Wednesday 7 February 2024

Not Keeping Up With the Joneses, Faith J Forster, Raspberry Lemonade,

Mr. Barnstock refused to keep up with the Joneses. ‘Waste not want not.  You don’t know. Another economic depression could come any day now.’

When Mrs. Barnstock suspected her little daughters, Lola and Rose, might ask her for something they really really wanted, she would hide in the kitchen cutting up the spuds or throwing extra spices into the minced meat.

 ‘Please, can I learn how to play the piano accordion?’ or ‘Can I take tap dancing?’ 

She would look up from her potato peels, ‘Just ask your father.’

From her kitchen nook she could hear their father’s banal answer, ‘Do you think money grows on trees. You’ve got another think coming. We are not going to keep up with the Joneses like all the other families around here.’

One afternoon Mr. Barnstock tasked with making space for the arrival of a new baby went to the basement and hammered pieces of white particle board together. The mock bedrooms rested on a wood platform to keep the hand me down beds off of the concrete basement floor. ‘We now live in a four- bedroom home,’ he was proud to say.

Lola and Rose each chose a room which they called their cardboard bedrooms. For fresh air, Rose’s room had a small window about twelve inches by eight inches with a piece of glass that slid back and forth to open and close it. Later on, it became handy for Rose who wriggled her tiny frame through the small opening and escaped into the night for a bag of chips at the Burger King bought with money stolen from her mother’s tithe coins.

When Matthew, their little brother, came along, Lola and Rose overheard their parents telling a member of the church congregation that he had been an accident.  They kept this bit of news secret since they had no idea what sort of accident he could be and they were afraid to ask. Matthew had a wall eye and when he turned four or five, it became apparent that he was riddled with tics which ranged from flinging out his left arm to scrunching up his nose. Lola and Rose had a theory about Matthew’s repetitious movements. They decided that any favourite son mollycoddled in the second main floor bedroom next to his mother and father was doomed to his suffer such peculiarities.

One day after Lola’s request for a sleeveless blue blouse was rejected, she climbed down the ninety- degree ladder to her cardboard bedroom in the basement. She reached under the bottom metal divider of her doll’s buggy to a secret compartment where she stashed all the cheap cosmetics, bought from the occasional dimes she got from the neighbour for clipping their front lawn along the sidewalks. The Pond’s Angel Face powder and the rose rouge were her most treasured items.  After she covered her face with the powder and dabs of rouge, she lifted her head and stuck out her tongue in the direction of the kitchen where her mother was busy with dinner.

A resentment had grown in the hearts of Lola and Rose as they witnessed the persistent pampering of Matthew while their every wish was denied. Such pent- up emotions must be released and so after dark in their cardboard box bedrooms, Lola and Rose vented their spleen.

That night after lights out they let loose in their basement sanctuary. Of course, nothing could be overheard by those above in the two official bedrooms. Everything was kept secret by transmission through a black rubber laundry hose with sufficient length to stretch from the Lola’s ear to Roses’ ear. Any words passing within the length of the rubber hose were muffled. 

‘Matthew’s tics never stop.’

‘That’s because mother and father have spoiled him rotten.’

‘Should we kill them then?’ Lots of giggles coming from both ends of the hose.

‘Sure, but how?’

‘We could hit them over the head and cut them up into bits.’

‘Ugh too much blood and clean up.’

‘Yeah, but we could put all the bits into those big plastic bags.’

‘Then what.’

‘We could put everything into the trunk of a car and roll the car over the cliff. No one would ever find them.’

Gales of laughter and a loud thumping on the floor from above. ‘Go to sleep.’

Lola and Rose lapse into a short period of silence.

‘Well what other plans do you have then?’

‘Let’s talk later. I am sleepy now. Goodnight.’ Rose drops the hose and pretty soon Lola hears her purring like a kitten.

In the morning, they climb the steep ladder upstairs for a bowl of stodgy porridge as sustenance before their uphill walk to school. Their mother scowls and says, ‘if you two don’t pipe down at night your father will come and beat the can out of you.’ Lola and Rose roll their eyes and concentrate on finishing their gruel.

On their walk to the Lampson Street elementary school, they unanimously decide that both their mother and father will have to go.

‘But what about Matthew?’ Rose wonders.

‘Oh him, once mother and father are gone, he’ll go back to normal.’

Satisfied with their plan, they start to whistle a merry tune and jump over the pavement cracks not to break their mother’s back.


About the author 

Faith is a committed writer. A member of the Sarah Selecky Writers Group, she writes daily in response to prompts and attends online events/courses to develop writing skills. Last year, Shorts Magazine and Dreamer Creative Writing published her submissions. She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia (MSN) 

Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)

No comments:

Post a Comment