Author Topic: Coffee Morning  (Read 19380 times)

Offline 510bhan

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Coffee Morning
« on: March 30, 2014, 11:34:07 PM »
Hi - trying to get over my dislike for present tense and to provide a character study within a story [loose term here]. I wanted to explore the reality of old age for a female character. :-[


Coffee Morning

Valerie’s visiting today. Need to look smart, show I’m not past it. I can cope on my own. Still got my marbles and I’m not incontinent, just a little slow.

May hitches into the kitchen to check the progress of the chocolate eclairs thawing on the countertop. God bless, Carole, she’s done the breakfast dishes too and the tray’s all laid out.

May reaches for a hairbrush. She winces, convinced another ailment has come to accompany arthritic aches and rheumatic pains and thinks she’d better try before her shoulder atrophies through disuse. If she could shrug she would, but raises her brow instead. Soon be dead. Why bother? She shakes her head, instantly regrets it and grasps the darned brush to fix her hair. A comb would be better but it’s harder to hold.

Knots, like knuckle bones, seem calcified, oversized and sore but she tugs short, rough strokes, hopes they catch the matted tats, and pulls, eyes shut. Face screwed up, she refuses to cry.

After half an hour, strands unravelled now, she shuffles on her frame to the mirror. A clip will grip her fringe in the style when she was twenty. One hand leans on the basin to steady her as she pins the curl. Chin low, almost resting on her pigeon chest, her eyes roll in her sockets as she guesses where the clip should go. Golly, it’s hard to do one-handed. May tries to straighten her stoop. The dowager’s hump is so pronounced she can’t lift her head fully. But she persists and gives a toothless grin at the result. Ooh, must remember my dentures.

The rest of the morning she grapples with getting dressed, opts for wide band pop socks rather than tights. They snag on her corns and cling to her bunions but slip over the thick blue worms on her calves. Next, a petticoat to prevent static.  May plonks on the bed and swings her legs to get them through the hole, grabs her Zimmer to stand and shimmies the slinky fabric over her ample hips. No knickers – too fussy when you have to negotiate pulling up a skirt and pulling down a pair of panties on a high-seated toilet aid. Saves time. Much easier to clean yourself afterwards too.  No brassiere either – the straps cut into her shoulders, the hooks are impossible to do up and no amount of wriggling ever settles her sagging breasts into the puckered cups. Pert is in the past. And so she proceeds with her endeavours to complete the task of adding top layers to underwear with small breaks between each garment to recover from the effort. Shoes. She spends an age trying to find a pair of shoes which still fit her deformed feet. Catalogue cripple boots would spoil the delicate combination of fabrics and drape. Oh, mercy, there must be something. But there is nothing. May settles on a pair of silver grey slippers with a purple satin bow and slides her feet in. A little smear of lipstick and a dusting of petal pink rouge adds colour to her face. Perfume from a stoppered bottle, she dabs on wrists and throat.

She gets the job done before lunch. Skirt with elasticated waist, easy to step into. Camisole – no tricky neckline or armholes or buttons, and a loose fitting cashmere cardigan that allows sleeve-pulling without awkward movement. She frowns at the outfit, feels frumpy and dowdy. Sartorial elegance doesn’t trump comfort and practicality. Those days are gone, along with her figure and mobility. But she sniffs, defiant, resigned – she’s not sure – and smoothes the skirt free of wrinkles before she takes another look. The lilac colours suit her fair complexion and a brooch on a scarf might lift the ensemble.  May plucks a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggles to position it with its fiddly pin.

The doorbell rings. May presses the button to release the security catch and Valerie breezes in. May smiles. “Hello. You look lovely, darling.”

Mwah. Mwah.
“Oh, dear,” perky Valerie says. She moues and extends a manicured hand that brushes against May’s cheek. May notices the slender fingers and their easy movement. “Look at that droopy barrel curl. Who on earth got you ready today, Mother?” She removes the clip, whips the hair around her fingers and secures it in a moment. “Can’t stay long, only have half an hour.” She tidies a pile of magazines and puts them out of reach on the window sill. “Behind on things after doing the laundry this morning and helping Mrs Jones, poor woman. Finally got that shrub clipped back too.” Valerie tut tuts at the sickly looking cyclamen and fetches a jug of water to rehydrate it.
May sits and watches.

“Hardly had time to fit in the gym and get the Christmas decorations out of the loft. Having lunch with the girls from the choir.” The silver framed photograph attracts Valerie’s weaselly eye. She draws a tissue from her cuff and buffs the metal with it before she returns the frame to the sideboard – in the wrong place. “So what have you been doing today?” She pats May’s hair and gives a patronising smile.

May thinks for a moment. Valerie is busy plumping sofa cushions and not even looking at her.

