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Fiction Contemporary Drama

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

I've heard the story before, countless times, but I don't stop her. It must run on repeat through her mind. A story of her youth, when everything somehow seemed simpler, even though soldiers roamed the streets, families were caught in riots, friends maimed or worse in rebel attacks. The good old days she calls them with a weak smile. Whatever was so good about them I've never asked. No point asking now.


Turning to the open window next to her bed, her pinprick pupils search for a recognisable feature amongst the fresh cut lawns and towering pine trees. A breeze flutters the floral curtains, bringing in a salty hint of the nearby river, and ruffles her gray tangled hair.


Once her pride and joy, a lion's mane of brunette curls. Everyday she spent hours in front of her bedroom dresser mirror, preening, brushing, moussing, a cigarette never far, and a glass always closer.


She rattles out a wet cough pulling me from the memory. Her fluid swollen body ripples, a shaking hand lifts towards cracked lips but the effort is too much. It's the only part of her that moves these days, and barely at that. No more dancing around the kitchen to golden oldie country music. No more singing into a hairbrush and bursting into hysterical laughter when we caught her. She seemed happy then. Seemed.


Strange, and sad, and angering, what adulthood can do to childish memories. Happiness crushed under hindsight, ground into shadow until the light that made you smile seems cast in perpetual gloom.


My brother and three sisters all called me spoiled, and they were right. The youngest, the tallest, and maybe even the craftiest. All too often, to their chagrin, I was allowed to stay off school because mammy said I was 'sick', always with a wink and a smile. I loved when my mornings started like that, it meant it was an adventure day.


Adventure being an over exaggeration of a trip to the shops. But we always stopped in a cafe for sticky buns, or ice cream, but more often it was the toy shop. I could pick whatever I wanted and she would tell me to keep it our secret.


"My lips are sealed," I would say whilst miming a zip.


"Ok, I've got one more message to do, let's go."


Message was a code, one I only deciphered later in life. Regardless, I'd stand outside that shop I wasn't allowed to follow her into, the one with all the bottles, next to the chemist but sold a different kind of medicine. Eating my chocolate or playing with my new toy I'd wait until she would come out with her clinking brown paper bags and we would hurry back to the car.


I never thought anything of it, in fact I thought all mother's ran their own little messages.


Now though, after the years between then and now, my happy adventures seem much...seedier. The day off was because she was lonely, the little secret - her shame, the toy - my bribe.


"Michael?" She's looking at me quizzically.


"Yeah mum." My name's not Michael, that's my brother, but at least today she realises I'm one of her sons.


"When did you get here?"


There is no need to confuse her more, "Just there now actually. You doing alright?"


She goes through a list of ailments, only a quarter of which are actually hers. The rest stream from the hospital dramas constantly on the TV opposite her bed, and right into her subconscious. It's funny what sticks. Today her back and arm are broken, she was helicoptered in last night because of her heart, and her decades buried mother is apparently down the hall making dinner. I stopped correcting her long ago. But there was something I wanted to say, something I came to say.


"Mammy?"


"Yes Gavin," a brief hint of lucidity, she recognises me.


"I just wanted to say sorry, it's been a month, the babys teething, and Jennifer was sick for a while and I—"


"Sure you've been here everyday."


My head droops, I rub the bridge of my nose. There is a cleaner that does the rooms each night, he's lanky, tight cropped hair and narrow faced just like me. But it's not me. She can't accept new faces, it's part of her condition. All the doctors and nurses are former neighbours, colleagues, friends, extended family. I beat myself up not being around more but to her we barely leave. There is a solace to be taken in it, a sad solace.


She stares at me, words lowering to a breathy whisper, until she's just repeating one word over and over. Another seizure. On bad days she's having hundreds of them, each one robs a little bit more of the present, leaving her to live in distant memories.


Seeing her in such a state taints everything, every decision, every inaction. Should I have not kept quiet? Would it have made a difference if I did?


