Contest #110 winner 🏆

78 comments

Contemporary Fiction Inspirational

In her dream she is fourteen, running home from work on precarious little heels, down the paved street, as molten metal plip-plops around her, dotting the cement with perfect silver discs. Her mother lags six feet behind, following her footsteps, urging her to tread carefully. A V2 rocket launches overhead, triggering the timer in her mind. She waits in the signature silence for the rocket to find its mark, as it careens noiselessly through the night sky.

“One,” she shouts, “Two. Three. Four.”

“We have plenty of time, Lizzy, plenty of time.” Her mother is shouting, over and over, no panic, just a calm, reassuring scream.

It is the same dream as always. Lizzy reaches behind and grabs the older woman’s hand, pulls her into the shelter of their porch, watching as the house across the road explodes into a heap of searing, flaming rubble.

*****

My mother, Lizzy, is ninety-seven, and I think of her as a survivor. Of life and time. Not long ago she had a mother, husband, sister and two daughters. Now she has me.

Twice a week I open the door to her house and look left, peering through the curtained darkness, along the hall and into her bedroom. I can see she is still sleeping. Under the formless camouflage of blankets, her shape has diminished and become frail, although her carers joke that she inhales each meal. They also say she is still stubborn, but in a cute way. She has passed the irritating cantankerousness of old age, and drifted without notice into the gentle humility of a disappearing mind.

There is not enough time in a day to see her more often, or so my private narrative goes, constructing a life so much more important, exciting, exasperatingly busy than it is.

“I’m so grateful you look after me, so glad,” she repeats. I accept her gratitude, even though guilt battles with honesty, and pulses through my brain at sleepless midnights.

*****

In her dream, she is eighteen, with the blonde permed hair and arched brows of a movie star. Her husband George, the love of her life, is away at war, and she fears he will never come home. He writes sometimes, although there are no mailboxes in the Pacific, and home is his last thought as suicide planes fall burning out of the sky. The blackened casualties of war sleep beside him in rows on the smoking deck. She wakes sobbing, drenched in fear, and spots the picture of a bride and groom on her bedside. Reassured, she remembers the sixty years of devoted life with him, recalls they had plenty of time, and longs for more.

*****

I try to wake her but she is in a deep sleep. I know the conversation if she wakes. I will ask her if she has eaten and she will say she’s not hungry. I will try to cajole her into the warming sunlight, pressure her to have tea and a chat. She will refuse. She will tell me she is happy to be curled up in her warm bed, that she is tired. She will finally say that I should expect this from someone ninety-seven years old. It’s her own truth and I cannot dispute it, so I let her sleep undisturbed.

*****

In her dream she is twenty-four and very pregnant, so near childbirth that pains come, quick and unbearable. The midwife arrives a true professional; blue skirt, tie and cape, nylons and sturdy black brogues, a nurse’s crisp white cap on her head. Mabel is confined to a home birth, banished from the hospital with an acute case of chickenpox. She is infected, contagious, but her baby does not care about blisters and disease. She is ready to become.

“Should she push harder?” George asks.

“No. We have plenty of time,” the midwife says. It is a lie of consolation.

The baby’s head finally crowns, but the midwife’s face tells a grim story as towel after towel is soaked in red, and Lizzy fades.

She holds the greasy, squirming baby to her breast, and wakes with the sound of an ambulance siren still wailing in her mind.

*****

I have come up with a plan. I will call on her at a random time and she will be whisked away to her favourite spot near the beach. A chair will be taken, rugs and pillows, and she will sit like an ancient empress, commanding the clouds across the cool Autumn sun. Trees will shade us in the ozone rich afternoon, and steaming tea in a thermos will be sipped from carefully transported china cups with matching saucers and silver spoons. Our picnic will be finished with fruit cake and a tiny, delicate stroll along the sand.

I knock as usual, key poised, ready to fend off her refusal. The plan requires myself and a Carer, remembering the stubborn streak, to get her up and out of bed. Washed and dressed, lipstick and eyebrows. She opens the door in pink striped flannel pajamas, hair askew, stares blankly into my face and asks the silent question: Who are you? She pivots on unsteady legs, each step is a danger of falling, but she stands firm, rebuffing my proposal as she perilously shuffles to her room and climbs back in bed.

“No,” she says, “I want to sleep.”

