Black Short Stories : Breathe

Discussion in 'Short Stories - Authors - Writing' started by raymondobe, Jan 28, 2010.

  1. raymondobe

    raymondobe Member MEMBER

    Jul 30, 2009
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    The three of us are dressed up like dorks sitting on the sofa watching the Saturday evening Western. We can hear the sound of someone shouting from the landing. Being the eldest I get up from the sofa and head off to the passage.

    Who was that ringing the bell? asks my mother, leaning over the banister clutching a tube of lipstick in her hand.
    I didn’t hear anyone ring the bell.
    What are you three doing?
    I can’t hear what you’re saying.
    I start to repeat myself, this time louder, leaning forward on my toes and pushing my knees against one of the lower steps.
    Don’t shout at me, I’m not a dog, snaps my mother. Come up here and speak to me like a normal person.
    I roll my eyes and begin to move.

    OK, are you listening? says my mother. Go outside and see if the mini-cab driver is here. Then go to the kitchen and fetch the big pot with the Moi Moi inside. The big one, not the small pot. What did I just say?
    I stare at my mother and frown.
    You said speak to the cabbie and to collect the big pot from the kitchen, I mumble back.
    My mother glares at me.
    I said to go outside and see if the mini-cab driver is here. Then fetch the big pot with the Moi Moi inside from the kitchen. The big one not the small one.
    Yeah, I just said that.
    Pardon, says my mother leaning forward.
    OK. Now run.

    I am about to open the front door when I hear my mother yelling at me from the landing again. I raise my eyes to the ceiling and take a deep breath. I do an about turn. Running up and down those stairs is normal for me, despite my asthma. When my mother is doing the ironing upstairs, she has me going up and down like a yoyo. It’s like a game my mother plays. Albeit one I hate. She has this terrible habit of waiting for me to get all the way down, before hollering at me to come back again.

    And turn off the Television, and tell you’re brothers to put on their coats and go to the cab, she says. And if any of you want to go to the toilet, makes sure you go now before we leave. Now Go.

    The cab driver is an Indian man, with a smooth face, short hair and a thick bushy moustache. He wants to know how much longer they’ll be. We’ve been sitting in the cab for over five minutes. He isn’t rude but I can see by the way he keeps leaning forward to wipe the windscreen with a rag and check the wing mirror that he’s getting impatient.

    I tell him that my parents will be out any second. I ‘m nervous that he will ask my brothers and me to exit the car and then drive away and leave us standing on the street like idiots. I know who’ll get the blame. Me of course. I always seem to get the blame for everything. Like failing to stop my brothers from fighting when my mother’s talking to someone on the phone. Or not mentioning during a really exciting movie that we’re watching, that it’s past ten o’clock and the ITV news has already started on the other channel.

    The cab driver starts grumbling. Saying that he can’t wait all day because he has other fares to pick up. I look at the garden gate worriedly and repeat that my mum and dad will be out any moment. Then my younger brother Lade, who is ten, asks the cab driver if he will change the radio station to one where they are playing music.
    OK, says the driver, looking out his window at the house and ignoring my brother. I’ll give them five more minutes.

    We are sitting in the cab listening to the engine run. A talk radio station is playing quietly in the background. All of a sudden we hear the clop! clop! clop! Sound and when I turn around I see my father strolling down the garden path, all spruced up in the blue suit that he recently bought from a shop in Golder’s Green, and tie and gold cufflinks, and a pair of immaculate gleaming leather Italian shoes. As soon as my father gets in the cab, the whole car fills up with the smell of his Cologne and I have to wound down the window a little, just so I can breath.

    The driver clutches the gear stick and turns round to make sure there are no other cars coming up behind us. My father isn’t paying attention because he’s fiddling with something in his inside jacket pocket. I’m sitting in the back thinking that I better speak up soon, before the cab driver pulls out from the curb and drives away without my mother. I lean forward and tap the back of the cab driver’s seat. The moment he turns around I start to speak.
    Yes that rights, says my father, smiling apologetically and peering over the frames of the thin reading-glasses, he’s just put on.
    What does that say? he asks, leaning back and showing me a sheet of paper with the plane departure times scrabbled along the top.
    Which one?
    It says, Terminal 3. 9.20pm, I say squinting.
    Good, said my father folding the piece of paper and putting it away.

