Thursday, 24 May 2012

Worried Mum

Here is an excerpt from Worried Mum, Volume 2 of a new series, Pesky Parents and Ridiculous Relatives. It is only available online. Hope you like it!





            “Hold my hand, Oliver!”
            “I said hold my hand, Oliver!”
            “But muuuuum!”
            “Oliver this is not up for discussion. We are crossing a road.”
            “But there’s nothing coming!”
            “Not at the moment.”
            “But we can see for almost a mile in both directions. There’s nothing coming for like twenty minutes.”
            “Oliver. Give me your hand. Right, now!”
            There’s nothing to be done. I hand my hand over. My mum takes it firmly in hers and leads me across the completely empty road.
            “Phew!” she says. “We’re safe across!”
             I take my hand back and watch a toddler and his mum walk across the road the other way. The toddler is allowed to do it on his own.
            That’s the thing with my mum. She’s a good mum in lots of ways. But she is way, way too worried. She worries about everything. And I can just about take it when she does it in private. But private isn’t the only place where she does it…


            My mum takes me to school. My teacher is waiting outside the classroom.
            “I just want to have a word with Mrs Murphy.”
            Uh Oh!
            “Mum,” I say. “She’s probably very busy and…”
            “Nonsense, Oliver,” my mum tells me. “She’s all by herself and not doing anything.”
            It’s too late.
            “Hello, Mrs Murphy. I was just wondering if I could have a quick word about Oliver.”
            Mrs Murphy smiles.
            “Is there something about his school work that is concerning you?”
            My mum shakes her head.
            “Then what…?”
            “I’m very worried about his vests.”
            Oh no!
            Mrs Murphy looks puzzled
            “His vests?”
            “Yes,” my mum says. “I’ve noticed that when he leaves home in the morning his vest is always tucked securely into his pants. However, very often when he returns after a day at school his vest is loose.”
            “Is it?”
            “Yes,” says my mum. “And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you Mrs Murphy that when there is a gap between vest and pants there is a risk of chilled kidneys.”
            “Chilled kidneys?” echoes Mrs Murphy faintly.
            “I worry about the temperature of Oliver’s kidneys.”
            Mrs Murphy doesn’t know what to say. No mother has ever worried about the temperature of their child’s kidneys before.
            “So if you could keep an eye on Oliver’s vest for me I’d be very grateful.”
            “You mean as well as his progress in literacy and numeracy,” says Mrs Murphy.
            I think she’s being sarcastic but my mum doesn’t get it.
            “Exactly,” she says. “Goodbye, Oliver.”
            My mum heads back to the car. Mrs Murphy sighs.

            Worrying too much in front of your teachers is bad enough. But it’s not the worst. Not by a long way.
            The door bell rings.
            I open it. It’s Josh and Dan.
            “Coming down the park to play football,” says Josh.
            “Yeah,” I say. “Just let me get my…”
            It’s my mum.
            “Who are you talking to?”
            “It’s Josh and Dan. We’re going out to play football.”
            My mum comes out of the kitchen.
            “Hello Joshua. Hello Daniel.”
            “Hello Mrs Bettany.”
            She always calls them by their full names. Nobody else does. It’s so embarrassing.
            “What is this crazy talk about going to play football?”
             Josh and Dan exchange glances.
            “It’s just football,” they tell her. “Down the park.”
            “Yes, mum,” I say. “It’s just football.”
            “But look at the sky!” says my mum.
            We look up. The sky is clear and blue.
            “Er…what are we looking for, mum?”
            My mum tuts.
            “It’s right in front of your face,” she says. And she points.
            We all look again. There’s one black cloud.
            “There’s a storm coming,” says my mum. “You’ll get to the park and there’ll be a downpour. You’ll be soaking wet. Then you’ll catch a chill and then…”
            “We’ll just stand under a tree until it passes Mrs Bettany,” Josh promises.
            “A tree!” my mum repeats. “And what happens when the tree is struck by lightning, its trunk splinters and it falls on your heads.”
            “Er…” says Josh.
            “Hmmm…” says Dan.
            “Exactly,” says my mother. “You hadn’t thought this through at all, had you?”
            Josh and Dan exchange glances.
            “I suppose we hadn’t Mrs Bettany.”
            “So Oliver will be staying inside with me until the storm has passed.”
            “But mum it’s boring inside.”
            “Nonsense, Oliver, I have some flowers that need pressing. Perhaps your friends would like to join us.”
            “No!” says Josh quickly.
            “We should be getting back home,” agrees Dan.
            “That storm could hit at any minute.”
            “That cloud is really black.”
            “Bye, Oliver!”
            “Bye, Mrs Bettany.”
            And they both run off down the road..
            “That’s funny,” says my mum “I thought they both lived the other way. Isn’t that they way to…”
            “The park,” I say glumly.
            It’s the next day at school. We’re supposed to be doing numeracy.
            “How was pressing flowers?” says Dan.
            “Shut up,” I tell him.
            “I hope you got them really flat,” adds Josh.
            “Not funny.”
            “We had a really boring time playing football in the sunshine. And then we climbed some really boring trees. And then we went…”
            “I’m not listening.”
            “Good because I don’t believe you really want to hear about the fantastic thing….”
            “La, la, la, la, la. Can’t hear you.”
            “Who is making all that noise?” It’s Mrs Murphy. “Oliver Bettany! You are supposed to be doing mental arithmetic. That happens inside your head, quietly, not while singing ‘La, la, la, la…’”
            “Sorry, Miss.”
            “Now show me your vest.”
            “What, Miss?”
            A wicked smile is playing on Mrs Murphy’s lips. She takes great exception to people who disrupt numeracy.
            Reluctantly, I pull up my shirt to show her my vest is tucked in.
            “Well done, Oliver,” she says. “I may be worried about your sums but at least I can put my mind to rest about your kidneys.”
            The whole class are laughing at me.

