Listen with mother – from ‘Listen with Mother’ published by Silverhill Press, 2019
Sit there, Loo-see. Sit. Don’t moof.
Greta’s fingers like a witch’s. Pointing. Angry.
I’m hunched up against the cold, my bare knees like old stones. Behind me our wooden stairs yawn up into the darkness. A smell of greasy mince in the air. Dust and beeswax polish. My socks wrinkled and white in the gloom. There’s a money spider on the step. Close to the edge of the green stair-carpet. I hate spiders but money spiders are OK; they’re too small to be scary – they don’t scuttle. I watch the spider drop from one stair to another. Now it’s found the piano in the sitting room below.
It’s a quarter past two. One ding of the church clock.
The radio is playing in the living room. Distant. I can’t hear the words and I can’t see my brother curled up on the sofa. He’s been a good boy today. Not me. Greta says I’m bad. I refused the mince. I made patterns with it on the plate. I closed my mouth to it.
You can’t make me, you can’t. You’re not my mummy.
A long time on the step, the yawning space behind me a thick black now. Like the cloak in the dressing up box. The spider is gone. Listen with Mother is finished. In a few hours Mummy will be home. But I won’t say. I’ll keep my mouth closed against the words I want to speak.