I tell my ninety-two-year-old mother I’m moving to a small village in the Andalusian mountains. Although she has Skype and an iPad, I know I will most likely never see her in person again. Does she…
(a) clap her hands and suggest we open the Tesco prosecco she’s been storing since I was born.
(b) scream “I forbid it!!!” and throw seven decorative plates on the floor which smash into my bare feet.
(c) not listen – she never listens – but continue watching old VHS recordings of The Price is Right from the 1980s (where she would have liked us both to remain, embedded in host Lesley Crowther’s arms).
(d) none of the above. She is silent. We have both been preparing by leaving each other over and over in our hearts for decades.
Despite my disappointment, when I say goodbye, I kiss her warmly on the cheek. Does she…
(a) recoil from my kiss and pat me on the head. “There, there,” she says, “you’ll get over me soon, Tarquin. I’ll become but a distant, painless memory.” Tarquin was my father’s name.
(b) grab both sides of my face and upgrade my polite cheek-brushing into a full-blown lip-smacker. “There’s more where that came from, Tarquin,” she says, winking. Tarquin was my closest friend at school.
(c) say, “Ah, I remember when you used to hug me so hard every day it would nearly put my back out. I wish you’d never aged past seven. Oh look,” she adds, “Tarquin’s been at the bins again.” Tarquin is the irrepressible local squirrel.
(d) none of the above. We are both too devastated to talk.
As I drive away, failing my mother again, and seeing her for what may be the last time, does she…
(a) text me before my car’s out of sight, saying “Don’t forget to call when you arrive. Allow me this silliness. We never stop worrying.”
(b) run up the driveway, smashing her hands on the boot of my Hyundai. “When did you last wash this junk-heap? You’re no son of mine!” Her own Audi gleams even though it hasn’t been driven for ten years.
(c) stand in the doorway, waving sentimentally until she thinks I can no longer see her, then letting her expression fall and shaking her head in some form of deep-rooted intergenerational disapproval.
(d) write me this story on a postcard, leaving the twelve multiple choice options blank, then post it to Andalusia, asking me to complete and return it. We smuggle tiny glimpses of our half-lived lives.
Michael Loveday’s hybrid novella-in-flash Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best Novella. He also writes poetry, with a pamphlet He Said / She Said published by HappenStance Press (2011). More at: https://michaelloveday.com/