June 2019 – Lightly Done

Inspiration or imagination?

Which is the most important? Every month a group of writers meet in our house to exchange news and ideas. As a parting challenge someone will suggest a word or phrase to be used in a poem or short story. The single word ‘Tissue’ left me high and dry right up to the last few days when I was tidying a drawer and found a forgotten piece of blue tissue paper wrapped around my father’s medals. The following piece of flash fiction was the result

Mum brought us up on her own. . . she said men were, and always would be a waste of space.  ‘Don’t you believe anything they tell you,’ she would say.  ‘They’ll pay you compliments as long as it suits them, but when you need them you’ll find their priorities are all wrong.  Got to look after my mates, or some such nonsense and off they go.’

     My dad was in the navy, a stoker, mum said.  Good looking guy to judge by the photo she kept beside her bed, taken on their wedding day.  She held a bunch of flowers in front of her, to hide me and my sister was all she would say. She said we turned up three months later but by then the war had started and my dad had gone.  He never came back.  

     We lived on benefits and hand-me-downs from cousins and stuff from jumble sales and mum took in ironing until we were old enough to go to school.  If we asked why we didn’t have a dad like the other kids, she would get angry and talk about the swindle of sex and wrong priorities.  ‘You’ll find out one day.  Just don’t trust them, if they are in the navy you will always be second best.’

     Mum loved pretty things and as soon as we were old enough to be left alone at home she got a job in a local dress shop.  ‘I can’t afford beautiful clothes but this way at least I can enjoy them,’ she would say as she wrapped up delicate lace underwear for some man hoping to woo a fair maiden with a seductive gift.

     Mum died in the hospice last week.  Me and my sister, we clubbed together and bought her a beautiful lace nightgown to wear in her coffin, it seemed only right.  Yesterday we began to clear out her flat.  I’m glad the two of us were together when we discovered what our mum kept hidden under the lining paper in her bottom drawer. Folded between the pages of a local newspaper was a letter from the Commanding Officer of HMS Repulse offering sympathy and congratulating our mum for the selfless bravery of her husband and inviting her to receive his posthumous award, the Victoria Cross. Our dad had died a hero saving the lives of his mates.  Wrapped in blue tissue paper was proof of his priorities.    

Which is the most important to a writer, inspiration or imagination? I would say both. On those days when both are lacking what is the solution – do you despair and give up? What keeps you going?