PASSION 4 PROSE or P4P! A fun laid back short story, and article Blog , the home for the author Chris Wilson, and a home for those who prepared to , or like to think differently and exercise their mind
By Chris Wilson
ome on Lily, you’ll catch a cold, and you’re too old for that game now!
Her late husband had always cried.You’ll be the death of me one of these days,
He had continued berating her; but in the end she had outlived him.
She hadn’t caught a cold, and she still enjoyed paddling; especially paddling in the sea. Now she stood, as she stood here every day; just paddling in the sea. If she thought hard enough her son would join her, as he always joined her; if she concentrated; and if she paddled in the sea.
Holding her old court shoes in one hand, and her walking stick in the other, Lilly dug her bare battered toes into the cool soft wet sand beneath her, and closing her eyes she sighed with pleasure as the incoming waves surged up, around, and over, her feet and ankles. She could feel the gritty grains of sand nibbling in between her toes and toenails, and then the tug of the waves around her ankles.
As she stood there a seagull flew by and screamed at her, and its raucous cry carried her back to when she was a child. Vanilla ice cream, that melted and ran down her already sweet toffee-apple sticky fingers. The donkey rides, and the brass bands in the promenade tea gardens, with the ever present screaming and heckling sea gulls that stood by the musicians side. She smiled, as such memories lapped over her. Now she felt safe, secure and comfortable, and very much at home.
The sea was there forever. The sea was her friend, it never told her off or deserted her, and with its unending flux and flow, and its lunar tidal movements, she knew that her friend would always be with her to the end.
Regression, the mind doctors called it, and long term denial of family events and history. Going back to her childhood; that’s what they told her, and a refusal to accept what had happened during the war. She didn’t care though, as they were wrong.
She smiled sweetly, during those long sessions, and like a good girl, she agreed with them. Why cause trouble, she had thought to herself. It wouldn’t change anything, and it would only cause more trouble in the end. She was in her nineties now, and they were just fancy words, and not for ordinary people like her. Her childhood had been happy, so why not keep hold of good memories. The doctors had to be wrong about her son and his war record; as he often stood beside her. Even if they were right it didn’t matter, as she was by the sea now, and that is where she belonged.
This was her own little world by the seashore, and though she wasn’t religious, she still prayed that nothing would change. She stood there, eyes closed, and carried on dreaming. Lost in her memories of childhood, she didn’t notice her son had come close by her side.
“Hello Mother, how’s the water, not too cold?”
She smiled, opened her eyes, and, coming out of her dreams, she turned to greet him.
Born, bred, working, and married in a once busy, yet now half forgotten Lancashire mill town, she and her husband were so proud when their only son had joined the Royal Navy. Now dressed up in his smart naval uniform, he looked so solemn and serious. Yet, with his sea green eyes and strong jaw line, he was still so very handsome, and he nodded, very quietly, in return. Joe was his name. He was proud to serve his king and his country, and to be stationed on the H.M.S Prince of Wales.
“She’s pure British, Mother,” He’d once told her. “She’s a fine George V battleship from Birkenhead, a real beauty, by heck she’s enormous, and she’ll win us the war!”
But now he just stood there smiling, and affectionately laughed at her as she stood watching him. It was strange , he always seemed to be on leave now; but then he said he’d never leave her, and he swore he would always be by her side.
Quietly she carried on paddling. She knew her son, and all too soon he would want her to get moving. The tide was coming in, the wind was picking up, heavy incoming clouds were forming, and he didn’t like to see her all alone by the shore.
“You look cold Mother, why not get back to the house, and have a nice cup of tea?”
She turned towards him and grinned.
“A cup of tea for you as well Joe, or is it now rum?”
Hesitantly she began laughing, but her laugh was uneasy. By the way he looked at her, with his arms firmly crossed before him; she could see that Joe wasn’t going to be moved.
“That’s only for men over 20 mother, I’m 19 and underage you know; U.A as they say in the navy. No, a cup of tea will do nicely, and I think it’s time we should go!”
Lilly fell silent. The sea and the sand were still calling, and the incoming tide whispered to her. She wanted to listen to all the words that were being softly murmered and sung to her, and she desperately wanted to stay.
“Please Joe; can’t we stay for longer? When I stand here you’re always beside me, and I’m having such a lovely time!”
But Joe wouldn’t have it. Uncrossing his arms, he held out his hands as if to guide her onto the sand.“No mother, it’s time for tea and hot buttered crumpets, and look there’s a mum and a child on the promenade, and he’s waving to you. Why don’t you wave back, and maybe even go over and say hello?”
Lilly didn’t want to wave back or say anything.
The mother and child were part of what the doctors and her late husband called the real world. She didn’t like that world,it was painful, confusing, and scary.
