I have a new collection of poetry and short stories coming out later in the year, and as Life’s Rich Tapestry is now one year old, I thought I would share some stories from the collection over the next few weeks.
For the Love of Lily
Millicent Smith sat with her cat Lily on her lap and stared out of her living room window out on the quiet street. Automatically, her fingers gently moved to rub the inside of one of Lily’s velvety ears, eliciting a purr of contentment from her companion.
This was an after lunch treat for them both, and it was one of the moments that Millicent would miss the most, when the house was sold and she moved into the care home. It was the last thing that she wanted to do, but her son Daniel had been adamant that she could not look after herself properly any longer. He told her that he didn’t have the time with his job and family, to keep coming around whenever there was a minor emergency. Such as when she had scalded herself with boiling water, making a cup of tea last week.
Lily stirred and stretched one leg in front of the other. She hopped off onto the carpet and headed for the kitchen and cat-flap that gave her access to a walled garden. She would sometimes hop up onto the wall and survey the surrounding gardens, but she was very content these days to stick close to home, and being elderly in cat terms, leaving the hunting and other mischief to the younger generation in the neighbourhood.
Millicent sat thinking about the future and the options for making sure that Lily would be looked after. As an elderly cat, she would be so hard to rehome and tears ran down her cheeks at the thought of her beloved friend being unhappy. Lily had been with her since she had adopted her as tiny white and black kitten with a splodge on her nose at the local cat sanctuary. From that first day she had slept on the end of her bed on a pink knitted blanket. Millicent didn’t know what she would do waking up without that little tap on her face as a greeting each morning.
She roused herself and wiped her eyes. Daniel had arranged for an estate agent to come around this afternoon to do a valuation on the property. Her son had insisted that she leave everything to him to manage, so that she was not stressed, and had gone as far to have a power of attorney drafted and other papers enabling him to act on her behalf. She supposed at eighty years old he considered her incapable of running her own affairs, although she had managed very well in the ten years since her husband, Richard had died.
Daniel had taken her to visit the care home he felt would be suitable, and she had to admit it looked very comfortable. The rooms were spacious and she could take a few pieces of furniture, some pictures and small ornaments to make if feel more like home. But, the one thing she could not do, was take Lily with her.
She had mentioned this to Daniel and said that Lily might only be with her another five years, and perhaps they could delay her move into the home until she had passed away. But he shut her down firmly, restating the fact that she would be better off with someone on hand day and night, meals prepared for her and a nursing staff in attendance when needed. He said he and his family would come and see her one Sunday a month and that they would take her out to lunch, especially on holidays such as Christmas.
As he had gone around the car to open her door for her, Millicent wondered how he had become so detached and uncompromising. She had never made any demands on him, accepting that his once a month visit for an hour was all he could manage with his busy job and teenage family. She also understood that it was a worry as she got older as to her care, and that this was the sensible solution. But it brought with it sadness and a sense of loss that she had hoped never to feel.
She went into the kitchen and locked the cap flap. Lily would be fine outside on this sunny spring day whilst the estate agent was viewing the house, and she smiled as she saw her friend, sitting in the sunshine on top of the wall, queen of all she surveyed. Besides, Lily was not fond of Daniel, arching her back and waving her tail at him when he entered the house. She had even on one occasion hissed at him when he had put his hand on his mother’s arm to make a quite forcible point about this proposed move. The feeling was clearly mutual, as Daniel had worn a smug smile when he said he would personally take Lily to the rehoming centre for cats on the outskirts of town.
The garden was another aspect of her home that Millicent would miss. Even when her husband had been alive, she would spend hours outside, lovingly tending the small patch of grass, decorative bushes and large pots overflowing with colour. They had used to sit out in the summer evenings at the small round wrought iron table with a glass of wine and a bowl of cashew nuts, chatting about the day and the world, and tears threatened to flow again. Taking a deep breath and squaring her shoulders she walked down the tiled hall tidying the shelves and tables as she passed.
