This was my fourth accepted flash fiction piece. It was written in response to a prompt from Craig, proprietor of the virtual ‘Writers’ Coffeeshop’ set up for participants in a One Story course in early 2018 . (The prompt was ‘Where exactly have you been for the last two hours?’ I misread it as ‘days’, but no-one seemed to mind.)
LOST TIME (399 words)
They found Mother wandering barefoot in the woods, and brought her home.
‘Alzheimer’s, is it?’ the young sergeant asked, helping her tenderly up the steps.
‘We hope not,’ I said. ‘This only started when my dad died last year.’
‘Aaah,’ said the sergeant, as if that explained everything. But it didn’t. Jason and I knew our parents hadn’t liked each other much.
After the police left, we made Mother a cup of tea. She sat upright on the sofa, her filthy feet neatly together on the white shagpile carpet. She smelt strongly of alcohol.
‘Mum, how could you?’
She looked back at us serenely. We had never seen her like this before. She didn’t seem like a person with Alzheimer’s, but she wasn’t her old housewifely self either.
‘Where have you been? We were worried sick!’
‘I went for a dirty weekend in Lisbon with someone else’s husband. It was glorious.’
That shut me up. I had done precisely this when I was twenty-two.
Jason said firmly,’Mum, this is serious’.
‘Actually I snowboarded down a mountain without insurance, smashed into a tree and it cost my family thousands to get me home.’
It was Jason’s turn to shut up and go brick red: this had happened when he was nineteen.
‘I also stripped naked at a rock festival and caught pneumonia.’ Jason looked at me questioningly; he had never been told the whole story of my first time at Glastonbury.
‘And before that I spent all night drinking, vomited up the walls and had my stomach pumped.’ Jason’s eighteenth birthday party. Ouch.
We both glared down at Mother. She sipped her tea.
‘OK,’ I said. ‘We were shits. We admit it. Do you want an apology?’
‘Certainly not!’ said Mother.
‘What’s it about, then?’
‘Truthfully,’ she said, ‘I’m not sure where I’ve been. There was a lot of alcohol involved, you see. But I know what I was trying to do. Make up for lost time.’
We gaped at her.
‘You both thought I was angry when you did those things. But that was your father. I was just envious. Everything wild and stupid you did, was something I wished I’d done myself.’
That was how Jason came to book us all a ski-ing trip to the Alps, and I took Mother clothes shopping, before the two of us hit the nightlife in Newcastle.