Ask Me About Saturdays
by Dulcie Stone
At breakfast he tells me: "You should have been there. The
girls were asking about you."

        "The girls don't work."

        "What's wrong with you?"

        If he don't know -

        "You sore at me?" Waiting to fight.

        "No," what's the point? "I didn't sleep too good."

        "You were snoring when I got up."

        Look who's talking.

        The kids dribble in to get waited on. Them under my feet is not
good for starting this day.

        "Did you ask Dad about my party?" Rina, not about to leave us
in peace.

        "She did." He answers for us. "You can have it in your own

        "Dad!" She's got her whine down pat.

        "What's so special about McDonald's?"

        "They all do it."

        "Not my family. In my day our mothers put on the parties. They
were real parties. I remember Mum. We - "

        "Don't be so old-fashioned, Dad." Wayne's on Rina's side.

        Watch it!

        Sure enough, he blows.

        "You keep out of this!"

        "Thanks for nothing." Rina goes for Wayne, too. "Now he'll
never give in."

        "Who said anything about giving in? I just want time to make up
my mind."

        We all know he's going to let het go.

        "Mum said I could." She's not even helping herself.

        "Your mother said, did she? So why ask me? You'll do what you
want, anyway."

        Sulks and silence, lessons learned from a long time.

        No talk from no-one, just the sounds of knives and forks and
plates and loud busy concentrating-on-other-things chewing.

        Jamie slurps the milk from his weeties; the noise cracks my
head. While they're not looking I grab a couple of asprin.


        "Yes, Jamie?" No peace, for sure.

        "You get the school note?"

        "What note?"

        "You didn't give it to her, stupid." Rina again, spoiling for

        "I don't remember a school note lately."

        "I told you!" She slams down her cup of tea, races for Jamie's

        "It's my note." Jamie's after her.

        Crash, in the passage.

        Bill up, roaring.

        The sink spins, I hang on. Don't move, you'll make it worse.
For a second everything's black, then red.

        It's over.

        The fight has stopped.

        "I forgot it." Jamie's crying.

        "Don't cry, love." It'd be nice to hug him.

        The envelope's sticky from marmalade and dirty from the bottom
of his school bag. It's dated a week ago.

        "What is it?" Bill's back in place.

        "A parent teacher meeting tonight." It comes out calm.

        "What for?"

        "It doesn't say."

        "It's about the middle of term reports." Rina always knows.
"You both have to go. Mine's next week."

        "Why not both the one night?"

        "They fit in what they can."

        "They split family nights on purpose - to give us all a chance."

        "Nice - they must know what spare time I've got."

        "You've got ours too, Mum. Next month."

        "Thanks for the warning, Gary."

        "I can't stand them things." Bill, true to form.

        "It's your son's future." Worth a try.

        "You can tell me what they say."

        "Lots of fathers go, Dad."

        "Not this one. I missed the boys at the pub last night."

        "If you're expecting us to mind the brats," Wayne puts in,
"forget it. We've got a student meeting."

        "You'll go, Mum? You'll go?" Jamie's begging.

        "Sure, love. I'll go."

        "We don't have to have baby-sitters." Rina dumps her dishes in
the sink, glares at the tea-towel.

        "You're not old enough, girl." Bill's dirty dishes land beside
hers. "I'll come home early. Your mother can go for both of us."

        Wayne and Gary are on their way. "Can we have tea early?"

        "What time is this meeting of Jamie's?"

        "I'll tell Miss you're coming."

        "I thought you didn't want her to go?" Rina's up to something.

        "She's got to. They all do."

        "You're scared she don't go, they'll - "

        "What about tea early?"

        "What time is the meeting?"

        "We have to leave. We're late."

        "I'll be home early - "

        "There's no time for these." Tea-towels dumped.

        Everyone talking at once. The words beat like a cake mixer's
got hold of them, jumbling them into a sticky mess.

        Idiotic - take six ounces of words and mix and cook for half an
hour and serve hot -

        His hand again. "Keep it warm for me, hon."

