I entered this in the Irish Times / Powers short story competition back in April 2012 and have just come across it in my drafts! Not sure why I never published it. Perhaps because I always felt that the bits where I mentioned Powers were a bit clunky / fawning / overly deliberate / lick-arsy!
Anyway, here it is for better or worse… At the time I showed it to my Leaving Certs on the overhead projector and got some feedback from them about what was working and what wasn’t working. I think it’s always a good idea to reassure students that writing is often a struggle – that very few people can produce a fully formed quality piece of writing first go. Writing is a process – more a marathon than a sprint – and exposing that we also struggle to write (to write well!) can’t be a bad thing…
The night before I go back to work, I make a hot whiskey to settle my nerves. Stir in the cloves; add a dash of red lemonade like Mam always does.
Next morning, Susan’s the first to bounce over, grab my face, smack a kiss on my forehead and holler ‘welcome back!’ As she disappears to her cubicle, I plonk onto my swingy chair, email clients, skim press releases and generally re-insert myself back into the office. For tea-break I skulk to the unisex toilets and strain to quietly overcome a bout of nervous constipation. Then I check my phone for maybe the sixteenth time. There are no messages. Everything is fine.
By lunchtime I’m too hungry for news to wait any longer. Ben lifts the phone after two rings.
“Yep, Mikey’s fine, drank his bottle no bother…”
“Did he have tummy time? How’s Mam?” I splutter
“She’s grand. Hanging out clothes”
“That’s not her job Ben“. “Blah blah blah”. I splutter some more.
“We’re grand! I’ve to go, conference call. Oh, she gave him prune juice earlier, he’d a massive poo so don’t bother with the chemists. Bye love”
“OK, bye” and I’m left looking at the phone, bewildered and feeling vaguely jealous of my son’s empty bowels.
By the time I barrel in the door, Ben’s just lifting Mikey out of the bath. I take over, inhaling his softness, patting every fold and crevice dry, easing on his babygro, singing as I feed him to sleep.
Downstairs, Ben’s on the couch watching a titanic documentary; Mam’s in the kitchen. I need to hear all about their day. Having me young delivered one big advantage; we’re more like sisters than mother / daughter.
She takes one look at me.
“You could do with a drink love“.
Kettle on, cloves out, red lemonade open, she roots in the drinks press.
“Why does it always taste better when you make it?” I ask.
She looks up, shakes her head, then strides out the door. Within minutes she’s back, bottle of Powers in hand.
“You can’t use any old whiskey” she scolds.
Soon my hands embrace the warm nectar she’s been soothing me with for years. Delicious.
“You’re not having one?” I ask, then notice her foot tapping, her slightly sweating hairline.
“I’ve a bit of news love…”
After she leaves, I log on to do my grocery shopping, remember to add a bottle of Powers Gold Label to my virtual basket and smile. I’ll be drinking my hot toddy’s alone for the next while. I hope it’s a boy. Mikey will love having a playmate. And besides…
I’ve always wanted a brother.