Short Story – My competition entry

imageThe brief: Write a short story starting with ‘I’m going to disappoint you. But you already knew that.
Word Count: 700 max

Any feedback is welcome. As mentioned before, I wanted to overcome my fear of letting others read work.

Mother

“I’m going to disappoint you. But you knew that already. ”I ran my hand along the cold marble headstone. A dirty film had formed through a general lack of TLC. I should feel guilty, as her only son it was my job to maintain my mother’s grave but I didn’t. I couldn’t. I sat on the damp grass facing the impersonal inscription: ‘Maribel Heathers. Wife, mother and friend 1943-2015’. This was the first time I’d faced my her in at least twenty years, I’d never been ready before. Now I supposed she was a little disadvantaged.

“You’d never prepared me for death, for losing someone. Childhood visits to church gave promise of an afterlife but hadn’t prepared me for the silence of the dead but since you barely listened or spoke to me when alive, today should feel like no different.” I gulped heavily before continuing, I wasn’t used to having your captive attention. “I came to face you today as your disappointing son, your weak son that you told so on many occasions, to share some news.” Once again I paused, to steady my near trembling voice, old habits are hard to break. “Mother I’m dying. Notice the full stop? I’m not dying to show you my painting or dying for a hug after grazing my knee, I’m simply dying – the epitome of weak, my body ravaged with a cancer that I can’t fight. I suppose you were right all along.” I rested my head upon my knees and closed my eyes, my earliest memory came flooding back to me.

I was five and stood in fear as a group of older boys surrounded me, my heart pounding. They told me they would hang me from a tree if I didn’t hand over my sherbet dip. I didn’t want to hand it over, despite the kicks and shoves, I’d saved two week’s spends to be able to buy it and here I was being bullied into handing it over. I was so afraid, afraid of the boys yet afraid of losing my sherbet dip, I was conflicted. You had always told me I was weak, I should be tougher ‘for a boy’, so, petrified I told the big boys ‘no’. Every cell of my body shook with fear of what would happen, I remember it vividly, the hot trickle down my leg as I wet myself, my sweaty palms and the black fog that clouded my head before I ran quickly home. Even now, thinking about it brings me fear – a different fear to the cancer as it was a fear of the unknown. I know what the cancer will do. When I got home you shouted at me for ‘pissing myself like a baby’, I’d not heard the word ‘pissing’ before but I understood. I’d failed you, I’d been weak again.

“Determined not to be weak in my diagnosis, I researched death. Being brave meant facing things head on and knowing what to expect. I read about a gentleman who’d been pronounced clinically dead – fortunately resuscitated, who said when he was dead it was just like a dark blackness, like a deep dreamless sleep. That made sense, and that was when I stopped fearing death, I wouldn’t even know I was dead, I wouldn’t have the pain of looking down on Earth, missing loved ones and fun. Of course there’s the downside: No more love, experiences, no chance to uncover the mystery of the universe and no second chances. But when I die, and given my diagnosis it will happen imminently, I won’t be gone, like a stain wiped from a worktop, with barely any evidence to suggest I was ever here like you were. You see, I have children that look up to me, and I will live on in their hearts, they will look at my photographs with admiration not spite. We are all just temporary unless we make our impression on the world and I’ve done that through love. Anyway, the point of my visit, the reason I’m here is to tell you that I don’t fear death like I know you did, you see, being ‘weak’ gave me the infrastructure to be strong.”

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