        It calls back feeling, realness. Worry.

        "You won't be late, Bill? Promise?"

        "Seven. I'll be home at seven."

        Bus waiting at the corner, driver revving the motor, passengers
half asleep, smoke haze, stink of garlic from the ethnics,
nothing new.

        Work. Boss panicking. "There's a new order. An extra hundred
rounds. Get started."

        No hullo nice to see you how was your night. What's new?

        On with the uniform, the old one mended, ironed, smelling of
lemon detergent not cheap.

        Head down, thin margarine scraped even, thin meat, fine-chopped
lettuce, thin cheese, mashed eggs curried to spread the taste -
twenty varieties - fold in glad-wrap, store, wait for customers -

        Twelve o'clock siren, two minutes silence, enter mob from
factory, one minute scramble, enter kids from tech, add two
minutes - snobs from offices -


        "Hullo, Peg. How's it going?"

        "Terrific. Never felt better. How's your wife? How are the kids
- ?"

        "Hullo, love. How's Bill?"

        "Hi, Missus. I ain't seen Gary around."

        "He'll be at football Saturday. With Wayne."

        "Cool. D'ya hear, Trish? Wayne too."

        "Peg," the Boss. "Mr Frost is waiting."


        Panic. Hours of panic. You don't never feel your puffed feet or
swollen veins or nothing.

        Till it stops. Two hours and it stops.

        You look - at the crumbs and the grease and the slops and you
want to vomit.

        You don't.

        What's new?

        "Take your break, Peg. I'll stack the dishes." She only stacks,
her dermatitis is playing up. Like me, too much slogging over

        As Boss's go she's okay. I've seen worse.

        My lunch break. Joke.

        Coat on, quick. Rina's party to be organised. McDonald's half a
mile walk.

        I talk, I smile - what's new -

        It's done. Saturday week, five p.m., fourteen kids counting


        "I'll take my break now, Peg."


        Dishes, to your eyes. No dish washer, except my human hands.
She can't afford no frills. Plus the late odd customer wanting
the fresh snack not ready made. Make it!

        Four o'clock.

        Four. Busy end-of-week days are often late. Jamie lets himself
in to watch tely while he waits. It's a real worry. The Boss
talks okay but facts are facts and latch-key kids happen to the
best of us.

        He's here today, in front of the damned screen; practically IN

        "You'll want glasses."

        No answer; he's deaf too.

        "Jamie! I'm home!"

        He jumps, guilty, moves back.

        "You'll need glasses, close like that."

        His back stays bent, you'd think I wasn't here. Why bother? Why
race home in a lather when he don't even know?

        "I don't know why I bother." In the bedroom, changing, talking
to no-one. Talking. "Might as well be a piece of furniture."

        Back to the kitchen to peel the spuds. He's still there, moved
closer. Forget it.

        Spuds, carrots, frozen beans - no time to fix fresh - into
saucepans, mix sausage mince and steak into hamburgers. They
don't like sausage mince straight no more, not good enough for
them (thank you McDonald's). This way they don't know the
difference and it keeps the meat bill a bit less for once.

        The legs are killing, and the back. One of these days the
stool will have to be the option, but who's got the extra time?
Standing's quicker.

        Gary, Wayne. "Hi!" Off to their room.

        Six o'clock, Rina.

        "Sorry, Mum." A kiss, wheedling.

        "I'm not your father." She's not getting away with it that easy.

        "Honest, Mum. I told Jamie to tell you I was at Kelly's."

        "The truth?"

        She looks at the floor.

        "Nice try, Rina. Don't tell lies."

        "Can I help get the tea?" She's quick, anything to get round it.

        "Wash your hands first. Then set the table."

        "What's for tea?" Jamie's surfaced because the News is on.

        He takes a lid off a saucepan, squizzing.

        "Stop it!" Smack his hand away. "You'll burn yourself."

        "Ouch!" It's the steam, not the smack.

        "Serves you right."

        "Why can't you do something?" Rina throws a fork at him.

