I thought I’d share the first chapter from a novella of mine ‘A Long Sleep‘, which together with ‘Scam!‘ form my latest book ‘Two Novellas’, published on 13th April 2020 and priced at just $0.99/£0.99:
Kieran Parrish is an empty shell through childhood brain trauma. His mother Connie lovingly cares for him, but looks forward to a short break every Monday and Tuesday morning, when Kieran goes off to his day centre. Connie gets to know Mike Duvale, as circumstances occur whereby they both attend the same supermarket café every week. Mike thinks he may be able to help Kieran, but Connie is doubtful, as Kieran has been ‘asleep’ for 23 years and shows no signs of recovering.
Will Kieran ever wake from his long sleep?
A Long Sleep
Copyright Stevie Turner 2020
Sightless eyes stare into my soul. What does he see, this moribund-like son of mine? Thirty years old and still in nappies, I lift him with a strength garnered from necessity. Kieran’s small frame feels as though it’s breaking my back.
“Are you putting on weight, boy?”
I do not expect an answer, and of course there is none. Kieran empties his bowels at the same time every day; just after his usual bowl of porridge and honey. The remains of yesterday’s pureed casserole greet me, and I quickly wipe the mess from his genitals, roll him onto a clean nappy, and dress him in jogging bottoms and a sweatshirt. I comb his dark hair that’s so like Dave’s, and notice with a start how it’s beginning to recede at the temples.
“There you go. All done.”
The tooth grinding starts that sets my own teeth on edge. I can always tell when Kieran has a toothache; all too soon his guttural noises become unbearable and he’ll thrash his arms and legs about, just as he’s doing now. His grunts rise in pitch to a crescendo.
“I’ll get the oil of cloves.”
The number of teeth he has decreases year on year, but there’s no way I can get him to a dentist. I usually pull his teeth out myself when they become too loose through all the grinding. Anyway, the cost of sedating him would take too much out of my benefits. It’s oil of cloves or nothing. He hates the taste of it I can tell, because the thrashing becomes more intense. However, within a short time his grunts subside somewhat, the legs cease trying to kick me, and peace reigns supreme just for a while.
The bus driver will soon knock to take Kieran to his day centre. Twice a week on Mondays and Tuesdays I gain some respite from the thankless task of keeping my son alive. Kieran used to attend four times a week, but the council sadly does not have enough resources anymore. However, if truth be told I wonder whether Steve and Deirdre at the centre can bear Kieran’s noise for more than two days in a trot? I’ve got used to it over the years; I can kind of shut it out unless toothache sends him into overdrive.
There’s the bell now. I run along the hallway and open the door.
“’Morning, Bill.” I usher him in with one hand. “How are you today?”
“Mustn’t grumble, Connie, mustn’t grumble.”
Bill is a man of few words. Together we hoist Kieran into his wheelchair in a kind of familiar silence. Bill hauls a bag of nappies over his shoulder and utters the five words he always says before he takes his leave.
“See you at four o’clock.”
And I know that he will. In fact sometimes it’s nearer half past three. Nevertheless, it’s good just be able to go out to the shops, have a cup of tea and a scone in Sainsbury’s café, and talk to anybody who will listen. Most of my friends disappeared into the ether years ago. Who in their right mind would want to be around me, with Kieran thrashing around like a minstrel in the background or bellowing balefully from his bedroom?
I have my shopping bag and purse all ready. I grab my coat and walk out with Bill, locking the door behind me. I cannot wait to get out into the sunshine and am unwilling to waste a single minute. It’s a two mile walk to the supermarket, and I step out briskly as the council van pulls away. The April sunshine is weak, but welcoming. I can see Kieran sitting in the back of it; he turns and glares right at me, and I feel a pang of guilt.
It’s still a bit early and the café has plenty of empty tables. My favourite seat in the corner has already been taken, and I notice it’s the same middle-aged guy sitting in my seat who was there the week before. He has his back to everyone, just as I would do if I’d sat there, and is tucking in to a very unhealthy-looking breakfast.
I take the next best seat at a table that’s pushed up against a wall. Waiting for my scone I remember bringing Kieran to the same café on the day before that last epileptic fit took him away for good. We’d sat at the corner table, and Kieran had thrown his lunch on the floor and smashed the plate. That was 23 years ago, but of course nobody remembers the occasion now. Normal Kieran has been deleted from everyone’s memory, including Dave’s I think. People are uncomfortable when they ask me about him now; they feel embarrassed talking to him, but they know I like them to acknowledge the fact that he still exists.
The tea is warming, and there’s strawberry jam and cream on the scone. I scrape off the cream; I have to keep fit for Kieran’s sake.
He sits by the bedside, an older version of Kieran, and as usual I expect he cannot wait to go. Dave twiddles his new wedding ring around on the third finger of his left hand.
“How’s he doing?”
“The same.” I shrug. “No better and no worse. How’s Catharine?”
He has the decency to look embarrassed.
“Fine. The baby’s due in a few weeks.”
I wonder if he has passed on the epilepsy gene to the new baby, or whether I was responsible for Kieran’s condition all along. Either way, strangely enough not one person in our combined families has ever suffered from fits.
Dave stifles a yawn and takes a quick glance at the clock.
“Have you heard from Katie?”
“Just an email.” I reply. “They’re happy to take Kieran for a week so that I can take Nan to Great Yarmouth in June.”
Silence settles over the room, and I and look at our son, who has fallen asleep. I have a flashback of that wonderful holiday in Italy when Kieran was conceived, and then I look down at the finished product. There is a loud fart and a thrash as he turns on his side. I sigh.
“Oh, too much broccoli in his mash I expect.”
Dave tries unsuccessfully to lighten the atmosphere.
“I thought it was you.”
He looks at his watch and shifts about in his chair. He wants out of this house of misery and memories, and I for one cannot wait to be rid of him. Twenty years have passed since he jettisoned the majority of his responsibilities (apart from the monthly cheque without which I couldn’t survive), and now at the age of 53 he’s on his fourth wife. I actually feel sorry for her.
Tomorrow I’ll share the first chapter of ‘Scam!’, the second novella.