04:42 on 19 June 2009  Report this post
Hey Liam,

This is good. I especially like the ending and the mother reaching out to her son, even after so many years. That is all shown very well. I think it's clear that their falling out is due to his sexual preference (no other reason is hinted at), but it would probably help to see what pushed him away for so long. I don't think most parents disown their children for being gay. It's a tragic reaction.

Very strong dialogue throughout, particularly between the siblings. It shows that although he might not have had a mother during those years, his sister helped fit that role.

Is it common over there to say "Hospital" as opposed to "the hospital" or "a hospital"? The lacking article made me curious.


tusker at 06:30 on 19 June 2009  Report this post
Very sad but you described a family's estrangement very well.

Often there doesn't need to be a real reason, but it's there without giving too detail.

The sibling relationship comes through well too.

In answer to Jordan's query, it's quite common to say, for instance, 'Went to hospital,' over here.

We say like we'd say, 'Caught a train to London.'


Jordan789 at 16:33 on 19 June 2009  Report this post
Tusker, i'm just curious about the missing article, ie. "a" or "the", which that last example of yours clearly has.

Unless you say, "caught train to london."

tusker at 19:33 on 19 June 2009  Report this post
I guess it's just what we say in conversation.

'My friend is in hospital having her bunions spliced.'

It's the way we speak. Cutting short, for instance, The Princess of Wales Hospital. Too much of a mouthful in converation.

If you're living in a town with only one hosptial serving a community, then it's just 'hospital.' Everyone knows what hospital it is and where it's situated.

If you need specialised treatment or have to go further, then the hospital would be named.

Oh dear, this is getting a bit mad.

Good thing you don't have to read any Welsh dialogue, Jordan. You'd be really confused.


Elbowsnitch at 15:09 on 20 June 2009  Report this post
Hi Liam - there's a very moving story here, sketched in stark lines. I like details such as the two tortoiseshell cats and the pale purple cardigan - would like more such particularities, to flesh out the various relationships. The story convinces, though - the dialogue rings true.


optimist at 16:53 on 20 June 2009  Report this post
Very moving and well written. I loved the dialogue and the detail - and the relationships were depicted very well.

Liked the hint of reconciliation at the end.


Findy at 18:29 on 20 June 2009  Report this post
Moving story, loved the last lines especially.

Bitterness dissolving and an anxiety to make amends but is there time for all that?


Jumbo at 11:48 on 21 June 2009  Report this post

Very moving. I liked that final reconciliation between mother and son, and the feelings of regret that he now suffers were so well captured.

And then the repetition of your man taking first his partner's hand and later his mother's. Powerful stuff.

Very thought provoking and enjoyable. Thanks for the read.


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