Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is The Future Forwards Or Backwards When All Is At A Standstill?


A couple of houses down the street, there’s an old woman who lives with her son. She’s pretty sprightly for her age, and always cheery in spite of her circumstances. Her son has Alzheimers. When we first moved in to Chez Whirl, we though he was her husband, he looked so drawn.


Most days, he shuffles up and down outside the house in his slippers, and he’s always got a fag on. It’s clearly a struggle for him to light them and his fingers are like scorched bark. Some nights, when Girly of Whirly and I are sat sprawled in front of the TV, or having a heated argument requiring the hurling of fruit and marshmallows, he’ll knock at the door to let us know the car is unlocked. One night, he walked right in to our living room while we were having tea. This is what he does as he shuffles up and down — this, and returning stray cats. If you’ve never experienced someone turning up on your doorstep with a cat every 20 minutes during The X Factor, believe me, it isn’t funny. Especially if it’s the same cat. Right now it’s Bongo from four streets away (clearly she has issues) but it’s only a matter of time before it’s Kashka again. Or his mum’s out and he needs help unlocking his front door.

So, tonight, I found him in my local corner shop on my way back from town. He was standing at the counter in his slippers, his bones stacked up over his ankles by the same miraculous force of nature that stops drunks falling flat on their faces. Only not funny. I have no idea how he’d managed to buy anything — his powers of speech have been reduced to an idiot mumble. So I suppose he must have wandered round and picked up something he fancied and presented it to the nearest person, same as he does with the cats.

But here’s the thing.

When the girl behind the counter gave him his change, he hovered in the air for an age, like he hadn’t the faintest idea who he was or what he was supposed to do. The girl’s face crinkled up with embarrassment as she visibly shrank a few inches, and for a moment, I thought I was about to witness “a scene”.

I was.

He tipped his handful of 5ps and coppers into a Guide Dogs For The Blind tin a single shaky coin at a time, then shuffled out of the shop into oblivion.

19 comments:

Kiersten said...

Sometimes life is so achingly sad I wonder how anyone carries on.

Then my children laugh, and I know.

Beautifully written, Whirl.

Litgirl01 said...

This made me laugh and cry all at the same time.

writtenwyrdd said...

What a sad scene, but beautifully rendered, Whirl.

I think Alzheimers is about the most frightening prospect of all things bad that could happen to a person.

Whirlochre said...

Morning, Litgirl — hope you stick around. If your avatar depicts Shakespeare (and not just some other bald, pointy-bearded, ruff-wearing writer dude with a great line in skulls), you may have to add a touch of auburn to his bonce as a new painting has been discovered depicting the bard as a faux hunk. Having looked at the eyes of this "new young Shakespeare", personally, I think it's a stunt got up by Derren Brown (see http://www.derrenbrown.co.uk/)

Meanwhile — definitely sad stuff, folks. More horrid brain stuff posts to follow later in the year.

JaneyV said...

What amazes me about the various forms of dementia (and I've had some experience here) is not how the person we know is lost - that we expect - it's the random moments of lucidity where a connection is made. They are like finding a gold nugget in a stream of jagged rocks.

The saddest part, though, is the hope they give you.

McKoala said...

The poor mother; what a difficult thing for her to have to carry on her shoulders.

Natalie said...

This is so sad. My mother has worked with Alzheimer's patients, and the stories she brings back are always like this—touching and then so, so sad.

She mostly recently cared for a woman in stage seven who loved bananas in her vegetable soup, but also shrieked in horror at having to take a bath in front of someone. But she couldn't do it herself.

Tara Maya said...

Wow. That's like something I would usually read published someplace, for instance here: http://www.smokelong.com/flash/lianelemaster23.asp

Whirlochre said...

That's nice to know, Tara, especially as I may start generating more flash fiction soon.

I have these lumps on my back, see? I went to toe doctor to check out whether or not it was a manitou, or some kind of alien with very bad TMJ syndrome — but no. Looks like I have a potential flash fiction rash.

And yes — it's a grim thing, isn't it? Sometimes things are difficult to handle even with a fully functioning brain and powers of reason.

Writer from Hell said...

beautiful.. there's magic in your writing!!

Whirlochre said...

Greetings, writer from Hell.

Tell the world!

Right now, my magic wand is floppier than a stick of month old celery...

writtenwyrdd said...

Whirl, your capacity for bawdy allusion is awesome. Even if it is limp as month-old celery.

Whirlochre said...

Hrmphhh!

I used to drive a very nice vomit yellow 1985 Bawdy Allusion, if you please...

Carrie Harris said...

I used to manage a center for patients with degenerative brain diseases, and this really got me. Fabulous story.

I think I'll go play with my Richard Simmons baby picture for a while to cheer myself up.

Um... that shouldn't have sounded as pervy as it did.

Whirlochre said...

Luckily I had my anti-pervy dungarees on, so no harm done.

scarlet-blue said...

Ah, poor thing... the future beckons.
Sx

Litgirl01 said...

Really? Shakespeare was hot? :-D

I'll definitely stick around...love your sense of "humour"! ;-)

Robin S. said...

Whirl. This was gorgeous. I was there with you, reading it. I saw it with you - the sad humor and human frailty of it all.

Thank you.

Robin S. said...

I think you should send this out as a piece of flash fiction. Maybe 3 AM. Have you seen it?