__SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT by Rosa Johnson__
`Peggy, how nice to see you.' Alison lied, hoping her mother-in-
law wouldn't stay long. She was polite for Chris's sake but Peggy
had a way of pushing her to the brink of her tolerance so she
came near to telling her a few home truths.
`I was about to put the kettle on, do you fancy a cuppa?'
`A cup of tea would be very nice dear. What time are you
expecting Christopher tonight?'
`Do you want to see him?'
`I'm always pleased to see him of course, but I was hoping for a
little chat - girls' talk.' She smiled a sickly smile.
Alison waited. The last little chat they had was about footwear.
Peggy didn't care for sloppy sandals, `..especially with such a
little dress dear!'
It had been the same ever since she'd known Chris, and worse
they were married. Peggy was the personification of the
mother-in-law, but although Alison longed to tell her to mind her
bloody business she never did.
`I have difficult feet,' she said. `I can't find neat sandals to
me.' The truth was, Alison's priority was comfort.
She put the tray on the sofa-table and sat down to pour.
`No tray cloth dear? Such pretty cups too, a pity not to
make the best of them.'
`I don't use tray cloths. Except on special occasions.'
`No, you young people do seem to have let standards slip,'
Peggy opened her handbag, `No sugar thank you, I'm using
Alison put two heaped spoonfuls of sugar into her own cup.
`You really shouldn't use so much sugar dear. It would be a
shame if you were to put on even more weight.' Peggy said
`You won't catch me imbibing chemicals so I can look like astick
insect. Those things could be trouble with a capital 'T' in a few years
you take too many,' Alison retorted.
Peggy was silent a moment; `Would you like me to pop
upstairs for your nail varnish? You probably hadn't realised your toe
are rather chipped Alison.'
`No thanks. I'll re-do them tonight. Now Peggy what about
that little chat you wanted?'
* * *
Alison was in the kitchen crashing around like something
possessed when Chris got home.
`Hello Darling,' he called cheerfully. There was no reply.
`Something wrong?' Chris put his head round the kitchen
door. `Ali?' She turned to face her husband, bottom lip
fighting back tears of suppressed fury.
`Chris I can't take much more.'
`Don't tell me - Mum's been round again!'
`How did you guess?'
`What is it this time?'
`She thinks it's time we had a baby. A boy. Not too big;
fat babies aren't attractive. Eve Protheroe's new granddaughter
overweight and looks hideous... Oh Chris, what did I do to deserve
`We'll have a baby if that's what you want my darling.' He
wasn't prepared for Alison's reaction.
`No we bloody won't! My pregnancy wouldn't be my own, and if
she didn't like what we produced she'd want us to trade it in or
exchange it for something better.'
`Ali-son!' Chris couldn't cope with her when she was in this
`Ali-son!' she taunted. `She rules you, and now she's
started on me. Well you may as well know, I will not put up with it. I
you Chris and she knows it. She can't bear to share you so she's doing
best to come between us. If we don't get away from her pretty soon she
`Oh come on, I know Mum's not easy but...'
`Not easy! She's impossible! She made her disapproval clear
before we were married; she despises me, she hates me working and
so, and now she's trying to plan our family for us. She even has
audacity to compare me with Eve Protheroe's daughter-in-law,
whoever she is. Apparently she got married after us and they've
procreated! Do you know what your precious mother said? "Perhaps
should get someone to take a look inside to make sure everything's
right." Chris, how dare she? What goes on inside me is none of
Chris put his arm round Alison's waist and slid his hand
underneath her sweater. She pulled away and burst into tears.
`Now look what she's made me do!' A thin trail of smoke
curled out of the oven. `That was our dinner.'
He turned the oven off.
`Don't worry, we'll go out.'
`I can't go out.' she sobbed.
`Why ever not?'
`I look a mess, and I paid good money for those chops. I'm in a
rage so I shall bolt my food. I shall probably be sick
and that'll be more waste. Well wont it?' she screamed.
`Now who's being impossible?' Chris smiled. `You're so
beautiful when you're angry.' he said. He wrapped his arms round
and held her close. Sobs shook her whole body. He kissed her hair,
forehead, her tear-stained cheeks, her lips.
`Alison Morgan I do love you. Please let me buy you a
pizza tonight?' Her sobs changed to giggles.
`In or out?' she sniffed.
`Wherever you like my darling.'
* * *
They were surprised not to see Peggy for several weeks. Her
visits were never regular but they were generally frequent.
Too frequent for Alison's liking. When a fortnight passed with
neither sight nor sound of her, Alison was uneasy. Another
week and she thought Peggy was up to something, or was she
offended? Never! Yet something was keeping her.
Chris wasn't worried. `Did you say something to upset her?'
`Not deliberately. Do you think she's O.K.?'
`She'd let us know soon enough if she weren't. I'll give her
a ring if we don't hear by Friday. Don't worry about her.'
`That's the last thing I'd do, but if you don't make contact she'll
`I'll do it I promise.' Alison knew he'd forget.
Another week and still there was no sign of Peggy. Though
the silence was heavenly, Alison's conscience got the better of her.
it or not Peggy was Chris's mother.
`Peggy, it's Alison. We were wondering if...'
`Alison! How nice to hear from you - at last,' she simpered.
`Would you like to come for lunch on Sunday?' Whatever was
she saying? Lunch! That meant all day!
`Thank you dear, but I already have an invitation...' She
couldn't come, yippee!... `I met up with an old friend, from years ago,
other day, and I've been invited to go there.
Perhaps I could pop in for coffee sometime. You don't work on
Fridays do you?'
`Friday will be fine.'
`I do rather want a word with you.' What now? My teeth? My
hair? My broken finger nails? `I need your advice.'
`You're asking me for advice?' She shouldn't have said it like
Wait for it....
`Yes dear, it's about Christopher.'
Chris was hardly inside the door; `What do you think? Your
mother's coming round on Friday'
`Great. How is she?'
`Changed! She wants my advice,' Alison paused, `About you.'
`That's what she said.'
`She's probably decided it's my fault we weren't as quick off
mark as the Protheroes!' Alison looked at her husband
`What makes you say that?'
`I don't know.'
`It is rather a coincidence. You remember that evening when we
baked beans in bed instead of going out for a pizza...?'
* * * *
Alison thought how nice Peggy looked. `Are you going
on somewhere? You're looking very smart Peggy.' she said.
`Don't I always look smart?' Same old Peggy.
`You look particularly nice, radiant even.'
`That's why I wanted to talk to you.'
`Have a bickie.' Alison said, passing the packet and waiting for
reaction. It didn't come. `What did you want to ask me?'
`I can confide in you can't I, Alison?' What was she up to?
Was this another devious means to a dastardly end? Peggy cleared
her throat nervously. `You see dear I was feeling rather down and
Doctor Parry put me on some marvellous tablets; I feel twenty
`I said you looked radiant.'
`Alison, what do you think Chris will say if... ' Peggy
`Will he mind if...' she stumbled on, `You see - I'm going to be
* * * *
`You're not jealous of Harry are you Chris?' Alison fastened
a nappy round the baby on her knee.
`Your mother thought you might be.'
`Harry's a saint. He's liberated us. Come on you know he has.'
baby Chris was winding burped loudly.
`Do you know Peggy actually said our sons were worth waiting
for. How's that for appreciation?'
`Mum's got something to crow about now. Eve Protheroe's
daughter-in-law only managed one overweight baby girl!'
Alison laid Alex on Chris's lap beside Gavin and kissed them
`I think they've turned out rather well don't you?'
`Yes, better than a pizza any day!'