        "Cut that out!"

        Again! Won't they ever stop?

        "Stop it!"

        "You're making Mum late." Jamie shoves her.

        "Don't push me." Rina shoves him.

        "Stop it!"

        "She's doing it on purpose."

        "Stop pushing."

        "Watch it! The stove's hot."

        Teetering saucepan on hot stove, arms and legs flying close.

        Whack! It's Jamie that's caught. Rina ducks.

        "Don't cry, love."

        He's off, sulking in the lounge.

        "Watch it, Rina. You want me to go to your meeting, help me get
to his."

        "Sorry, Mum." But the smirk is in her voice.

*                          *                           *

        At last, eating. Watching the clock.

        "Sorry we can't help with the dishes." Wayne and Gary eat and

        Six-thirty. Don't be late!

        Jamie, over his sulks, hops into the dishes. Rina helps, the
penny's finally dropped.

        There's no time for a shower. Strip, sponge, slap on deodorant,
perfume, clean undies. What dress? Doesn't matter. Outside it's
cold and windy and anyway there's only the old brown work coat
to wear. Skirt and jumper will do, roll-neck against the wind.

        My hair's awful, God knows how long since it was permed; it
costs. Make-up. Watch the powder splotches, this light don't
help; lipstick, no eye shadow or muck, it don't work. Besides
these days the eyes have their very own built-in shadows.

        "I'm off."

        "The dishes are finished." They're at the tely again. "Do we
have to do Dad's?"

        "I'll do them later. Tell him - "

        "He ain't home yet."


        "We'll be all right, Mum."

        It'd be easy enough. Too easy. It's not a habit to start. "I'll

        "He could be hours."

        "He promised."

        Comes to promises he's usually okay.

        "All the mothers go." Jamie's crying. "The dads too."

        "You know your father would too, love. He gets so tired."

        "Miss Leamon says you've got to." Jamie, panicking. She's got
him scared.

        "Don't worry. I'll tell her your father's tired."

        They turn back to the screen.

        You can't blame them; they know where he is, he's not too tired
for the pub.

        The clock hands move, quick quick, Seven. Five past. Ten past -

        Quarter past -

        "I won't miss much. It's talking to the teacher after that

        Half past.

        Pacing the floor, coat on, umbrella ready. To the front door, a
cold blast, no footsteps in the street. Back to the kids. To the
door, empty street, lights shining on wet road, no one coming,
to the window, peeking through so Bill won't see. No one coming.
Stomach knotting and heart thumping off-beat like a crook motor.

        "He's not coming." Rina, standing at the door too. Her turn
next week. This promises no good for her.

        "He promised."

        "Mummy." Now Jamie. "Please go. Please."

        "I can't."

        "We're big now. Other kids - "

        "You're not other kids." Twenty-five to eight. Please please

        Closed door, Jamie crying, Rina tracking from tely to door to
window to door to tely to -

        How can he do it?

        "Your father promised, love."

        "I wish Gary was here. Or Wayne."

        Me too. "Make sure you bring the note early next time."

        Back in the bedroom, coat into wardrobe, scarf into drawer,
shoes -

        "Haven't you gone yet!" Roaring down the passage, drunk.
"You're supposed to be at the meeting. You've got Jamie upset."

        Me! "It's too late."

        "You could have left them. You knew I'd come."

        "It's too late. By the time I walk - "

        "Fred's waiting in the car."

        He knew I'd still be here. He didn't really expect anything
different. Another bluff.

        Nearly eight o'clock - half an hour late - but if Fred's

        "Tell him to wait."

        Car stinking of beer, Fred leering, skidding around corners,
but only two minutes and he's at the front gate.

        "Thanks, Fred."

        "Any time, love." Wandering hands shoved back at him.

        Inside, sudden bright lights are a shock. There's an empty desk
at the back of the room. Mrs Toller winks across, no one else

        Out front Miss Leamon is sitting, hands folded on her skinny
lap, face tight, eyes down. Mr Francis, the Head, has the floor.
He's been going on as usual - `Small turn-out of parents, wet
night shouldn't influence interest in child's progress, talk to
individual teachers at supper-time, school council needs
support' - what's new?