I am my mother’s daughter and I know that tone. I let her sleep and all my fanciful plans collapse. As I leave, the dim hope for a future picnic rings with mocking laughter.

*****

In her dream, she is ninety-three. People sit around her, people she knows but with faces fading fast. They are hushed and without spirit, speaking with the reverence of dying and death, telling her that her older daughter, Jane, is struck down with cancer. Inoperable, impossible, fatal. An unearthly wail leaves Lizzy’s throat and punches out into the room. It is a sound no-one should ever be forced to make, or hear. A parent mourning a child. The ultimate betrayal of life.

Later in the dream, in roles reversed, the dying daughter embraces her mother until she calms, tells her it will be alright.

“We have plenty of time.” Jane says.

Comforted, Lizzy wakes, as her daughter’s shadow bends to kiss her on the cheek, and says goodbye.

*****

I try to organise a lunch for mum but again I fail. Fighting with the ancient is so unseemly. Just let her be. She’s happy in her home, her bed, regardless of what you want, of what you think is good for her.

Other people’s words fly round my head like wild birds in an aviary, flapping and squawking, until I tame them.

Today I will just sit beside her bed and hold her hand and let her sleep. And if she wakes, I’ll make a cup of tea, and tell her about the world outside. And how much I love her. Until she goes back into sleep.

And so I’m here remembering the mother that created us; children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She is not elderly and frail, with unkempt white hair and paper thin skin. Her fingers don’t bend like misshapen twigs. They work and create, hug, and clap with joy. That woman is still there, beneath the most precarious veneer of life, and it is a celebration just being with her.

*****

In her dream, she is ninety-seven and the remaining daughter visits each day. They smile and laugh and talk about the weather, the kids, the little things of normal life. Her daughter is busy, but stays a little longer, until she sees the time and stands to rush away.

My mother urges the woman to stay longer, to sit.

“We have plenty of time.” She says.

“Yes.” I smile, “plenty.”

September 08, 2021 06:07

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78 comments

Melanie Hawkes
01:36 Sep 18, 2021

Congratulations on winning! A beautiful story. But didn't it need to start or end with the lines from the prompt?

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Nina Tchan
07:58 Sep 18, 2021

Yeah, that's what I thought, and you do have to. Also, congrats on the win!

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Fiery Red
14:42 Sep 18, 2021

This is so beautifully written. I liked the way you have effortlessly switched back and forth between mother's dream and reality. There could not have been a better way to pen down your thoughts . Congratulations on the win. You are an amazing writer. Keep writing!!

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04:15 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you so much. Your comments are truly motivating.

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Riana T
06:14 Sep 20, 2021

Heartiest Congratulations on your win! What a wonderful narrative. You switched so smoothly between dream and reality and your character description - so rich. Superb piece!

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04:18 Sep 25, 2021

Thanks for the congrats. It was a piece from the heart and I love that it has done well. I give my mother credit for the inspiration. Thanks again.

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03:23 Sep 19, 2021

I wanted to show how the phrase "we have plenty of time" can mean many things within the theme of survival: in danger, in childbirth, in aging and in maintaining loving relationships. Thanks to everyone who liked and left a comment. It is very motivating and extremely necessary to the task of creating stories, to have such a strong group of talented, articulate people supporting each other.

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Barbara Kerr
19:20 Sep 18, 2021

Oh so beautifully done! You transported me to the minds and hearts of these two people. Lovely.

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04:25 Sep 25, 2021

I guess writing from truth and personal experience is one way to ensure the characters and their actions resonate. Thanks for your very kind comment.

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Elizabeth Moran
13:36 Sep 18, 2021

Congratulations on winning. Your story is well written. As I read your story, it brought tears to my eyes. My mom passed at the age of 79, in 2020. It made me wish I had written the stories she told of being in school and in total darkness because of the war. I always thought we had plenty of time, but ours ended way to soon. Your writing was a smooth transition from one thought to the next. I really enjoyed reading your story. Agsin, Congratulations!

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04:31 Sep 25, 2021

I'm sorry for your loss. I try to remember every day that each one may be the last. It's a difficult thing but it makes one move to keep being involved, to try to offer some quality of life. Thank you for your kind comments.

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Sarbajit S
10:28 Sep 18, 2021

Congratulations! This story certainly deserved the accolade. I liked the way you juxtaposed dreams and reality in simultaneous movements. Her fears inscribed in her dreams, her daughter's dreams, their anxiety, so perfectly crossed out with her absolute positivity with that expression " we have plenty of time", rejuvenates life itself. Beautiful narrative indeed!

