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The Long and Painful Death of Sandie Malone

lost, never to be forgotten

By Caroline JanePublished 3 months ago • Updated 3 months ago • 10 min read
Top Story - November 2023
42
The Long and Painful Death of Sandie Malone
Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

November, 2023, Colorado Desert.

Mam, before we begin, I just want to say that I will be offering no apology for betraying you at your funeral. It was the best thing I could have done. I don't even mind if you do come back and haunt me. I think I would enjoy that.

I miss you.

Your funeral were like you said it would be, mostly anyway. Aunty Jenny did get drunk. It suited her. Who would have known the old goth could be so funny? I mean, it were hardly the time or the place, but we have never been a family to follow rules, social or otherwise. So, in a way, it seemed fitting. You would have approved once you'd gotten over the fact that they'd all been through yer knicker drawer.

Sorry, Mam, but it weren't how you feared it would be. I promise yer. None of 'em were like crows round carrion. I mean, yes, they were all in black, except for Uncle Rodger, who came in a pink suit. Some kind of avant-garde statement. Only he and fuck, knows why. None of 'em were there to pick over yer bones. None of 'em cursed the day you were born. It were nothing like that at all. Honest to God. When it came to that, it were the opposite to what you said it would be—the exact opposite.

I think deep down I knew I were always going to do it too, but I kept hearing your voice all the time, "This stuff ain't for the likes of them, Layne; they don't understand, you don't need that in yer life...," you know how you were Mam, you don't need me to remind yer. I honestly wasn't going to share any of your stuff, but then summat odd happened. I were stood next to cousin Cath, who were nursing half a lager and talking to Rodger like he were normal. I weren't really listening until, in the middle of their blather, I heard her say me Dad's name like it were nowt. She didn't whisper it or cough apologetically after saying it; she didn't substitute it for his usual title, "The Bastard." She just casually said it like she were talking about any of us. "Our Robert," that's what she said. "Our." "Robert." I think in the quagmire of all the emotion, to hear summat as concrete as that were just, well... it were like being all at sea and finding new ground, you know, summat you could stand on and raise yer head.

Anyway, the next thing I knew, I'd said, "Would you like to see some pictures?" And that were it. Easy as that. It were like his name had broken some curse, and the rest just followed. As I say, you can haunt me if you like Mam.

For what it's worth, they liked the picture of you and me Dad on stage the most. Cousin Cath said that's how she remembered you best, off yer tits and having a good time. I had to laugh at that. I so wish I'd known you then.

Maybe not the drugs part.

The only drug I ever saw you with were yer sodding fags, and as for the good times, well, we had a few Mam, but we both know they were sparse. But, yeah... in that picture, everyone agreed you looked like a different woman. You looked free... wildly free.

I had never thought of you as free before I saw that picture. Wild occasionally, feral sometimes, but never free. Yet, in that picture, up there on the stage in yer bright blue hotpants and white thigh-high boots, shimmering in gold body glitter, while me Dad went hell-for-leather on't' drums behind yer- you really do look properly free, Mam. You look alive.

Coachella, 1999. That's what's written on the back of that picture.

It were taken just before Dad killed himself.

I don't know if you were aware or not, but I sat next to yer, in that old velvet blue chair of yours, every day for the last few week. I'd sit and stare at yer, wondering if I should hold yer hand as you lay there. You looked beautiful, by the way, all laid out within the proscenium arch of our Victorian Bay window. It didn't matter about the wires or the tubes; you looked serene. Like a wilted lily, all swaddled in white with yer long blonde hair cascading around yer sallowy little frame. Day in and day out, I'd sit there, thinking and watching. Mesmerised. The sun would bleed through the nets from the east, and the ghouls that live in your tar-stained anaglypta would slowly rise around us, moving with the sun as it banked along the low winter horizon before falling away in the west. The Manchester traffic would pass by on the street outside in shivers, and Nan's old carriage clock would tick a light and eerie score, harmonising with the insistent sighs of your ventilator.

It were like we were in some kind of dire film noir, "The Long and Painful Death of Sandie Malone," co-starring her son, lanky Layne, as either the villain or the brooding detective. I am still not sure which, likely, depending on the day, both.

I wouldn't recommend it; it's got a rotten tomato score of zilch.