Years passed and I became, as we all do, that rebellious teenager. Hardly in the house for more than an hour at a time, always on the way to somewhere more important, someone more important. On the rare occasion that I stayed in I avoided her. Her songs dwindled, her dancing stopped, her hours no longer spent in front of the mirror but at the kitchen table. Trembling glass in hand, tear tracked cheeks, bloodshot eyes, yellowing skin, talking to framed pictures of lost loved ones, taken by the good old years. Perhaps I should have tried to talk to her then, but she didn't want help, we did try.


Damn but we tried everything. Detox, rehab, intervention. Rinse and repeat. Nothing worked. Her sorrow was too deep to work at, vodka too easy to reach.


She's starting to nod off now. Whatever she dreams, she will wake believing it just happened. There is no telling her otherwise, to her she dances and works, plays and walks. She doesn't realise she's been stuck in this blasted bed for nearly five years now. We do though.


Standing from the wingback chair I say my goodbyes, but she's already asleep. I trudge the corridors rife with disinfectant, and air freshener, it's as if they are trying to cover the real scent. The one no one wants to acknowledge, that lurks round each corner, that follows the zimmer frames, that creeps beside the wheelchairs. Everyone knows its name, no one wants to say it. This is his waiting room. I cringe at the part of me that wonders if she would be better off dead. She's alive but what life does she have? How horrible could I be to even think about it?


Nodding to the carers at reception they buzz me out of the facility. Mammy's too young by ten, maybe even fifteen years, to be in this place, but there was nowhere else. Guilt clouds me, but weirdly I know she's happier here. She sees us everyday, even when we are not there, she speaks to the dead, laughs with ghosts.


My car starts with its usual shutter, pop and bang, and I head for home. Mind overflowing with thoughts, memories, crossroads not taken, what ifs and what could have beens. They serve no purpose, still though I can't stop them. Days like today I almost regret stopping smoking. Then I remember why I did.


The front door opens with a welcome click and I hear the one thing that will brighten any day.


"Dada!" Her smile erupts into a scream of excitement as she toddles across the wooden floor of the hallway.


I squeeze her a little tighter, nuzzle her neck until she arches with giggles. She looks at me like I am all she needs, I smile but tears well.


Becoming a parent makes you realise that your own weren't the super heroes you imagined. They had their problems, their sorrows. Maybe the good ones hide it better. Maybe not. Someday my little girl will see me as a normal person, and she will see my flaws, I just hope when that day comes they don't darken the good times we have yet to have.


My partner looks at me from the living room doorway like she knows what I'm thinking, I've come back from the Home like this before.


"Dada, adventure?" She wants to go to the park, so do I.


"Sounds good, little one."


She runs off to get her coat and I sigh at my reflection in the hallway mirror, my partner hugs me, kisses me on the cheek. I have no reason to be sad, none of this is new to me, what is done is done.


My little lady toddles back, arms shaking, coat flapping. An adventure with daddy makes the world right.


Someday she will ask about her grandmother, and I'll tell her of the woman that spoiled me, kept me safe, made me who I was even though the world seemed to be closing in on her. I'll tell her how she danced, and sang, how she was a superhero, a lioness, a happy light in dark times that took me on adventures. My choice what to tell, she will not need to know the burden of truth.


It will be my story to repeat. She will want to say she has heard it before, countless times, but she won't stop me.








June 01, 2023 19:15

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23 comments

Zack Powell
00:52 Jun 07, 2023

Oof! I felt this one in my soul, Kevin. This story has so many moments of realism that it almost feels nonfictional - the mother not recognizing which son she was talking to, the childhood trips to the liquor store, the descriptions of the deteriorating mental health. Once more: Oof. A heavy story, but handled with care and empathy. I think it would've been very easy for this narrator to demonize his mother, but it never lapses into that, for which I'm thankful. Critique-wise, I guess the only thing that I wanted for this story was a strong...

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Kevin Logue
06:55 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you for all of that, I'm genuinely smiling at your feedback. This is a very different style for me, and it is rooted in my personal experiences so am grateful it came through. Your critique is spot on as well, after it was approved and I reread it I realised it needed a bigger conflict or occasion. As a newbie I have to learn to let things sit and return with a clearer head.

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Wally Schmidt
00:16 Jun 07, 2023

What a touching story so beautifully written. I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it. The pacing is perfect and the melancholy is palpable. Looking forward to reading your other stories Kevin.