The doorbell chimed its cheery message, and she opened the door to find her son and a male companion waiting in the porch.
‘Alright mother, this is Mr. Johnson and he will be taking measurements today and looking at your receipts for the work you have had done over recent years on maintenance.’
She shook hands with the bespectacled young man, who smiled and headed off upstairs with a pad and what looked like a flashlight.
Daniel took her arm and edged her into the kitchen, pulling out a chair at the table.
‘Have you signed those papers I left with you mother,’ he paused and looked around for the package he had left a few days before.
‘Not yet Daniel, I wanted to read them through and ask Mr. Henderson from two doors down for his advice.’ She smiled tentatively at her stony faced son.
‘What are you doing discussing private business with that old interfering busybody for?’ He almost snarled at his now anxious mother. ‘This is why I need to take over your affairs and finances so that you don’t get persuaded to do something stupid.’
Twisting her hands nervously Millicent looked at her son lounging back in the chair, glaring back at her with narrowed eyes and a grim set to his mouth.
At that moment Lily scratched at the cat flap to be allowed back in and Daniel pointed a finger towards the door.
‘And that cat goes on Monday, I’ve made arrangements to take her after work, so make sure that she is ready with all her stuff by five pm.’
Millicent stood up and walked towards the back door. ‘I will be in the garden with Lily so that you and the agent can complete your business in peace.’ Outside she picked up the cat waiting patiently on the patio, and sat down at the table stroking her soft fur.
Half an hour later they had the house to themselves again and were about to settle down in front of the television when the doorbell rang again.
It was her neighbour Eric Henderson holding the papers in his hand that she had asked him to look over for her.
‘Can I come in Millie?’ She smiled as he was the only one who called her that. She stepped back to let him into the hall, and they settled down in the two side by side armchairs. Lily jumped from one arm to the other and purred as Eric gave her ears a rub, before leaping back on to Millicent’s lap.
‘I think we need to talk about the papers Millie,’ he reached out and touched her arm gently. ‘I am no solicitor, but over my years in business I have read a great many contracts, and there are things that concern me.’
Millicent looked at him enquiringly.
‘Your son wants you to hand over control of all your finances and care, including the proceeds from the sale of the house and all assets.’ Millicent nodded. ‘Yes, he said that it was for my benefit so that I did not worry about money or being taken care of in the future.’
Eric nodded. ‘That is a concern, but you are in excellent health, except for a few minor issues and you could live another 15 years or longer. Do you really want to be in a care home for that length of time?’ He reached over and patted her hand. ‘You wouldn’t be able to go out with friends for the day, go on trips or have a say in your health care or what you spend your money on.’
Millicent began to look worried so he took her hand in his. ‘Millie, my biggest concern is that the money from this house is not enough to pay the fees of the care home for more than five years, and should that be the case, you will be moved to a council run facility, which whilst adequate may not be what you are used to.’
Millicent stared down at the papers in her hand and knew that she had a decision to make.
‘What do I do Eric, Daniel is adamant that this should happen and I am afraid that if I don’t do as he wants, I will find myself alone and in difficulties in the future?’
Eric handed Millicent a pamphlet. ‘Take a look at this before making a decision Millie, and I think you will find that there are some support services and options that you can take advantage of, even if it is just a few years longer. That will allow your assets to grow with the property market and last longer.’ He smiled and took her hand again. ‘And don’t forget I am only a few doors down and in the same position. I am sure that we can help each other out in the meantime.’
Millicent blushed and gave him much more confident smile. Then she handed him Lily while she went off to make a pot of tea and a plate of homemade ginger nuts, her friend’s favourites.
On Monday after making some telephone calls, Millicent sat with Lily on her lap looking out of the window and the rain swept street. She saw her son draw up in his large black car and stood up to open the front door. As she did so, Daniel took a step back, seeing Lily comfortably clasped in his mother’s arms. ‘Mother, can you put that cat outside whilst we get this paperwork sorted and then put her in her carrier ready to go.’