            By break time in the playground it seems the whole school is laughing at me.
            “Is your vest still tucked in?” shouts Johnny Horrocks.
            “Hope you remembered to put your underpants on this morning?” yells Lauren Gates.
            Dan and Josh look at me and shake their heads.
            “What is going on, Oliver?”
            “It’s my mum,” I explain. “She gets worried. About everything. She worries if I want to go out in the rain in case I catch a cold. She worries if want to go out in the sun in case I get sunburnt. She worries if I want to go out when it’s windy unless I get blown down a disused mineshaft.”
            “A disused mineshaft?”
            “She grew up in the North,” I explain. “I suppose children must have been being blown down them all the time when she was little. At least you’d think they were the way she talks.”
            Lola Linctus is coming up to us. Lola is the star of the drama club. Mr Strasberg who runs it says she is excellent at accessing the extremes of emotions.
            “Oliver,” she says. “I am in dire need of assistance and only you can help me.”
            The trouble with Lola is the extremes of emotions are the only bits she’s good at accessing. Still at least she’s not talking about my vest.
            “What is it, Lola?”
            “You understand that I am about to ask you to embark on a perilous and dangerous course?”
            “Just get to the point, Lola.”
            She shakes her head.
            “There may be physical danger. There may be…”
            “Oh alright. I need someone to practice my stage fighting on.”
            “I need to practice stage fighting. And I need someone to pretend to beat up.”
            She’s interrupted by three kids running up to me.
            “Is it a bird?” one cries,
            “Is it a plane?” the second wonder.
            “No!” the third tells them. “It’s VEST BOY.”
            And they all pull up their school jumpers to reveal their vests.
            “He protects his kidneys with only a flimsy undergarment,” they shout in unison.
            And then they run away, shrieking with laughter. I look at Lola.
            “On the day the entire school is mocking me you think it would help to get beaten up by a girl.”
            “We’d only be pretending,” insists Lola.
            “When I’m lying on the ground and everyone’s laughing at me I’ll be sure to tell them that.”
            “Is that a no?” says Lola.
            “I bet Angelina Jolie never had this trouble,” says Lola stomping off.
            A boy I’ve never seen before runs up to me clutching something.
            “Will you sign my vest, Vest Boy?” she asks.
            And then collapses into fits of giggles.
            The bell rings for class.
            I’ve got to admit it’s a relief.


            “Mum,” I say that evening when we‘re eating dinner. “Do you think that…”
            “Oliver!” she interrupts. “How much food is that on your fork?”
            I look down.
            “It’s a normal amount,” I say. “It’s the amount that…”
            “If you don’t choke on it you’ll give yourself indigestion. How many times have I told you. Little pieces and chew them carefully. Not half the meal in one mouthful and swallow straight away.”
            “But, mum…”
            “Pass over your plate. I’ll cut it up for you.”
            “Mum, I’m eight I can cut up my own dinner.”
            “Not from where I’m looking.”
            Reluctantly I pass over my dinner.
            “Oliver can’t cut up his own dinner,” says Grace, my little sister. “I can and I’m six.”      
            My dad comes in.
            “Sorry, I’m late,” he tells my mum. “How is everybody? What fantastic things have my children been doing?”
            My dad has a bit of an overproud thing going on. I used to worry about it. That was before my mum got this worry thing going on and made me forget all about that.
            I spot my chance.
            “I haven’t done anything fantastic,” I tell him, “because mum won’t let me do anything.”
            “That’s nonsense, Oliver,” interrupts my mum. “Those pressed flowers came out beautifully.”
            “Pressed flowers,” repeats my dad.
            “Yes. Oliver and I pressed some flowers yesterday during the storm.”
            “I don’t remember a storm yesterday,” says my dad.
            “That’s because there wasn’t one,” I tell him. “But mum wouldn‘t let…”
            “There could have been a deluge at any moment,” says my mum. “Not a single person in the whole street had their washing out.”
            “That’s because they’ve got driers,” I tell her.
            “Whatever,” says my dad. “I’m very proud of you, Oliver. It’s not every boy who’d be prepared to help their mum press flowers instead of going out to the park.”
            “But I wanted to go out to the park,” I tell him.
            “Don’t be modest now, Oliver,” says my dad. “I know you’re just saying that.”
            “I’m not,” I tell him. “Remember I’m as nice as you think I am. I’m the kind of boy who’d happily leave his mother to press flowers on her own.”
            “You’re the kind of boy who needs to eat his dinner,” says my mum. “You’ve only had four portions of fruit and vegetables today. I’m worried that you may get scurvy.”

If you want to find out what happens next, please click here..Worried Mum.

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