Thursday 16 August 2012

Foxy Lady

I've been tidying out my room and throwing out lots of old crap this week. I found this little gem. It's an essay I wrote in school when I was 17. We had to write a short story based on the image below. It's a little weird and melodramatic but I was vaguely impressed reading back over it.

My mother died when I was 15 years old. All these years later I can still recall every minute of her funeral. It was a relatively small affair – around one hundred people.

The majority of these people were familiar faces: aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours and so on. However, to my surprise, when it came to the time for tributes and words of praise, nobody volunteered to voice their affection for my recently-departed mother. So, being a caring son, I stood up, dusted off my crisp black suit and headed for the altar. The sound of silence was deafening and each of the one hundred mourners looked at me like I was demented. (Of course, if I was demented it was hardly surprising, given my mother’s mental state).

Addressing the congregation, I proceeded to tell them about my mother’s life. The bored faces suddenly became interested and they stared and listened intently. It was almost as if they were watching the words leave my lips – and leave my lips they did. I did a lot of talking. I had to. Everybody in that vast, echoing church had been hurt by my beloved mother in some way. Not least of all me – but I had learned to cope down through the years.

I spoke at length about the frailty of the human mind and, indeed, the frailty of humankind. My mother was a manic depressive. She used to say that she had a “car crash personality” – unfortunately this “car crash” managed to ruin many lives. Families had been torn apart, little children had been scared half to death and buckets of tears had been cried as a result of my mother’s erratic behaviour.

After my father left, my mother sought solace in other men. This kept her happy for a time but it seemed that the men came and went with the seasons. Frustration then crept in and she went through dozens of periods of bleak depression. However, there were other times when a letter from her sister in America or a kind word from a stranger would bring a smile to her face. The smile would gradually fade away as the awful reality of her life would creep up on her and drag her down into the doldrums once more. For every high there was a low twice as bad and, unfortunately, there were plenty of highs.

While I was making my heartfelt speech, my eyes met with those of several of the congregation. Their faces were blank, dull and familiar. All of these faces had knocked on our front door at some time or another to give my mother a piece of their mind. There were also some kind, understanding people who spoke to my mother with the intention of providing her with some peace of mind. One such person was Frank, the butcher. He had incurred the wrath of my mother several times and he understood her better than most.

Frank was my mother’s last partner prior to her untimely passing. At 45, he was the same age as her and, being a man who cut up dead animals for a living, he was used to plenty of bloodshed. He was more than a match for my mother and she knew it. That’s why she liked him.

Indeed, years before, while in an unstable frame of mind, my mother had toyed with the idea of becoming a butcher herself. It was just one of the many phases she went through. I recall sitting on the floor with my brother watching television late one evening. Mother had not yet come home from her daily excursion and we had not eaten dinner.
Upon hearing the key rattle in the front door, I anxiously anticipated my mother carrying in fish and chips or some such delicacy for the three of us to devour.
You cannot imagine my surprise when she staggered in, wearing a blood-stained black dress, holding up a dead fox. I think that image will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Frank listened intently for the duration of my speech, his attention focused on every syllable. He looked very grief-stricken. It was obvious that he loved my mother very
much. He appreciated and understood what I was saying and when I had finished he was
the first to stand and applaud. Thankfully, the others followed suit.

As I left the altar to a rapturous ovation, I placed a single red rose on the coffin and slunk back to my seat. The sun - that had been stuck behind a threatening grey cloud - appeared and shone fantastic beams of light in through the stained-glass windows. The bleak, bare church was brought to life with the fabulous montage of colours. It was very fitting.

I gazed at the box in which my mother lay. Her plain pine coffin had transformed into a kaleidoscopic chariot; its brass handles glimmering and shining like gold.
My mother was happy again – I hoped that it would last.

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