Does she really care? Resentment burns her skin.  Who got me ready? Fixing my magazines? Polishing the photo frame? Watering the plant – as if it’s a help. Just point out my inadequacies why don’t you? You’ve no idea how hard it is. I won’t cry. I won’t. She’ll find out when it happens.

“Mother?” Valerie’s expression suggests she wants a reply.

“Oh, the usual, struggling through. Mustn’t grumble.”
« Last Edit: March 31, 2014, 12:19:37 PM by 510bhan »

Offline 2par

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2014, 07:04:34 AM »
Ouch

Offline wanderer

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #2 on: March 31, 2014, 09:30:29 AM »
A lot of detail, but it held my interest and could read through it, Very dark and poignant, but realistic. I liked it. A few words I think are unique to the UK.

Quote
A comb would better but it’s harder to hold.

A comb would be better but it's harder to hold.

Quote
She spends and age trying to find a pair of shoes which still fit her deformed feet.

She spends an age. . .

Quote
May plucks a large black onyx brooch with diamond accents from her jewellery box and struggles to position it with its fiddly pin.
Spelling: jewellery

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2014, 10:53:29 AM »
Sio, this is good enough that it drew me in and at the end, I so wished someone would throttle Valerie - a good daughter or even visitor she isn't.

The one thing that threw me a bit was  "Mwah. Mwah."  I'm sure the word has some meaning. I just have no idea what it is.
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2014, 11:37:18 AM »
Thank you 2par.

Bill - appreciate you catching the typos, I shall go and correct ;) Jewellery is UK spelling.

Alice -- Mwah = an air kiss.

I am so glad Valerie came across as not the daughter/visitor you'd want. She probably thinks she's being really helpful.




Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2014, 11:50:52 AM »
Quote
Alice -- Mwah = an air kiss.

Ugh - that makes her even more the daughter I wouldn't want around.  :(
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2014, 11:52:12 AM »
 ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

May is too polite to say anything.

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2014, 12:05:28 PM »
;D ;D ;D ;D ;D

May is too polite to say anything.

I understood that, not a problem. I'm just not the type to sit quiet.  ;)
MWC Charity Publications.
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight>
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

R. L. Copple's: http://www.rlcopple.com/

I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Offline junel

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2014, 12:58:42 PM »
Hi - trying to get over my dislike for present tense and to provide a character study within a story [loose term here]. I wanted to explore the reality of old age for a female character. :-[

There's nothing wrong with disliking present tense, no one's saying you have to write in that fashion, write with what you are comfortable, it's fine.  ;)

You know, I was going to do a line-by-line crit of the first few paragraphs, but then I thought, this is clearly no more than a writing exercise so doesn't really call for a line-by-line. What it only requires is an appraisal of the reason why you wrote it, to flex your writing muscles on present tense. On that, as far as I can see, you've done fine. I'm not getting the impression this has been written by someone who "dislikes" present tense.  ;)

Well done, -Junel.  :)

Offline 510bhan

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2014, 01:24:26 PM »
Thanks, junel -- yes, more of an exercise than a finished product. It might be useful for me whenever some of my characters need to be in present tense for scenes/flashbacks. ;)

Offline junel

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2014, 01:34:03 PM »
sorry, i tend not to make myself clear -- what i really meant was write to your strengths, not your weaknesses.

but the point you make is a fair one, better to be a well rounded writer, with many strengths.  :)

Offline bri h

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #11 on: March 31, 2014, 03:27:11 PM »
Isn't it better in PT to italicise a couple of thoughts, Shvon? Or did I get that one wrang?
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Offline 510bhan

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #12 on: March 31, 2014, 03:28:23 PM »
Personal style choice. If you know or can guess it's thoughts -- why italicise? :-\

Offline Clarius

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2014, 03:47:04 PM »
Poignant and touching. A mix of internal monologue and third person perspective. Would first person have worked better? A little too much about her getting dressed. Does it seem a little voyeuristic to anyone? Did you miss a trick with the tray and the tea. There's a piece I read once, I wish I could remember the title, in which the author made the simple act of preparing and serving a cup of tea seem, to the aged protagonist, like a labour worthy of Hercules.
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us

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Offline 510bhan

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Re: Coffee Morning
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2014, 04:04:04 PM »
Hi, Clarius, this was meant to be deliberately heavy regarding personal care -- I avoided the tray laid out and took a short cut by having Carole [the carer] having prepared it earlier, implying it was a difficult thing to do.

Many of us appreciate how hard it is for older folk to perform such tasks but I don't think many of us realise quite how hard it is simply to get dressed when there are aches and pains restricting movement and the choices they might make over garments which look fuddy-duddy. I used to watch my elderly aunt and try to help her -- painful just to watch. Anyway, I hope anyone reading this has a little insight to the difficulties an older person faces and the problems they have to overcome.

Thanks for reading. ;D