Saying nothing, Millicent led the way through to the kitchen and sat with Lily on her lap. On the table a pile of papers were stacked neatly in front of the seat opposite. Daniel looked taken aback at this show of rebellion and flung the chair back and thumped down on the seat.
‘I take it that the papers have been signed mother and we can get on with our plan straight away.’
Millicent took a deep breath and scratched the cat’s neck.
‘Lily and I won’t be going anywhere Daniel.’
‘What are you talking about mother, don’t be stupid, this is the right solution for everyone.’
‘It might be for you dear, but not for me or Lily.’ Millicent stared down her son.
‘I won’t be bullied into moving and have rung the estate agent to tell them the house is not for sale’
Daniel moved to speak but she raised her hand.
‘Furthermore, I will be retaining the management of my finances, as your father set them up very carefully to ensure that I was taken care of. I have also looked at the options of using the spare bedroom upstairs for someone to live in should that become necessary. There are sufficient funds for that without me having to sell my home and leave behind all the memories of fifty years of marriage and happiness.’
Daniel stood and glared at his mother. ‘Well since you seem to think you know what you are doing, don’t come crying to me next time you hurt yourself or have a problem.’ With that he slammed out of the house and she heard the roar of an engine as it sped off down the street.
She was shaking and holding Lily a little bit too tightly, but instead of struggling, the cat lifted up her small face and licked the tears from Millicent’s face. A few minutes later the doorbell rang and Millicent opened the door to find Eric with a large bunch of fresh picked pink roses.
‘From my garden Millie and I thought you might like some company this evening. Would you like some fish and chips for supper in front on the telly?’
Millicent smiled and took the roses. ‘That would be lovely, and perhaps a small piece of rockfish for Lily if that is alright?’ With a cheery wave Eric headed down the path to the chippie, and Millicent and Lily went to put the roses in water and butter some new baked bread to go with the supper.
©Sally Cronin 2019
About Life’s RichTapestry: Woven in Words.
Life’s Rich Tapestry is a collection of verse, microfiction and short stories that explore many aspects of our human nature and the wonders of the natural world. Reflections on our earliest beginnings and what is yet to come, with characters as diverse as a French speaking elephant and a cyborg warrior.
Finding the right number of syllables for a Haiku, Tanka, Etheree or Cinquain focuses the mind; as does 99 word microfiction, bringing a different level of intensity to storytelling. You will find stories about the past, the present and the future told in 17 syllables to 2,000 words, all celebrating life.
This book is also recognition of the value to a writer, of being part of a generous and inspiring blogging community, where writing challenges encourage us to explore new styles and genres.
John Maberry – 31st October 2020 – Reviews of five books we recommend.
My review of Sally Cronin’s Life’s Rich Tapestry: Woven in Words, is short. We will add a few lines from the book after the review, for your consideration.
The book lives up to its title–indeed, Sally Cronin has woven a rich tapestry of life in words of many kinds. A variety of poetry–in forms unfamiliar in name to me, microfiction and short stories. What’s more, the graphic imagery of the short poems is inspiring to a person like me who has never really found poetry either appealing or easily understood. This time, for a change, the words grabbed me. I found meaningful passages that could be useful as well in prose writing as in poetry. Examples I must return to in settings or other places where showing and not telling is essential.
The microfiction and short stories were equally compelling. [As noted in the promo for the book coming up next from Eagle Peak Press, we will consider a combination of ingredients as Sally Cronin did—and more in this book]. She is a writer worth reading.
Here a poetry excerpt (not necessarily representative of the content of the whole):
“Memories are sharp
and as clear as the blue sky
smiles etched on my heart.”
Or consider this brief excerpt from the intro to a short story titled, “The Junkyard Dog.”
“Charlie was a junkyard dog and had the scars to prove it. He was head of security of this fenced off mass of scrap metal, dotted with mounds of old tyres he called home, and he took his job very seriously.”
A selection of other books