        The other teachers are out front too, but it's Miss Leamon to
watch, if I don't get to her all the strife's for nothing.

        There's a cough and a shuffle from Mrs Toller, Council
President. The Head gets the hint, winds up with his usual -
`however to those parents who have braved the elements I express
my sincere gratitude. Perhaps your example will be an
inspiration to others.'

        He sits down to sleepy clapping. Mrs Toller gathers her group
like a clucky hen mustering her chicks; they disappear to
prepare supper.

        My plate's sitting home on the kitchen sink, in all the
hullaballoo it got forgotten. On the way to the to kitchen
apologise, Jamie's face stops me. First things first.

        Miss Leamon's already collected a queue. But Mrs Toller's a
nasty enemy. How to manage both?

        A lady passes, on her way to the kitchen.

        "Would you mind explaining to Mrs Toller - "

        "Can I help you?" She hasn't heard.

        "Mrs Toller - would you tell her I made sandwiches. I mean - I
had a plate. Plus I was late. Would you tell Mrs Toller. You see
- " Stop rambling, you fool.

        "I'll tell her. Don't worry about it."

        "I'm Mrs Murphy. Tell her - Peg Murphy - "

        The queue is longer. Miss Leamon's organised herself at a table
with a chair; a desk for the mothers. Or the mothers and
fathers, there's a few fathers. So much for Jamie. One thing
there's not is all the mothers and fathers, it don't work like

        Because she teaches Grade 1 Miss Leamon has a lot to see her.
The Grade 5 teacher has hardly any. The Grade 6 fellow has the
biggest crowd. It figures, they want to know how their kids are
going to make out for next year and Tech or whatever.

        Bill's going to have to get to Rina's night too. He's got ideas
about her going to Tech; she's bright enough for High, she could
be a teacher or anything. That's her problem, too bright for her
own good. Not like Jamie and the boys, no trouble. Girls! Who'd
have girls? Mum used to say it, talking through her hat we
reckoned. She was around now, she'd be satisfied. Not like
Bill's mother, you couldn't tell her nothing. She always said
girls was easy and boys hard, except for her William - she
called him Will - he was damned near perfect except when he
didn't toe the line she drew, which wasn't too damned often the
way she pressed the tear button - cried at the drop of a

        The head's wandering, too damned tired to think straight.

        Miss Leamon's looking sideways, can't blame her.

        From behind, a push. "You're holding up the line."

        Which don't help the nerves.

        "Are you all right, Mrs Murphy?" Miss Leamon. Skinny hands on
skinny knees waiting, beady eyes looking down her skinny nose
like a starving crow that's spotted a mouse.

        "A bit tired." Sore legs squash into the tiny desk; it feels
like a little kid waiting for a wallopping.

        Stupid, you're grown up. Bill would soon fix her.

        "A working mother, of course."

        Stuck-up bitch, how'd she like to rear four kids on a
labourer's wage? When there is one, that is.

        Bill would get mad, it's worth a try: "Some of us got no

        "You don't find it affects the children?" Nothing's going to
faze her.

        "You mean Jamie. Jamie's okay."

        "I'm so glad you came." She coats it with sugar. "You're right.
Jamie's a good child. However, lately -  Has anything in
particular occurred at home? Anything out of the ordinary?"

        She's got to be joking. Except, maybe Jamie is as sick of
nothing different ever happening as the rest of us. They say the
youngest is closest to his mother, could be.

        "No. Nothing's happened lately." It's in there, the clue, if
she has the sense to see it.

        "It's a trifle difficult to understand." Black eyes pierce.
"First term he was a sweet child. Now - abruptly - he's either
dozing of fighting."


        "You're surprised?"

        "Not Jamie - my Jamie." Fighting?

        "He takes a particular delight in antagonising other children.
He," she stops to think, but decides to speak up anyway. "It's
as though he deliberately provokes their anger."