    The four of us have been sitting in the car for at least fifteen minutes. At some point during that time, the driver turns the key in the ignition and the engine peters out. Shortly after a static voice starts coming over the car radio. Someone is saying car 4, and then there is more radio static.

    The woman back at the cab office asks the driver where he is. She wants to know if he is able to pick up a customer from the Willesden Green area. The driver tells her that he is still with his original fare. When he says it, something in the tone of his voice makes me cringe and look at the floor with embarrassment.
    Maybe your wife’s not coming, the driver comments to my father.
    My father looks around at my brother and me.
    Go and tell you mum to hurry up, he says quietly.

    My brother and me exchanged looks. Neither of us wants to go back inside the house. For a start, it’s bitterly cold outside. There is ice on the ground and for the last few days the weatherman has been cheerfully predicting the probability of snow. In addition to this our mother has been in a terrible mood all day. She’s been up half the night preparing food and arranging the material for herself and the other aunties. And of course there’s the fact that my father has a flight to catch at 9.20 and until this morning, he wasn’t even going to come along.
    People will talk, my mother had said.
    Talk about what? said my father. Scooping Eba onto his fingers and dipping it into the bowl of pepper soup. Am I or am I not your husband?
    Then what are you talking about? I don’t understand.
    What people are you talking about? said my father moving food towards his mouth. Who ever wants to talk, can talk.

    My brother Lade craftily bends forward and pretends to lace his shoes. I muttered something to him under my breath and get out of the car. I walk up to the front door, opened it, walk along the passage. All of a sudden I hear a strange noise as if my mother is being strangled. I slowly push open the living room door, and see her sitting on the sofa with the receiver pressed tightly to her ear. She covers her face with her other hand, clenches her jaw and sits there shaking.
    Who is she? she suddenly screams, looking up. Why is this crazy woman that’s trying to destroy my marriage?
    I start to back away. My mother puts the phone to her chest and turns to look. Her eyes are red and some of her make-up has started to run. She puts the phone to her chest.
    What do you want? she says.
    Daddy told me to come and get you, I say nervously.
    I begin backing out of the room.
    Wait, says my mother, looking down. Who told you to put on your new shoes?

    The shoes she’s referring to were a Christmas present from my father: a pair of leather uppers with a low heel. Two Saturdays back, my father had taken my two brothers and myself to Brent Cross Shopping Centre to buy them. We’d walked around the mall, gone into some clothing stores, stopped to get some Cokes and fries and after trying on about a dozen pairs in the Bally store, they were the one’s I finally chose. Normally I don't get a say when it comes to matters of clothing and footwear.

    The other one’s hurt me, I say, grimacing in order to get the point across.
    I said go and change into the other pair, barks my mother.
    But they look stupid, I say pushing out my bottom lip.
    Go up and change them. Now, now.

    I stomp upstairs huffing and puffing, change into my ugly black-wedged shoes and go back outside. I walk over to my father who is sitting in the car winding down his window. I try to explain that my mother is on her way, but I’m still angry about the shoes and my words get messed up in my breathing. In the end my father just waves me away like he understands, and tells me to get in the car.

    I have one leg inside the car when I hear the front door slam shut and my mother comes tottering down the front garden path in her heels, wearing a traditional Nigerian dress. She is trying to keep the hem from scraping along the ground while holding onto her handbag and struggling with a big plastic bag. She looks totally different from the way she looked in her English clothes. There are sequined woven into the cloth and when she moves, the part close the ground sparkles in the light.
    Will someone help me? calls my mother, starting to lose control of the bag.

    I run over to help. I grab the plastic bag, which is full of material, and walk ahead.

