Snapshots of Growing Up

Mum is busy cooking and I’m hungry. She hands me some peanuts. The grease speckles the brown paper bag and I know I can’t reach inside yet. I run to the living room to find Dad. A fold in the hallway rug trips me and I’m falling. My mouth hits the pipe of the radiator. Then there is pain and blood. Lots of blood. I start to scream.Somehow I’m now lying with my head cradled in Mum’s lap in the back of the car. I’m vaguely aware Dad is driving fast, as crimson seeps into the lilac of Mum’s angora jumper mixed with snot and tears.

 

I take a big breath and pull the shirt on. Its coarseness makes me shudder and I quickly grab my tie and cardigan; both bottle green. I still feel the newness of my shirt an hour later. It distracts me from the monotone of the history teacher. I don’t know which I dislike more.

 

The red glow of the gas fire does little to heat the damp room, but we’re all warm and loud with alcohol. Someone has turned the music on loud. It’s Ian Drury. Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. I sing along. Val says, “I’m starving.”  Ash goes off to get the sliced bread and margarine from the kitchen. He then bends in front of the fire and slams some pieces of bread against the protective wire. Within minutes the room fills with the smell of burning toast.

 

Laughter drifts across the stream. The weekend and the heatwave has brought droves of people to the Yorkshire countryside. We’re lying on a patch of grass in the midst of the heather looking up at the hazy blue sky. Steve’s Mini Cooper S throws a lengthening shadow behind us. He has a cigarette between his lips and we’ve both got cans of warm beer. Even though our chatter is frivolous, I think foremost in both our minds is, should we or shouldn’t we?

 

 

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Size Matters – or does it?

It was unusually hot for September. I pulled at my school tie that clung too tight around my neck and wished I was home. I still had another mile to walk. I glanced right, towards the market cross before dodging the traffic and heading out of the centre of town. I was soon on Belmangate, the street where I lived. The first half of the street was terraced housing, two up two down, with their  sash-windowed front rooms and doors that lead straight onto the street. As I walked further up the hill the houses increased in size and some had gardens. Once I passed under the bridge of the disused  railway line, the houses became more modern, larger still and swish driveways lead to carports and garages. High hedges or fences made it hard to see inside some of the properties. Only the ones with miniature walls, flowerbeds and lawns offered a glimpse of the grand houses behind.

Ours was one of the last houses just before the ‘turnaround’ and cottage hospital. Beyond this was a track leading uphill to the forestry and eventually the North Yorkshire Moors. I reached my house. Just before the open gate, a stream, currently a trickle of water after a month of no rain, ran under the drive. Almost in the rose bed that bordered the drive, our cat, Ginger, basked spreadeagled on his back in the sun.  Through the kitchen window I could see Mum was standing at the sink furiously scrubbing something. She saw me, smiled and raised her hand in a wave. Mum always said that she had designed the house with a kitchen at the front, which was uncommon in the older houses, because she wanted to be able to see what was happening as she worked. The door to the garage, on the left of the house, was open and her red car was inside. My younger sister’s bike lay abandoned in the carport, but I could hear her voice singing to herself in the back garden.

I headed for the back door and climbed the steps two at a time. “I’m home,” I called out of habit. Kicking my shoes off, I dumped my school bag on the floor of the kitchen and pulled off my tie.

“How was school?”

“We have a new teacher for geography,” I said heading for the sink. “I’m thirsty.”

“Have you any homework?” Mum took a glass and filled it with water. She saw my wrinkled up face and understood that to mean I did have homework. “After you’ve drunk that can you take your bag into the study and run upstairs and change out of your uniform. Then I made some ice lollies, so you can take one out to Jenny and eat them in the garden.”

I gulped down the water and ran out of the kitchen, sliding in my socks as I hit the wooden parquet floor of the hallway.  I caught sight of the cat again as he had followed me in and was now heading through the dining room to the french doors that led into the lounge and his favourite window seat. Then I bounded up the carpeted stairs trailing one arm against the wall, while the other one ran up the banister. I changed quickly. The idea of leisurely eating my ice lolly while sitting on the swing was foremost in my thoughts. My uniform lay discarded on the bedroom carpet as I knelt on the bed to get a better view of the back garden and check Jenny wasn’t on the swing already.

I needed a pee and was on my way to the bathroom and standing in front of my parents room when I heard my older sister climbing the stairs. She grunted a greeting. I knew better than to comment. I watched her walk down the landing to her bedroom. A loud bang announced she had slammed the door behind her. I ran to the bathroom before she changed her mind and went in. I loved the bathroom. It was always filled with light and Mum nearly always had the window open – even in winter. I could also look out while I sat on the toilet and see the sheep or cows in the fields behind the house. I could daydream here. It wasn’t like the small toilet downstairs which was dark and cluttered. There was also a family of spiders that lived in the corner of the window behind the toilet. I couldn’t daydream there.

 

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