        "Could be the tely. In my day kids didn't know about all that
bashing and stuff."

        "Does he watch too much, do you think?" Which was where she was
heading all along.

        "For sure. Do you think I can stop him?" His father could if he
was home.

        "It might be wise to try."

        Fat chance.

        This time she gets the message, does a retake, and comes on
about homework and reading practise, and `do you find time to
read to him' which isn't worth no answer.

        Plus five more minutes of going on about Jamie should be
working at home, listening to what he's not doing right, `thank
you for coming out on such a bleak night', `next please', before
I'm sent off like a kid when the bell rings for end of class.

        But Jekyll-and-Hyde Jamie's another thing. It's got to be more
than the tely. Always providing she knows what she's talking
about. Boys of six mostly fight, they wouldn't be boys
otherwise. He didn't fight she'd be on about him being a sissy,
which is his father's worry - with good cause this day and age.
Except -

        Jamie wants to be liked. Fighting? So okay, he's getting older,
no baby no more. But not stirring to make kids cross with him.
It don't compute.

        "Tea with milk?" It's shoved in my face.

        "Thanks." Half empty, slopping in the saucer.

        "Sugar?" She nods at the bowl on the tray in her hands, another
of Mrs Toller's good little chicks.

        "No thank you." Hot and sweet's okay, not cold; why waste the

        "There's sandwiches over there." Her head turns sideways. "I'm
afraid we're short-handed. You'll have to look after yourself."

        Unhappy because I haven't helped. Can't blame her.

        It gulps down quick, yuck; quick to the kitchen to start on the
dishes, which beats serving sandwiches to smart-alec faces. Some
of Mrs Toller's brood are from other times, just top-of-the-head
talk, for the reason there's no time for getting to know friends
here, plus there won't be no morning coffees or snob teas for
yours truly. They know it, so they go along with `it's cold to
be out' talk and, as ever, leave it there.

        It's not so bad, other working mothers don't even get here -
not often anyway, and then they're off and gone right after
their teacher talk. No dishes for them, which - even if it wins
them no friends in this lot -  is fair enough. You work all day,
you want to get back home to get things ready for the next a.m.

        So I feel pea-cocky, out here working with the idle
stay-at-homes. How do they do it? Imagine - time to do

        Time to do nothing!

        Yet you listen to them. Take her next door: "I haven't got a
spare minute. By the time I walk Shane to school - "

        Half her luck. Just to spend more time with Jamie! Poor little
bloke, guess he has to fight someone; he sees all these kids
with mums with time, can't be too nice.

        Maybe we could walk home together?

        I been down that road. With the boys, Rina too. Off the bus
four blocks down, walk a block to the school, wait outside, meet
them, walk home, talk like the non-tired mums are supposed to.

        Okay at first, then the tiredness wins the day and the talk
fizzles to finding fault, to snapping, to silence because it's
the only tolerable way of walking home together.

        What's the point? Forget it.

        Jamie's a good kid. Good stuff there. He's got Gary and Wayne
to talk to, live up to. Not like some poor kids, only each other
and no grown man worth copying in their young lives.

        Probably good for Jamie, fighting; better than holding it in.

        It's an idea. A good punch-up wouldn't hurt me, neither.
Trouble is, it don't work that way for us females.

        The water's gluey, too much soap. Rinsing holds us up, the
ranks thin till at the finish the only other one left is Mother

        "Thank you, Mrs Murphy." She passes a towel. "For your hands.
We do appreciate your assistance."

        There's no way to hide them, cracked and red, finger-nails
stumped, knuckles nobbled; not pretty.

        She don't notice; or if she does she pretends not to. She's a
real lady, this one.

        "We appreciate your assistance." She repeats it, but impatient,
waiting to lock the doors.

        "It's okay." Hands in pockets, watching the clock.

        Nearly ten!

        Outside it's raining a flood. Race across the puddled
quadrangle quick, umbrella almost useless, out school gate. A
car behind, water spouting, soaking. It stops, window down. Mrs

        Mr Francis, the Head. "Can I give you a lift?"

