Day 6: A Mother’s Son

Write about a person who would buy all of those items in Day 5.

She stands in the aisle staring at the biscuits. She can never make up her mind between the Jaffa Cakes or the chocolate chip cookies with the hazelnuts in them. Tony would want the cookies; he hated Jaffa Cakes. ‘It’s not a real biscuit,’ he always said, ‘If I can’t dunk it in my tea then it’s not a real biscuit.’ But Luke most definitely wants the Jaffa Cakes. They were his favourite. He’ll kick up a fuss in the middle of the shop if she didn’t choose them. This is the dilemma she faces every Monday afternoon when she comes to the supermarket. Inevitably she will choose the cookies, like she does every week. Luke has been playing up all day, he doesn’t deserve the Jaffa Cakes. She drops the cookies in her trolley, not looking at the Jaffa Cakes as she walks past them.

One day she might pick the Jaffa Cakes. Then Luke might behave and she wouldn’t have to get so angry.

She goes to the bread counter and picks up some of the brown paper bags at the side, bumping into another woman reaching for a bag as well. She mumbles an apology but the other woman doesn’t look at her, just pulls her hand away as if she’s been burned. She watches as the woman hurries to the other end of the counter. She knows what the woman is thinking. She should be able to control her child. What’s the point of a mother who can’t keep her own son calm?

She chooses the bread she always does: two baguettes and a loaf of ciabatta. Tony likes ciabatta for his lunch. She places them in the trolley next to the cookies. She pretends not to see the eyes of other shoppers on her as she moves to the vegetable aisle. She knows what they see, a mother who can’t discipline her child. Tony always told her she should be disciplining him more often. Then he wouldn’t have these outbursts all the time. She notices a shop assistant walking towards her but ignores him. He is probably just worried that Luke is bothering the other shoppers. He can get so loud when he’s having one of his tantrums.

She picks up the head of broccoli that she always gets. She likes making stir fries. They’re quick and easy. But Luke just shouts more. He hates broccoli, she can’t make him eat it. She puts it in the trolley. His screams echo through the shop as she walks down the aisle.

She reaches the far end, stopping the trolley at the fruit section and reaches for a bunch of bananas. Luke’s screams tear through her skull. She can see people watching her as they walk past. She has to get out of here. She forgets about the bananas and abandons the trolley at the end of the aisle. She bumps into the shop assistant as she hurries out. He asks her if she is okay. How does he know her name? But she is gone before she can answer. She glances back through the door as she tries to remember where she has parked her car. The shop assistant has taken her trolley and is putting the cookies back on the shelf.

She darts to her car and gets inside, slamming the door behind her. Luke is screaming in the back seat. She feels the anger rising from her stomach, getting caught in her throat. She wants to scream right back at him. Why couldn’t he just shut up? Why couldn’t he just do what he was told and behave? All of this because she wouldn’t buy him Jaffa Cakes. She looks in her rearview mirror to see Luke in the back seat. He’s not crying, he’s just screaming. He’s just being a little brat and she wants to smack him. Why couldn’t he just behave? She could have finished her shopping, brought it all back to car, driven home and everything would have been fine. He should have just behaved.

But as she sits in the car, looking at the empty seat in the back she knows it wasn’t his fault. She’s his mother, she shouldn’t have gotten so angry at him. She should have been able to keep him calm, or at least keep herself calm. If she hadn’t been so angry she wouldn’t have been shouting. She would have been paying attention. She would have seen the car coming up behind them. She wouldn’t have stepped on the pedal so hard. The other car would have had time to see her pulling out, to slow down. She wouldn’t have to come back to this supermarket every week, reliving that day in the hopes that she could somehow change it. But she knows she can’t; it always ends the same way.

She sits in the front seat and cries.

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