Laugh Don’t Cry

This post was supposed to be for the 100 word challenge over at Julia’s place but when I started writing I quickly realised it would go over the word count. Usually when I write my challenge pieces, I’m only a few words away and it’s easy to edit, but when I cut this one back to 100 words I was really unhappy with the result – it felt stark, as if the heart had been edited out. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I decided to sleep on it. This morning I came to a decision: this is my blog so I can write as many or as few words as I want! With that in mind I finished my story. I’m not linking it to the challenge because it’s four times the word limit, but hopefully I will get another idea that I can write in 100 words later in the week…

Charlotte carried the tray into the lounge, bumping the door closed with her hip.

“Is that you Charlotte? I’ve been on a lovely bike ride with Millie this morning. We went down by the river and stopped to feed the ducks. It was a long way though – I’m exhausted. Shut the door behind you, love. There’s a terrible draft.”
“The door is shut, Auntie Else.”
“No wonder it’s hot. Open the door, would you? Let’s get some air in the place.”
“You said you were cold.”
“Am I? Can you get me a blanket for my knees?”

Charlotte set the tray down on the table near the window. She picked up a blanket from the bottom of the bed, placed it on her aunt’s lap, and wheeled her over to the table.

“Am I warm now?”
“Yeah Else – you’re toasty.”
“It looks lovely and sunny outside. We could have a picnic on the grass. Have I been out today?”
“Not today, Auntie Else. Would you like to go out now?”
“No! I don’t want to. I never go out. I don’t like it. Please don’t make me.” Elsie pulled her blanket higher, terrified eyes peeping over the top.
“It’s OK Else. We don’t have to go anywhere.  I made us some tea, and I’ve got those biscuits you like.”

Elsie looked at the plate suspiciously. “I don’t like biscuits.” A smile brightened her face. “I like cake! Have you got any cake?”
“No, I’m sorry. I always bring biscuits – but you like these.”
“Do I? Ok. But I wish you had cake. Charlotte always brings me cake.”

Charlotte brushed a hand over her eyes to wipe away the tears, and plastered a smile back on her face.

“Let’s drink our tea and then I need to go. I’ll see you again tomorrow.”
“Do you have to go? You’ve only just got here.”
“I’ve been here for 2 hours, Auntie Else. I painted your nails for you, and then we looked at all your photos, remember?”

Elsie’s eyes filled with tears. “I get so lonely.  I haven’t seen anybody all day.”
“I’m sorry, Else, but I really have to go.  I promise I’ll be back tomorrow.”

“Thank you for coming love.  If you see Charlotte, tell her to come and see me. She always promises to visit but she never does.”

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9 Responses to Laugh Don’t Cry

  1. jfb57 says:

    Oh goodness Sally-Jayne – I’m in tears. What a terrible disease this is & it certainly is not fussy who it’s victims are.
    This is a wonderful piece of writing. You have not gone down the sentimental route as many do. You have presented us with a slice of life that far too many folks are now experiencing. Thank you for carrying on. I can see to reduce the size would have lost it’s core.

  2. Great read and very bitter sweet. Alzeimers (did I spell that right? probably not) is horrid. Very real dialogue – remembering, forgetting, and then not having a clue who is actually looking after you. And the plight of the carer seeing their loved one’s memories slowly fade away.

  3. Miriam says:

    I remember it. You’ve captured it so well.

  4. Goodness me, this is a powerful piece and I can see why you couldn’t cut down the words; 100 just isn’t enough sometimes.
    I am hoping to get one done but have just a bit on at the moment! Got some ideas though (and mine will be short!)
    This brought back some bittersweet memories.

    • sjbwriting says:

      I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this piece in one way or another. Hope you manage to find time to fit yours in. Shall pop by your blog soon to read all about your conference.

  5. Sally-Jayne says:

    Thanks for your kind comments everyone. They are really appreciated.

  6. Delft says:

    Beautiful and tragic.
    Thanks for including the link now. It’s such a lovely contrast with your new contribution. Gives one back some faith in humanity.

  7. DancingInTheRain says:

    This is so real, Sally-Jayne. So sad. And so difficult for all involved – even the reader. I am not a carer and get very upset when I (too infrequently) visit my aunt and she doesn’t know who I am or remember that I’ve been. The dilemma is whether there is a point in visiting. Beautifully written. Glad you linked back.

    • sjbwriting says:

      Thanks Dancing. This one was written from personal experience, so that’s probably why it seems so real. I’m really lucky that my Nan remembered who I was right to the end, but she would often call me the wrong name. It is heart-breaking when you spend a few hours with someone and 10 minutes after you’ve gone they’ve forgotten you’ve been, but believe me – it is always, always worth visiting!

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