        "I'm used to it. Thanks all the same."

        "Walking? In this weather? Which way are you going?"

        Umbrella leaking like a sieve, standing here helps nothing.
"Church Street. The north end."

        "On my way." He opens the door. "Hop in."

        No sign of Mrs Toller.

        "It's on my way." Impatient too.

        Could be true, probably not, these polite types tell lies to
make you feel better.

        What's to lose? It's late and wet and pitch black except for
the puny street lights.

        A minute is all it takes, fast, not even time for talk apart
from his usual song and dance about parent disinterest. He
should talk to Jamie.

        He waits. The car lights slice a path through the dark to the
front door.

        He toots, drives off, sloshing down the road back; it wasn't on
his way. Who's surprised?

        Unlock the door, feel the passage walls down to the bedroom,
slip off the wet clothes, change, cart the clothes to the
laundry, no sound of no one, only the tely blasting through
walls and doors - and head.

        Take a deep breath, into the lounge.

        "You're late." The stink is a knock-out.

        Nod, say nought; he's glued to the box.

        " `Thought I heard a car."

        The head-lights shining into the room, he'd have seen them, no
way he could hear a damned thing.

        "Mr Francis. He came out of his way."

        "Who the hell is he?" Now, he looks.

        Solid drinking for two hours, his wife brought home by another
man; not his precious leering Fred.

        Careful. "Mr Francis is the Head. You met him."

        "Teacher? Head teacher? Going up in the world? I'm not good

        "I'm tired."

        "You would be."

        "Please, Bill." It slips out.

        "Please? Please what?" Shouting.

        "The kids are asleep."

        "Fuck the kids!"


        Shouting, tipsy glass teetering on the table, bottle emptied,
wanting another, tely blasting.

        Don't turn it down. Wait.

        Him slowing to a mumble, the grog and the warm room working him
back to his stupor. Listening for the kids, his racket would
have woken the dead. They're playing doggo, no wonder.

        "Do you want a cup of coffee?" Soft, hoping he's out properly,
but asking so he's asked.

        He hears. "That a hint?"

        You can't win. "I didn't mean - "

        "No?" Pushing out of his chair, staggering to the tely, turning
it down.

        "I'm sorry. I'm getting myself one. I thought - "

        " `Know what you thought. What's a man to do? Kids fighting all
night. You making out with ponces."

        "Someone has to go." Steer him off the kids. "Other fathers go."

        He slops back into his chair. "Coffee." He knows when to shut
up, leave me dangling.

        Kitchen lights bright, eyes watering, kettle on, two cups,
coffee, sugar, milk, spoon clink on cups, kettle whistling,
white face in window-mirror, black-hole eyes.

        Into the lounge, tely flickering late news, voice whispering.

        He's asleep.

        "It's ready." Cheery, hoping -

        Another snore.

        "Bill?" Soft.

        He's out deep, shuddering like a sick dog.

        Off with the news, out back to the kitchen, drink both cups. It
helps, sort of, with the bile rising but easier. It's over for

        He's okay, really. Not like some. He don't play round, has a
steady job, mostly leaves me to deal with  the kids and the
house. It's really only the booze, which is nothing. Could be
worse. He's got to cope too. Like Jamie - with him it's kid
stuff, fighting. Bill - it's man stuff, booze.

        Take your pick, Peg - fight or booze. Hah!

        It's stupid letting it take hold. He did come home to mind
them, was worried. Genuine. Not so bad him being jealous either,
our age.

        In the lounge the snoring's softer. Blanket and pillow from the
bedroom make him comfortable.

        Wayne and Gary are studying.

        "How was your meeting, boys?" Wanting to tell them about mine.

        They look up, together, but don't really see.   "Okay." Like
twins.  Together, heads down again - no more talk please -

        "Sorry." Close the door.

        Rina, wireless on, asleep. Turn it off, light off; she doesn't

        Jamie. "Mum?"

