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Marigolds

A quiet moment in a mother-son relationship

By Wilkie StewartPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Marigolds
Photo by Krista Mangulsone on Unsplash

The clock ticked on the mantle-piece beside the porcelain children and the glass clowns. A special bed had been placed in the centre of the room, with a view out of the bay window. There was a faint mix of smells, the sweet scent of perfume and the bitterness of sweat.

He sat uncomfortable in the wooden chair and watched her closely, her lids fluttering every now and then, a whisper half-formed that could have been a breath. He touched her hand, and she woke, looking at him fearfully at first. Then her face relaxed into a smile. "Do you remember Johnny?" she asked. She often asked after his former lover. That relationship had only lasted a year and yet she homed in on it as one of the happiest of his life. 'He always made me laugh," she said. He had made everyone laugh, in public anyway. A clown with a vicious streak underneath. He put those thoughts away. This was about her, not you.

"Yes, he did," he said. She had always been supportive of his relationships. Well, almost all of them. The first, Brenda, she had been puzzled by. What on earth did he see in her, blunt as she could be when exasperated. What indeed. She had been much happier when he introduced a boyfriend the following year. His father had been less keen but knew better than to get in the way of the two of them when they had decided on something.

The nurse came in from the kitchen and asked quietly if she wanted another shot. She said no, thank you, it's a bit better now. The nurse smiled, glanced at him, then left the room.

"Do you need any more water?" he asked, noticing the dryness of her voice. He lifted the bottle to her lips, and she took a sip but nothing more. He followed her glance out the window. He'd put in a bed of colorful flowers, unsure of their names or suitability, and already they were looking worse for wear. She hadn't said anything when he'd brought them home. Or rather she had just said "lovely" in the same sort of way she had said about any birthday gift that hadn't passed muster, to be quietly put away in a drawer, and later dropped off in a charity shop. The garden should have been developing nicely at this time of year, bursting into bright displays all through June to September, without fail even in the dullest of Summers or the wettest of Springs. He had never inherited her green fingers. He hadn't inherited much from her really, a fact he'd only realized after his father had died and he'd grown older, looking more like the old man every day and developing his grumpiness.

She wasn't looking at the beds. Beyond them, her marigolds were proudly standing out, soaking up the weak July sun. She turned her head. "Are you still not seeing anyone?" she said. "You mustn't give up."

He shook his head. He was nearly sixty, balding, overweight, living alone, and the thought of trying again, of competing with those on social media who seemed to be having the time of their lives, overwhelmed him. He tried not to think of it. "Plenty of time for that..." he said.

There was a tear in her eye, and he gently wiped it away with a tissue.

"There's not you know," she said. She was looking again at the garden. A bird was hopping through the flowers looking for bugs. She smiled and squeezed his hand. "At least we got to see the marigolds," she said.

immediate family

About the Creator

Wilkie Stewart

Writer of strange little tales living in Glasgow, Scotland. A former IT professional who loves literary fiction, poetry, Eurovision, art-house film, post-crossing, and comics. Walks daily with his camera when he can. @werewegian1 on Twitter

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    Wilkie StewartWritten by Wilkie Stewart

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