    I’m heading down the garden path when I slip on some ice and fall backwards and have the wind knocked out of me. Some of the material starts to come out of the bag and spills onto the ground.
    Oh my God. Give me the bag before you destroy everything, shrieks my mother.
    I stagger to my feet, slightly dazed and hand her the bag. My backside stings where it smacked against the concrete and I can feel a cold damp patch all the way down the back of my legs. I angrily brush the ice off my trousers.
    Stupid shoes, I think. Why did she have to make me wear these stupid shoes?

    My mother comes rushing towards the car and then stands in the middle of the road yelling at my father in Yoruba. My father says something to the cab driver, who nods his head and sits back in his seat. Then my father tells my mother to get in the car and stop shouting…this time in English.

    Where are we going? asks the cab driver.
    My wife has the address, says my father.
    My mother who is trembling, fumbles around inside her purse, and at last pulls out a small piece of paper and tells me to pass it to him.
    Read it to me, says my father refusing to turn around.
    It takes me a moment before I realised that the piece of paper is upside down. I’m trying to turn it the right way up when my mother suddenly explodes again and starts on me.
    So up to today you still can’t read? she says angrily.
    Before I had a chance to explain she snatches the piece of paper out of my hand.
    So you don’t know how to read Tottenham up till now? she asks, raising her voice.
    But you didn’t give me a chance.
    What do you mean I didn’t give you a chance? If you write that in an exam, don’t you know your teacher will fail you?

    I want to tell my mother that trying to read a stupid address the wrong way up has nothing to do with the school curriculum. But I know it won’t help. Instead I clamp my lips together and sit there breathing quickly.
    And don’t screw your face, says my mother. What was that?
    I didn’t say anything.
    I turn my head and try to look out the window. I try to pretend that I’m somewhere else.

    We are five minutes into the journey.
    So is everybody happy now? says the cab driver, cheerfully.
    My father mumbles something back. Unfortunately the cab driver’s friendly remark only sets my mother off again. She leans forward and resumes the argument with my father. My father turns round and glares at her. I can see by the scary looks in his eyes that he’s fighting to control his temper. My mother sits back still looking annoyed and stares out of the window.

    You look very nice, says the cab driver to my mother. Very beautiful…If you don’t mind me saying.
    Thank you, says my mother grinning.
    She glances at the back of my father’s head and says something funny to get his attention. My father continues to stare straight ahead. Clearly he isn’t speaking again, at least not until we get to the party.

    Me, my mother, and my two brothers and several pots are jammed in the back. I’m holding onto the large steel pot that’s resting on my knees. My youngest brother Kunle, who is only six-years old, is sitting on my other brother’s lap, humming to himself and playing with a little red matchbox toy car he’s brought along. Making it fly through the air like Chitty Chitty Bang.

    I’m trying to look out the window at the passing buildings, and breath shallowly through my slightly opened mouth. The combined effects of my father Cologne and my mother’s strong perfume, together with the overwhelming smell of petrol are making me feel nauseous. Sometimes I’ll suck Polo mints or Lozenges. Other times I think that my level of nausea is determined by the make of car I’m in. Some cars have such a potent-petrol smell that I can tell that I’m going to get sick the moment I open the door. Typically I’ll start off the journey feeling great and then all of a sudden as we’re approaching a busy junction or stuck in traffic something will change and all at once I’ll feel the sickness creeping up on me, sucking away my strength.

    We stopped at the traffic lights and I begin to wish that I were someone else. Maybe I could be one of the kids in the 'Cosby Show,' where life seemed really easy, and people give you room to breathe.
  2. sarcasm4eva

    sarcasm4eva Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Apr 19, 2003
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    that was a really good story and correctly entitled. parents are a trip, i can say that much. i hope there is a pt. 2 to this story...
  3. $$RICH$$

    $$RICH$$ Lyon King Admin. STAFF

    United States
    Mar 21, 2001
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    BUSINESS owner
    wow......i said the same thing when it came to parents now i am one myself whewwwwww pt.2 please tyte story