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04:33 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you so much. I wanted to tell just a little of her amazing life story but wasn't sure how. This prompt was inspirational to achieve that. Thanks again.

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Zz Entwistle
01:02 Sep 18, 2021

Congratulations on the win! This story is expertly crafted and sweetly framed, capturing the essence of fleeting time. I thought that it flowed well and was filled with emotion. Very well done!

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09:20 Sep 18, 2021

Thank you for the congrats and the positive comments. Very much appreciated.

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Shoshana A
04:37 Sep 20, 2021

I must say a beautiful story, indeed. Congratulations ... Keep writing.

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04:18 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you so much. Your words are truly appreciated.

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Jeanette Harris
16:57 Sep 19, 2021

I like how she different ages in her dreams. I think wishing she somewhere else. is she depress or something

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04:22 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you, the dreams seemed a good way to carry her story. I think sadness, loss, longing, all come with very advanced age. It's up to us to cushion and comfort as best we can.

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Glenn Baker
12:44 Sep 19, 2021

The humility of a disappearing mind - - I loved that line.

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04:22 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you.

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Shelley Seely
18:23 Sep 18, 2021

Congratulations. MAde me teary-eyed.

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04:26 Sep 25, 2021

Job done then, and thank you.

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Keya M.
17:07 Sep 18, 2021

Wow, this is brilliant! The transitions between Lizzy's dreams and reality are very fluid. The expression of Lizzy's pain, her longing and sorrow, you can feel it in your soul! It's amazingly well written, a much-deserved win!

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04:27 Sep 25, 2021

Your comments are very motivating to continue writing. Thank you.

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Keya M.
16:37 Oct 10, 2021

I apologize for the late response, I'm finally returning to Reedsy now, after a while. Thank you for that, I'm glad my words were motivating. You're a very talented writer, and I cant wait to see what you do next.

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Mickey Mousey123
09:55 Sep 18, 2021

This was such a wonderful, haunting read, my mom is 92, congrats on the win, your style is so smooth and pleasant, well thought out story.

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04:35 Sep 25, 2021

Thank you for the congrats and the very kind words. I hope you are both able to enjoy the years remaining.

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Congrats on the win!!! This story was sweet, just like a chocholate cake. I likes the use of the prompt!

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08:48 Sep 18, 2021

Not too sweet I hope. I wanted it to show the reality of caring for someone very elderly, with increasing memory loss and senility, and it's mostly bittersweet. Thank you for your kind comment.

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Yeah! I guess it was bittersweet!

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Priya Bryce
15:02 Nov 27, 2021

Hello everyone i want to testify of the great and powerful spell caster named Priest Ade who brought back my ex who left me and got engaged to another girl,We where happy together when all of a sudden he just change he used to call me every morning and and night before going to bed but all that stopped when i call him he yell at me and told me he didn't want to have anything to do with me anymore i was so sad and confused i didn't know what to do then i went online to search on how to get back my ex then i found an article where someone was ...

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Sofia Sabharwal
09:35 Nov 12, 2021

You have touched me emotionally with such a sensitive and inspirational, literary work -- "My mother's dreams". Undoubtedly, you worked wonderfully with its thought provoking prompt--"we have plenty of time" in varied scenarios, with your strong imagination. How beautifully and artistically you have spun the phases of mother's life( be it from real, past experiences or the imaginary) concealed and themed with dreamful passages and thus presented present and past in-one-go. I feel happy for your fabulous win, for being an influential fo...

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10:42 Nov 12, 2021

Thank you so much for these lovely words about my story. Every part of it is an honest representation of my mother’s life and our relationship, so it was both easy and difficult to write. I really appreciate the feedback. Again, thank you.

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Sheryl Mixey
13:27 Nov 04, 2021

I love your story. It brings to my mind different family members that aged and passed on. I really liked the way you went back and forth in time and person. You have inspired me to be more creative in writing my stories.

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07 Prabin Achu
03:32 Nov 04, 2021

When I started reading this story, I didn't get a thing.... But when I started to live in that story as that character... I felt what you have come to say.

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07 Prabin Achu
03:31 Nov 04, 2021

When I started reading this story, I didn't get a thing.... But when I started to live in that story as that character... I felt what you have come to say.

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