The Waiting Game (The speakeasy at yeah write, January 2013)

Submissions for this week’s speakeasy at yeah write had to begin with the phrase ‘blowing bubbles in milk always feels good’.  There was also an image which had to be incorporated into your story.

Blowing bubbles in milk always feels good – it reminds me how mad my mother used to get when she was here.  I didn’t mind; guess it’s true what they say, even bad attention is better than no attention.

Dad’s not bothered at the noise I’m making – he’s nursing a whisky, hunched over the Scrabble board.  Tonight was my turn to pick the game; tomorrow he’ll choose chess, which I hate.  All that hanging around, thinking about this move, planning the next one.  And all that time spent waiting for the other player to make their move.

In the first few weeks it felt like we’d got lost somewhere, like we were driving aimlessly around, totally without direction, but now it seems like he’s turned the car into a side road, consulted the map and now we’re back on line, heading somewhere.  I don’t know where, but my Dad will.  “We need a plan,” he said, and he’d know because he’s good at planning.  That’s why we’re playing Scrabble tonight, and why it’ll be chess tomorrow.

I’ve just got my highest score ever – the word ‘travesty’, spanning two triple word score squares  and using up all my letters.  I played it right after he’d played ‘family’ and he gave me a funny look.

Dad tries very hard, and I appreciate that.  He’s not so good at doing my braids or ironing my school blouses, but then I’m no great shakes at cooking or sewing buttons on.  We’re a bit like pieces of jigsaw, we make up a picture but there are all these cracks in it.  Still we try.

The phone rings and as ever my heart jumps.

“Who’s that?” Dad says, just like I’m gonna know.  The phone hardly ever rings these days, but that’s better than all those calls we used to get when no-one was on the line, or when Mum snatched up the hand-set and took it outside.

It’s not going to be my mother; she rings every other Sunday at the same time, six o’clock.  We always have sandwiches for supper on Sundays ‘cos neither of us feels like eating after one of her calls.  I always go in the kitchen whilst Dad talks to her, but I can hear the anger and sadness in his voice, so I bang the dishes around, whistle and run the taps, waiting until it’s my turn to talk to her.

I never know what to say to her and most of the time she just cries anyway.  We’re all glad when it’s over and we can return to the shelter of the sticking plaster that we’ve  pasted over our lives.

Dad goes to the phone and I sneak a look at his tiles.  Hmm, no vowels, looks like I’m gonna be tonight’s winner.

He’s hunched over the phone, like his shoulders might sound-proof his words.  The conversation goes on, and gradually his shoulders relax.

I pour myself some more milk and wait.

He puts the phone down and returns to the table, staring at his tile holder for what seems like forever.  When he looks up, his eyes are glittering with tears and his lips are trembling.

“She’s coming back,” he says, his voice wavering, “your mother’s coming home.”

I stare at him, and my mind seems to be frozen into this moment. I can think of nothing to say.

Then I shrug; I empty my tile-holder back into the box.

And I blow some more bubbles into my milk.

About Sandra

I used to cruise the French waterways with my husband four or five months a year, and wrote fiction and poetry. Now I live on the beautiful Dorset coast, enjoying the luxury of being able to have a cat, cultivating an extensive garden and getting involved in the community. I still write fiction, but only when the spirit moves me - which isn't as often as before. I love animals, F1 motor racing, French bread and my husband, though not necessarily in that order.
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20 Responses to The Waiting Game (The speakeasy at yeah write, January 2013)

  1. you did a phenomenal job of setting the context and allowing your reader to feel the pain and uncertainty on both sides of mom’s re-entry.


  2. Bee says:

    “He’s hunched over the phone, like his shoulders might sound-proof his words.” — I love this line. The gesture perfectly captures the father’s character.


  3. Kristin says:

    Quite the kitchen table you paint here. I like how you described the dad’s brief detour before getting back on some sort of track for both of them.


  4. merrybawz says:

    I really enjoyed the perspective from which this was told. 🙂


  5. Suzanne says:

    Wow, this is a wonderfully written story! Love the narrator’s voice – she feels very genuine. And I love this line in particular: “We’re all glad when it’s over and we can return to the shelter of the sticking plaster that we’ve pasted over our lives.”


  6. So good! I want to know the backstory now.


  7. stephanie says:

    Wonderful! So well-written. I love the travesty after family at Scrabble. Such evocative writing!


  8. nell says:

    What s mature character this girl is. At first I thought the father was feeble, aged . Then you mentioned braiding her hair and ironing for her, so I knew she was young. Loved how you used ‘family’ then ‘travesty’. Loved the story!


  9. christina says:

    okay, wow. i really need more of this. of these characters. of the story. like really.


  10. Lovely, Sandra. I particularly like: “we can return to the shelter of the sticking plaster that we’ve pasted over our lives.”

    Have a wonderful weekend,



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