        "You should be asleep." Feeling through the dark, eyes slowly
seeing the bed and his wide-awake eyes waiting.

        "What did Miss say?"

        "Tomorrow. I'll tell you tomorrow."

        "She told!"

        "Go to sleep."

        "Not till you say you're not cross."

        "I'm not cross, love."

        "You are. I can tell."

        "You think you know everything." In the dark he lets me hold
him, but stiff. "True, Jamie. I'm not cross."


        "True. But - " Soft, not to scare him off. "Why do you fight? I
promise not to be cross."

        His tight body sags, loose. "Everybody fights."

        Funny, the fighting don't bother him. What else could she have
told me? What else is there to be cross about? The stirring?

        "What did you think it was about?" If the lamp was on it'd be
easier. Don't.


        "If you're worried about not doing so good at school, it's
okay. Just - you won't be watching tely all the time no more."



        He dives under the blankets.

        "Apologise at once."

        No answer.


        The blankets hide him. he's not going to come out.

        "I told you not to make me talk tonight."

        The blankets shiver.

        "Please, love. Say you're sorry."

        From under the cover, a muffled sound which is supposed to be

        My baby, no baby no more. Not even a goodnight kiss. My fault.
He knows it's good he looks up to Gary who's big and strong and
not a sissy.

        Can't have it both ways.

        "Goodnight, son." Pat the blanket, close the door.

        Bill's snore from the lounge fills the passage.

        The bedroom's cold and damp, the bed freezing. Pile on more
blankets, tuck the nighty round the feet, curl into a ball,
blankets up, shivering in the lonely sheets. Tomorrow workday,
Thursday. Talk to Jamie. More to do for Rina's birthday, don't
forget to make sure Wayne and Gary baby-sit for her
parent-teacher night. Miss Leamon's an ogre, but Rina's teacher
is young and stupid, a know-all who's for sure never stayed
awake with sick kids -

        The house creaks, spooky.

        Rain on the roof. Who says it's romantic? There's leaks all
over. Laundry - kitchen - lav - it's up to Bill - damn -

        It'd be nice, chrome and modern and no creaks and no leaks - go
to sleep -


        Blankets warm and heavy -

        Blankets warm and - choking!

        "No o o o !!!!"

        Screams wake me.

        "Don't!" - the panic - "Get off me! Get off me!"

        "Peg! Wake up! Peg!"

        "Don't! No!!!"

        "Peg! Peg!" Bill: "Peg! Wake up!"

        Throat screaming - sore -

        "The nightmare! It's the nightmare, Peg."


        "Peg! Stop!"

        Throat tearing, ripping, screaming -

        "Peg! You're freezing." Blankets pressing.


        "Don't fight me, love. You'll catch your death." Rocking
rocking. "Sh - it's all right. It's all right - "

        "Take them away." Whimpering through this torn throat; knowing,
not stopping. Can't stop.

        "It's okay. It's okay - "

        Light. Sudden. Sharp.

        In the doorway, the kids. Scared.

        "Is Mum okay?"

        "The nightmare again."

        "I'm tired." Feeling stupid, a baby. Shamed. "Go back to bed."

        "Go back to bed." He's cold sober. Shock.

        Their white faces go away.

        "I'll get you a warm drink."

        "Don't leave me!"

        The house groans.

        "A drink will help, Peg."

        "Don't leave me!"

        "It's all right. It's all right. I'll leave the door open."


        "Peg - you're throat - don't talk - "

        On the open door, a knock. "Dad - "

        "Thanks, Wayne. Leave it."

        Hot chocolate and asprin; Wayne on the job. Poor damned kids.

        "You frightened the hell out of us."

        "I'm sorry." It slips down, warm, soothing.

        He changes, climbs in, warm body, caring, safe.

        "You're freezing." His arms soft, strong. "Sh. Go to sleep - "

        The shivering won't go.

        "Don't be frightened, love. I've got you."

        "I wish - "

        "Sh, Peg - sleep - sleep - "