North & South

‘The truth universally acknowledged is how I am a southerner and I hate northerners.’

The depth of the graven hostility tore my eyes from the wide screen flickering before us.

‘Mother, how can tha say such vile rot?’ I repeated the visual sentiment in my words, ‘please come t’Scarborough and feel tut force for yourself and break bondage o’ thy mighty prejudice,’ I suggested in a great reasoning.

‘New,’ she replied, ‘new and new never,’ and sipped at a decaff aberration, the pinkie rising with thimble like the Clooney and his claw.

‘So that’s that?’ I said and stood, reached for my Lidl bag of pants and clean socks, ‘Never the twain shall…shall…shall ever again..?’ words drifted like my confusion, like my cigarette in her garden. I stamped clogs for the last time not in her garden but here in the drawing room.

I would no longer endure bigotry, the man of mystery [sic] marooned at three o’clock on a Monday afternoon in this distant and Biddyford enclosure.  I lifted lace curtains at the window frame, beheld the horror streetscape; the dozen exiled kippers, the biddies and the Brummies encircled her estate on foot, pooches stretched ahead on their leashes.  And beyond upon a triple highway the infestation of VWs piled with the boutique boards, thundered aside a transit van convoy of plumbers.  I recoiled from the double punch of a total ghastliness.

‘Euch…’I said and slouched back to the sofa, winded, defeated and supped instead with a great philosophical perception on a full strength but cold Nescafe triple blend.

‘Oh shush a moment…’ I said into my coffee.  I swallowed my coffee, waved my palm, ‘see how much the man makes at the auction,’ I said – decisive at last with the remote control held in my, my other fist.

Re-united a while before the hundred inch flat screen television it was a ‘how about that?’ I said and whistled to mother as I do in moments of reflection.  ‘Eight thousand pounds, a teapot spoon; that is the life for me, baby,’ I said.

My piercing blue eyes sought the truth, a destiny. A slender tendril – perfect – stroked at my jaw:

‘Mother,’ I said, ‘where to ever is Claris Cliff collectioned?  And whereabouts are my Steiff teddy-tigers from the cereal?  Remember, Father left me a kukri somewhere significant, remember for killing his Japanese prisoners of war?  Did you perhaps in your folly donate my knife to the window-cleaner, did you?  Didn’t you, you did, didn’t you?’ I said, ‘and you despatch me now, your favourite son back to the North dressed only in Father’s gardening smock.  At least I found the smock on his, and not your spade. I need more loot. There must be something else in the inheritance here-in?  Speak up woman or to your loft be bound…’

Freddy pipsqueak growled at my ankles.

‘Shut up you traitor,’ I said.  ‘Come on Mother, reconsider your location and location decisions.  You would adore experience of the North peoples up to the border walls, obviously.  So come with me and visit some time soon.  It is like the South, and down as you are, but with the altitude.  This, my final offer; come, one day even settle and sell this Barrett hovel in the horn of Exeter. Imagine how Whitby Abbey shall be our new home, and yours for a while.  Think about the brass in my offering.

‘No, I married a northerner and that was enough endurance for one woman,’ she said.

‘Yes, and he smelled divine in that shoe box,’ I said.

‘Would you, my child, like one final feel of the crumble?  Don’t you sneeze this time, my boy,’ she winked.

‘Maybe Mummy,’ I said, the steel rising in my vowels, ‘I shall remove him and hurl him high at a Flamborough Head, huh?  Back to the old country…’

‘No, he is mine,’ she said.  ‘It might snow and man has his uses.’

‘You bastard, my Daddy’s not for your lining pathways.’

The revolting new cat Maximillian bounded into the room, a tartan ponce like a box of shortbread on his uppers.

An evil grin spread above Mother’s chin.  I sensed malice and rushed the stairs and rushed into her boudoir of fluff.

‘Daddy,’ I cried and scooped Father’s litter from the corners of the wardrobe.  I secured his lid using the vintage elastic band twisted across the cardboard.

‘He’s coming with me you bitch!’

It was her turn to shudder.  She fainted on that downstairs sofa with a swoon of palm upon forehead. Her memory faded to 1967. Nineteen years old and beautiful in her borderline dwarfism condition wearing mini-skirt hanged to the shins, and a cardigan – imprisoned inside the caravan outside Bridlington headquarters by tat.

‘Tripe!’ calls granny-warden. Mummy sits with her young man-creature and the haggis-in-laws surrounding the dinner/supper/and tea table, the cauldron of tripe, offal, kicker plus onions.

‘I love you, Sawny,’ she whispers into a cauliflower.

‘I’ll tell ye family as poverty coms in front door love gos out windee,’ says granny-hag and the wind howls in black and white banging Satan against the caravan windows.

‘Mummy, mummy, awake, you are hallucinating in your fantasy,’ I said and woke her from the slumber fit. I wiped the spittle with my sock.

‘Put down the shoe box,’ she demanded.

‘A final word before I headway to North,’ I said.  ‘I know how you boasted how well sister and everybody family is doing and does very good stuff in their jobs in technology recipe and Facebook lifestyles down here, and that fucking army job of the brother-in-law, that kite-surfing his tank regiment, and crap like that crap…and GSTQ…yes?’

I took one breath.

‘Just I, well I, your favourite son in Scarborough I don’t have two brass farthings to rub together. I have got no money, Mummy, I love you and would you pay me back for the hire car and the petrol and perhaps an overnight allowance for Pops in the box?   It is very gruelling for me, y’know, visiting the relatives…

‘What, you steal my man and box, and I give you money so you can smoke your weeds.  That wife of yours pours wine bag after bag down her throat!’

‘For the recycling, Mummy and her passion, Mummy, she likes her singing to the Titanic soundtrack.  I don’t mind.’

‘Get a job!’

‘I am getting a job.  Only when I rang the agency with my CV, the woman on the other end said my history was “varied.” You know what that means to me? Probably I am simply unemployable and artistic, y’know like an author-writer, even a painter.’

‘Stack beans!’

‘I will stack beans.  Just give me time and some of your money.


‘But Mum don’t push me out of the house.  What are you doing with that broom?’

‘Put down your father!’

I placed Father on the pathway.  November flurries drifted in the twilight and Mother stood over his ashes, the broom held in her hand, the kukri in her teeth.

‘And don’t come back until you are an IT Sales Project Director in Resources and Marketing,’ she said.

‘I hate you,’ I said.

‘I hated feeding you from the very first day you were born,’ she replied.  ‘Remember your favourite, the Fray Bentos spaghetti?’

‘Yes and no,’ I said.

Freddy barked from the tulip border.

‘Fourteen years I spooned you on the economy and not even a Pedigree Chum.  All the while I ate taramasalata at your bib,’ she cackled.

‘Mummy,’ I screamed and raged and ran at her wide silhouette.  She swiped with her broom.  I levered around her waistline and with all my strength staggered in the embrace toward her wheelie bin. Finally I closed the lid.

She clawed fingernails back to the rim, and peered powerless yet safely installed like an Arthur Bell until that next Thursday morning collection.

I rescued Pappa from the surf Nazis of Biddyford and strapped him aside me secure in our passenger seat. We drove the night up hills and down the vales laughing like old times.  I played favourite tunes, I played the Buddy Holly and fat dominoes for the re-united father and son combination sped tag-bound for tribal plantations in the North of England.

About Mat Woolfenden

Litro published North & South on the 11th April. Hooray.

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