Tuesday, 21 February 2012

February Blog Chain! Prompt: Second Chances

Hi all! Welcome to all of you from Absolute Write, and all of you that aren't :) This post is part of the February Blog Chain on Absolute Write. At the end of my post you'll find a list of the other participants and links to their blogs - be sure to check them out and comment! This month, the topic is Second Chances. I wandered the internet looking for inspiration and came up with a page of quotes - this is the result of one of those quotes...

I sat on the couch as I watched little Ollie unwrapping his birthday gifts with glee. I smiled, cradling the warm mug of coffee in my hands, remembering a time when birthdays hadn't been such a joyful experience.

"Happy 12th Birthday Elsie" I whispered to myself. I pushed open the door of my mother's room to see her before school. The stench of white liquor and vomit filled my nose as I picked my way to her bed. She was passed out, again. Her hair was a tangled mess, and her face sallow and wrinkled.
"Mama," I whispered. "Mama, I'm going to school." She grunted from the pillow in reply. I sighed and picked up her spew bucket, emptying it in the laundry trough and washing it out before bringing it back to place beside her bed. As I closed the door I saw her roll over and fill the freshly emptied bucket with the contents of her stomach. 'Lucky I got it back in time' I thought to myself as I set off for school.

Ollie squealed in delight at the bright yellow tonka truck he'd recently unwrapped. His soft, small hands grasped the edges of the tray as he lifted the toy and stumbled over to me on legs that wouldn't move fast enough for his excitement. I set down my coffee and giggled, reaching down to lift him onto my knee. He fit perfectly there.
"Thanks Mama!" he smiled as he dropped the toy on the couch and wrapped his tiny arms around my neck. I whispered a reply as I breathed in his tiny baby scent. His innocence. I'd let him keep it as long as I could, in replace of mine, ripped away too young.

"Come here," Mum grunted from her chair in the kitchen. I hesitated, I didn't like being to near her when she was this lucid. She made a quick motion with her hand for me to hurry to her side. I cautiously approached her and she pulled me against her.
"Give your Mum a cuddle. You should cuddle me more." she said into my hair. I held back the urge to retch. Mum hadn't showered since the last time I'd gotten her into it totally smashed. That had been last week sometime. She stunk of stale alcohol and cigarette smoke, and I dared not ask, but I assumed at some point she'd also soiled herself. When at last she released me from her embrace, she shakily stood, bracing herself on the chair, and made her way back to her bed, lighting a cigarette on the way.

My memories of motherly hugs weren't all that joyful either. James walked in with his early morning coffee, eyes still groggy. He smiled sheepishly through bleary eyes and came over to sit next to Ollie and I. Ollie lunged from my knee to his, almost spilling James' coffee in his enthusiasm.
"Morning Daddy! Happy Birthday!" James and I both laughed.
"It's your birthday little man." James said, still smiling.
"I know." he said. James and I shared a look of contentment at the little guy's sweet gesture.

We finished unwrapping presents and made pancakes for breakfast. I hadn't even had pancakes until I was 14, when a friend of mine invited me for a sleepover. They were delicious. It wasn't until I had my own home that I'd had them again, but since then, I'd made them every Sunday, without fail. If I was out or away, I ordered them. Sunday was pancake day. This morning's were strawberry. I still remembered the scent of the lady that came to talk to me when I was 14. She smelled like strawberries.

"Elsie, is your mum... sick, a lot of the time?" The strange woman asked. I didn't like her, her nose was always scrunched. I knew it wasn't beautifully scented in here, but she could pretend. Jeez. Maybe it's because she's used to smelling beautiful all the time, like strawberries. 
"Sometimes," I mumbled in reply. The woman started making furious notes on her pad.
"Is she here now?"
"Yes, but she can't see you, she's not ready for company." The lady got up. I got up faster.
"You can't see her." I repeated. How dumb was this woman? I found out she wasn't dumb, not even rude, just determined. 