Mind you, if it hadn't been for the time I spent sitting there with you, I doubt I would have ever read yours or me Dad's notebooks. Mam, why did you never tell me how much you two had it going on? One of the newspaper cuttings described you and me Dad, as "rock and roll poets that unearth ugly truths and fire them into audiences in a hail disguised as bridal confetti." Shit. That's legendary. It could have been the only good review from the 1999 Woodstock. I understand why you kept it.

Well Mam, today, I guess the apple has not fallen too far from that tree because I have an ugly truth to talk to you about. I'm not standing in front of a baying crowd bearing my soul, but Mam, this is serious, and it is ugly, but I figure if I can't say it to your ashes, I'll never be able to say it at all. So, before we part company, here goes...

I know you killed yourself, Mam, and I know now that you got me to help you.

Sure, it says Lung Cancer on your death certificate, but you organised the conditions for the cancer to thrive. It may not have been the archetypal quick death by suicide, not like my Dad's bullet in the head, but I look now, and I see it were the same. You were always coughing and wheezing while rummaging around your handbag looking for more fags. You could have hacked up half a lung, and you'd have gone and sparked up another. Jees, you even sent me to the shop to buy 'em for you. I hate that I did that. I must have been stupid to enable you like I did. All the hallmarks of death by suicide were there: the depression, the despair, the self-hate, the desperate great pain. Smoking was not just a fix for you. It were a sustained and dedicated suffocation. You may have hidden that truth in plain sight, but I see now. I know what you did.

The enduring image I have of you is so far away from that woman in the hot pants on the stage at Coachella. It's crazy. That woman strides out unapologetically, screaming at the world, the heat of the desert rising from the crowd of people before her in an electrified haze of adoration. The woman I knew sat in her old blue chair in the front room of her little terraced house near enough every night of the week with the curtains drawn, hiding from the world amongst the ghouls she created, behind a veil of cigarette smoke, tinged red by the muted light from her brocade standard lamp. She'd be leafing through all of her old pictures and notebooks, and she'd sob. The only person to ever see her was me through a crack in the door on my way out or in or on my way to bed.

I would have comforted you, you know. But you didn't want that, did you?

I used to think your manic, maudlin privacy was because you didn't want to be hurt any more, that you needed space and privacy after the furore that followed me Dad's death, that you were scared by the cruelty of public judgement. I thought I was protecting you when I answered the phone and said you weren't in, or when we pretended you'd gone away on a trip that you hadn't, or when I promised I wouldn't let the family see your treasured photos and notebooks after you were dead.

It was all a lie.

It was the exact opposite of what you said.

None of it had anything to do with protecting you from getting hurt. I see now that the hurt is all you had. It meant more to you than life itself. You would have done anything to protect it. You went as far as becoming your own worst enemy and recruiting your son as an accomplice.

I get it. Sharing risked comfort, and being open risked healing. All of it threated your pain, and that was all you had. I believe now that the only light in your life was the sight of your inevitable death.

But Mam, you are dead now; you have gone into the light forever, and I ain't going to be your accomplice any longer. You can call it a betrayal if you like. You can come back and tell me that I have dishonoured you, but all I need to do is to look at that picture of you in yer hotpants on the stage, here, at the site of that first Coachella back in 1999, and I know that sharing your stuff, celebrating your life, is the best thing I can do.

I am not going to stand by and watch your memory fade Mam. I owe it to the Sandie Malone in those pictures, notebooks, and newspaper cuttings. I shall play your music, I shall display your photos, I shall talk about how you lived. I shall go on and atone for my sin by orchestrating your fucking resurrection.

As I cast your ashes out into the desert, into sands that vibrate with the memory of that first and fateful Coachella, I hope your spirit finds peace with me Dad. I wish you both well. I love you Mam. You will no longer be hidden. Your pain will be shared. I shall make it my mission to amplify your voice. Now, from dust to dust, I shall start as I mean to go on, giving voice to your words as written by your hand.

I came from nothing. It was a quiet, monotonous tyranny.

I miss it.

So much matters in heaven and hell. It gets loud. Too loud.

A thousand voices in agony scream for five minutes of salvation;

the wails of their freedom will never break their chains.

It's all the same to me.

The silence that rings after the shot of a gun.

The screams of a baby after the death of great love.