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Kevin Logue
06:49 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you very much. This is a huge step away from my normal style so I appreciate the feedback.

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Dee Logue
13:35 Jun 07, 2023

This is so beautifully written. I can relate so much to thos story with Aunt May and it touched my heart. Well done.

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Kevin Logue
14:01 Jun 07, 2023

Thank you. Always good to relate.

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Ken Cartisano
04:11 Aug 02, 2023

I'm not sure what you usually do, Kevin, but maybe you should quit that and do more of this. (Nah, just kidding. Still...) There is wisdom, wonder, regret, a wistful melancholy, but underneath it all, is a fierce, unwavering devotion and love. The title says it all.

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Kevin Logue
07:40 Aug 02, 2023

I'm a metal and plastics welder/fabricator...by day ha. Yeah I'm a recent father and it gave me reflection on my childhood and this just came out. It was the quickest thing I've ever written anything and probably the most emotional. It seems to have struck a chord with a good few people, unfortunately I haven't been able to muster that type of heart since. I'll find it again someday.

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Ken Cartisano
03:48 Aug 03, 2023

Welding? That's a serious skill I have always been curious about. My investigations indicate it is hot, intense and dangerous work. As for your comment: If you can't find the heart, just use that talent you've been manifesting all over the place. Your stories are creatively appealing, your writing is very descriptive. I could have read all of your submissions last night, but wanted to save a few for tonight. Your stories are a pleasure to read.

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Mario Logue
07:10 Jun 09, 2023

A heartfelt portrait of a life fogged by addiction. An illness that sends ripples of emotion and suffering beyond themselves, their nearest and dearest, friends, relations, work colleagues and everyone around them. If you identify with this story or are affected by alcohol just look for Bill W , There is a solution . God bless

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Kevin Logue
07:32 Jun 09, 2023

Thank you, and well said.

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Mary Bendickson
21:39 Jun 08, 2023

Whew, what a tribute. Well done and welcome to Reedsy. So pleased I took time to read this generational gem. I barely have time to read new ones from people I follow and there are so many good writes to follow. Now you have to be one. You may have a winner here.

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Kevin Logue
05:51 Jun 09, 2023

Such high praise. There are so.mamy great writers on here Im honoured to be added to your reading list😊

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Ellen Neuborne
15:51 Jun 08, 2023

This is a poignant portrayal of aging. I felt for both the mother and son in this story. I especially liked the MC's realization in the end that parents aren't super heroes -- just ordinary humans doing the best they can.

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Kevin Logue
17:23 Jun 08, 2023

Thanks for the feedback. Ordinary people was one of the thoughts in my head when I was formulating this 😊

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Glenda Toews
14:45 Jun 08, 2023

You captured this very well! Well-written stories are sometimes very difficult to read because they put your right in the middle of it. You succeeded.

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Kevin Logue
15:43 Jun 08, 2023

Thank so very much for that. I'm glad I was able to complete the immersion.

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Barry Dunne
07:38 Jun 08, 2023

Class 🤯

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Kevin Logue
07:57 Jun 08, 2023

A simple yet effective review ha 😁

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Marty Logue
19:04 Jun 07, 2023

A beautifully written piece. Very touching with a lot of little moments we all can relate too..but maybe not write about as eloquently as Kevin has here.

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Kevin Logue
19:13 Jun 07, 2023

Thanks. I'm blushing 😊

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Michał Przywara
22:16 Jun 08, 2023

A very sweet and sad story, both kind of balanced. Very fitting then that the narrator balances a parent and a child on either side of him then. Then he also balances the fond memories of his mother, against his later realizations, against her present state. And naturally, he compares her parenting to his own. He's long since stopped being a child, but she still teaches him lessons, even if not exactly pleasant ones. The story - her condition and their relationship now specifically - are sad without being melodramatic. "I cringe at the pa...

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Kevin Logue
05:54 Jun 09, 2023

Thank you so much for that. I honesty was trying to work in a line where the narrator takes stock that even in her state she had more lessons to teach, so I am very happy you had this feeling regardless.

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