She marched through our house to Mum's room. I shrank behind her as she pushed open the door to reveal the filth that lived there. Mum sat up and started yelling at her. She yelled until the lady left, who was all the while scratching away at her notepad with that damn pen. That was a bad day. I shouldn't have upset Mum so much, she threw her empty bottle at me, smashing it against the wall when I ducked. I still got some in my foot. It was ok, she didn't get out of bed, so I closed the door and went to fix up my bleeding foot in the kitchen.

After breakfast we took the tonka truck, the new waterslide and cricket set outside and played in the back yard. Setting up the slide took forever. I scooped Ollie up and took him to the waterslide we'd just finished assembling. He squealed with delight as I lay him face down and pushed him down the slippery yellow surface. He fell off halfway, giggling the whole while as James came in to grasp him around the belly and fly him through the air like an airplane. I watched my two boys giggling and running around on the lawn and smiled. So what if my mother had been a terrible one. I didn't want to contact her now, and I doubt she would even still be alive if I did. I might have had a crappy parent-child relationship with her, but this was my second chance at a good parent-child relationship. And I wouldn't screw it up.

So that's that! It is a bit left-field (sorry about that!). Be sure to check out the blog posts below!

Participants and posts:
Turndog-Millionaire - http://turndog-millionaire.com/ (link to this month's post)
orion_mk3 - http://nonexistentbooks.wordpress.com (link to this month's post)
Ralph Pines - http://ralfast.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
magicmint - http://www.loneswing.com/ (link to this month's post)
Tomspy77 - http://thomaswillamspychalski.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
LilGreenBookworm - http://themayhemofwritingsahm-style.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
LiterateParakeet - http://lesliesillusions.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
AFord - http://af12.webs.com/ (link to this month's post)
writingismypassion - http://charityfaye.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
SuzanneSeese - http://www.viewofsue.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
Bogna - http://bemaslanka.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
kiwiviktor81 - http://storygenerator.net/ (link to this month's post)
randi.lee - http://emotionalnovel.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
areteus - http://lurkingmusings.wordpress.com/ (link to this month's post)
Domoviye - http://working-in-china.com/ (link to this month's post)
pyrosama - http://matrix-hole.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
Nissie - http://www.paperheroes.net/ (link to this month's post)
in_one - http://quirkythomas.blogspot.com/ (link to this month's post)
sambgood - http://www.samanthabagood.com/ (link to this month's post)


  1. Ohhh I absolutely feel for her! I can only imagine what she had to go through with her own mother, and then see the contrast with how loving she is with her son. Great job!

  2. An interesting post, Julz. It's amazing how many innocent children/young people have to contend with circumstances beyond their control, and make the best of their own existence in this world longterm. As I read along, the narration left me cheering for the main character, because she clearly was making the most of a bad situation with her Mum. Cheers to her courage and self-determination.

    1. Thanks! I'm so happy you were cheering for Elsie, it's just what I'd hoped!

  3. Wow, Julz, what a tear-jerker. The flash back scenes are so vivid! I guess we don't realize what alcoholism can do to a person. You've done such a great job showing this entire second chance that will stick with me for a long time. Great post!

    1. Thanks Diane :) much appreciated. I actually worked hard on this piece from the beginning of the chain, so I'm glad that it resonated with you!

      JP xx

  4. Very moving! Good for Elsie for breaking the cycle.

    1. I couldn't find a way to comment so I'll just reply.
      I've used that going back and forth from past to present for a few of my pieces and I really like how they come out.
      Your post is wonderful, it held my attention all the way. Love it!

    2. Thanks! It's my first time experimenting with flashbacks and I'm quite pleased with it as well!

      @Charity - yes, I do like my writing (however short) to have some kind of positive note to it! No Lemony Snickett's here!

  5. Now the comment box is showing up, perhaps I was impatient waiting for the page to load. ;-)

  6. Even though the post is 71 words over the informal limit (scandal!), the piece really feels like it earns the length. The flashback structure is especially ambitious and well-done overall, especially in so short a piece!

    One quibble: "Tonka" ought to be capitalized as a brand name that hasn't quite undergone genericide yet :)

    1. I'll have to edit that, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the piece :)