The sweet song of a jailbird caged by its fear.

It's all treason to the judgemental ear,

and it's all the same to me.

They say there are treasures in silence.

Yet, I know that all that glitters is not gold.

And gold itself is for fools.

So I shall drift in golden sands, like you...

Both alive and dead.

I was always lost.

Anyway,

You may as well have put that bullet through my head.

It was all the same to me.

Engulfed in the desert's parched silence

I was nothing but another grain of sand in the wind.

Short StoryCONTENT WARNING
42

About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.

Reader insights

Outstanding

Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  1. Masterful proofreading

    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (31)

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  • Paul Stewart2 months ago

    Why did I leave to read this until now. Sorry, Caroline. This is just breathtaking. Characterisation tht makes you feel for the characters, check, some deep, hard-hitting truths revealed, check, compelling and believeable story, check. Just, sublime. Nothing else I can really say. Only that this could have easily won...so glad they picked it though. Congrats, big ole congrats!

  • Davina Z. McKee2 months ago

    Big congrats! You are killing it. 💕

  • Shirley Belk2 months ago

    Caroline Jane, this is a first place winner for me! I felt it and believed it... You really got to the soul of your characters...I understood them because you told their story. Bravo!

  • D.K. Shepard2 months ago

    Congrats! Enthralling character voice!

  • Mother Combs3 months ago

    Congrats. Caroline

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    Woohoo! Congrats,.my queen.

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    Wonderful! So pleased to see this wonderfulness gaina spot! Congratulations 🤍🥰

  • The Dani Writer3 months ago

    Congratulations on your win Caroline! Apologies that I cannot read it due to my 'sensitivities' but super pleased for you 😊

  • I feel like this is the longest win streak in Vocal history. Every time results are published I go in subconsciously searching for your name instead of my own, and there you are! What’s the secret??

  • KJ Aartila3 months ago

    A great story! You have an awesome way to tell a tale and provide a message. :)

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    . Kudos! Keep excelling in your work—congratulations❤️❤️💕

  • Mark Gagnon3 months ago

    I liked how you put yourself in the son/accomplice's head. I had a little trouble with the accent at times, but it lent itself to the overall story. Congrats on TS!

  • Babs Iverson3 months ago

    Mam, that was one down right impress tale!!! Congratulations on Top Story!!! ❤️❤️💕

  • Tiffany Gordon 3 months ago

    Whoa you set this page on fire! This was phenomenal in everyway! Truly gifted you're Madam Caroline! BRAVO!

  • Davina Z. McKee3 months ago

    This left me with questions about the narrator… like what kind of accent even is that? Are they daft? Are they brilliant? A combination of both? But one thing for sure is that I got a very clear picture of the deceased. This was an amazing character study. I like Uncle Rodger. That ending (poem? song?) was a masterpiece. Wish I could write something like that. 🤩 It was clever of you to incorporate Coachella into the desert prompt.

  • Margaret Brennan3 months ago

    excellent and GREAT story telling.

  • Lamar Wiggins3 months ago

    I always learn something about writing when I read your work. This piece was no exception. Your use of language and the subtlety of vivid descriptions were very effective. Well done and congrats! 😍

  • Melissa Ingoldsby3 months ago

    Astonishingly raw and angry, very well written piece with vivid details and imagery

  • JBaz3 months ago

    Back to say congratulations

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    There ya go! Congrats on the TS.

  • Dana Crandell3 months ago

    Well, this just came to life before my eyes. Absolutely brilliant!

  • JBaz3 months ago

    There was so many good and beautiful lines throughout this entire peace. The language was brilliantly done. Reality of a different form of suicide, scary in truth. Caroline, you out did yourself with this one.

  • PK Colleran3 months ago

    Convincing, real, authentic. Great writing, Caroline Jane. 💕

  • What a unique take on this. Loved the concept of Smoking as a slow suicide. The writing at the end the way you were able to stay in the characters voice was grand. Well done

  • "I believe now that the only light in your life was the sight of your inevitable death." This line was so deep and dare I say extremely relatable. I love how she died, an intentional slow suicide. Slow enough for people not to think it was suicide because they wouldn't have known she was enabling the cancer. Also, I love how you incorporated that ending line in as a poem. That was brilliant. Loved your story!

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