by Alyson Faye
Earl Grey tea
Pulling up outside Aunty Elsie’s terraced house, we all pile out of the Avenger. Dad grumpily sucking on his pipe, Mum wielding her sunken Victoria sandwich like a weapon and me, all long white knees socks and beige jumper. The one Elsie had knitted as last year’s Christmas present.
“It would be rude not to wear it,” Mum had stated, as we’d endured our usual sartorial stand off in my bedroom.
I look about 50 I think gloomily, catching sight of my reflection in the car window. I sense movement in the front room even before we touch the knocker. Elsie and Blue Boy are keeping their eyes open for us. We march into the hallway in single file, our heads bowed.
Mum pushes me hard right in the direction of the front room. Reluctantly I go in. I smell lavender and camphor. Doilies adorn every surface. Waiting in the window is Blue Boy. His cage has pride of place. The budgie watches me with its blank shiny button eyes, all beady and spiteful. A bit like Aunty Elsie really.
“Blue Boy likes you.” Elsie croons lovingly and with a total disregard for the truth.
The flea infested bird hates me I am certain. It’s viciously pecked me several times when I’ve attempted to feed it, as per Aunty Elsie’s instructions.
Mum brings in the second best china service for us to eat off along with her collapsed cake.
Elsie eyes it. “See you’ve still not learnt the knack of getting them to rise?”
Mum smiles wanly. She long ago retired from any verbal battles with my Dad’s aunty. Historically she’s always lost.
Elsie pokes her long bony index finger through the cage bars to tickle Blue Boy’s breast feathers. The horrid bird lets her. I shudder at the thought of any such contact and sit on my hands.
Now to my total embarrassment, Elsie starts singing to him. Blue Boy perches with his head on one side, gazing at her. He looks like a broken marionette I realise. I’m suddenly reminded of the puppet show I’d gone to with Mum.
Dad breezes in, “How did it go at the bingo then Elsie?”
He’s all fake jovial. This is his social face. It’s painful to watch. “Win a fortune did you?”
Elsie smiles, but fails to look warmer. “That’s for me and Blue Boy to know Derek. It’s my money and my business.”
Dad falls silent. I turn to gaze out past the sticky lace curtains to the road where I begin to count the number of blue/black/red cars driving by in the next fifteen minutes. I watch the grey day turn wetter and more ashen. I tune out the adult chit chat as best as I can.
Years later, when I’m at Uni. Elsie died. In her will she bequeathed us Blue Boy’s bird cage because, ‘she knew how much we’d loved him.'
About the author
Alyson writes mainly flash fiction and short stories. Her work has appeared on Tubeflash online,on the premises, Three Drops journal; Raging Aardvark's new anthology 'Twisted Tales' and Alfie Dog. Some of her stories are available as podcasts. Chapeltown is pleased to have published her Flash Fiction Collection Badlands.