She watched the mother and child moving away quickly, and was happy to see them leaving, but the child kept on looking back towards Lilly, as if reluctant to go. She looked at them until they left the prom. She smiled, she was safe now, and she turned back towards her son.
“Oh please Joe, just five more minutes, that can’t do me any harm!”
Her pleading was in vain, for Joe still held out his arms towards her, and by his stern admonishing look, she knew she had to leave.
There was also love and tenderness in his eyes though, so somehow it made their departure bearable. Joe would have a crumpet with her. He always loved his tea.
She always liked it when Joe sat beside her. She would enjoy her hot buttered crumpets, and she had also got a large pot of thick cut homemade marmalade. They would be grand with a pot of hot tea!
“Look Mum, there a woman standing in the water. What’s she doing there, and why is she all alone?”
Skipping alongside his mother, a young boy tugged her arm , and pointed towards the shore. He could see an old woman standing there, and she was standing in the sea.
Wearing an old grey coat and with her bent back, hunched shoulders, windswept hair and long thin legs, she looked like an ancient grey heron that had been left outside in a gale. He liked herons though, they always reminded him of an old, grey haired, slim fingered, watch mender that his mother sometimes went to. He wondered what she might be looking at, or whether anything was wrong.
Maybe if he waved to her, she might see him, and then she might even wave back in return.
He looked behind his mother, pulling back on her arm for a moment, and waved at the old woman, but she didn’t wave back, and she only looked at him. She seemed to be in a world of her own.
“Don’t do that Phillip!”His mother abruptly told him. “Remember what I told you about talking with strangers?” She continued. “That’s old Lilly, just old Lilly, and she’s not like us, she’s not important, as she just paddles in the sea. You see she’s a bit strange Phillip, and I don’t want you to know her. Do you hear me Phillip; I don’t want to see you talking to her. One day, when you are a bit older, you’ll understand”
The mother pulled Phillip closer to her. She had a headache, she was late to pick up her daughter, the weather was changing, and Lilly was peculiar, very peculiar. She picked up speed and pulled Phillip along with her, but Phillip kept on looking back over his shoulder, and he carried on waving; even though he was being pulled away.
He wasn’t talking to her, he was only waving a hand towards her, and he still wondered about the old woman. What was she thinking about, what was she looking at, and why she was standing, so lonely, so silently, and so alone amidst the incoming tide.
He had a kind of plan though, as him and his mum came this way most days now. Maybe she might still be by the seashore, maybe next time he could wear his favourite bright red duffel coat and she would wave back to him. If he was lucky she might even want to come over to him, and even say hello.
Lilly cleared away the tea things, and after briefly, very briefly, thinking about the little boy who cheerfully waved at her; she settled down in her favourite arm chair that sat before her sweetly scented and softly crackling apple wood fire.
Looking around the room, her life, in faded photographs and pictures, hung silently all around her, yet to her they still seemed to be alive. They almost seemed to reach out and comfort her, and then to whisper her name.
Once she had been a lively child, once she had been blond haired attractive young woman, and once she had been a dreamer of dreams. Then she had been a proud mother, and at the centre of a wonderful family, but was feeling old and tired now. She had grey hair, a sore back, and her eyes were aching. Sadly her once happy days seemed to be slipping away with every outgoing tide. Fresh tides also came in though. When they came in they sometimes brought in old songs and memories , so she still hoped that, somehow, those carefree days might return.
A log slipped and nearly fell out of the fireplace and in doing so it brought her back to the room, and to life around her. After a moment’s hesitation, and an adjustment to the fire that burned before her, she opened a polished wooden box that lay on a small coffee table carefully positioned by her.
The box contained a framed signed photograph of a young man in naval uniform, a World War 11 medal and ribbon, an old letter, and by the letter a neatly folded yet stained and faded telegram.
Placing the photograph beside her, she picked up and opened the letter and the telegram. She read them both slowly. Then she folded them up very carefully, before putting them down from whence they had lain.
Killed in action,the War Office telegram bluntly stated.
A Japanese air attack, a brave death, saving the lives of others, hence the medal, his commanding officer had written; but then what did the officer, or the war office, know?
Joe was a good lad and would never leave her, and apart from when she was sleeping, Joe would always be by her side.
It was bedtime though, and Joe had left her, she’d watched him from the front parlour window as he’d walked out and the greeted some of his crew
“My ship is sailing in the morning mother”. He had told her. “I know I shouldn’t tell you, but were heading off to the pacific. It should be pretty warm down there!”
She had watched him and his shipmates silently marching, down the road towards the railway station.
She wasn’t bothered though. It was late, Joe had said upon leaving her, and it was well past her bedtime.
One day, she hoped, Joe might become an officer in the Royal Navy, so now she was only too happy to do her duty, and obey.
She would sleep well though, as she knew he would be with her over breakfast. Joe was always with her when she had her breakfast. Then, after breakfast, they would go paddling, just paddling in the sea.