Chapter Twelve: It Still Makes Me Cry
‘Mum, can I have the day off to go to the scan on Friday, please? I want to know if it’s a boy or a girl.’
‘What scan, love? Is somebody having a baby, how exciting?’
‘Mu-um,’ I screamed this at her because it isn’t funny, now. Her going nuts all the time is really getting on my nerves. ‘You’re having a baby, you’re pregnant, the baby? Remember?’
‘Katie Bell, don’t be so rid—’ She looked down at her tummy, touched it, and then she ran out of the room, crying. She wasn’t upset about the baby, at least I don’t think so, I think it was the other thing, you know, her going mad.
I think it’s getting worse, it seems to be. At first, it was just forgetting little things, like getting my tampons, but how can you forget, even for a second, that you’re pregnant? It’s a good job that I can look after myself. If I was a baby she’d probably leave me somewhere and forget that she ever had me. Maybe she’d like that.
When she said about the scan she was distracted, I suppose. She was sorting out plastic clothes pegs into colours. That was weird enough in itself. Part of the reason I said about the scan was to stop her. She was scaring me. She poured the pegs out onto the kitchen unit and tried to count them, but she couldn’t get past three. Every time she got to three she couldn’t remember what came next. So she sorted them into colours and had all these little piles mounted on the unit and then she just—I can’t describe it—played with them, I suppose.
She was singing to herself. ‘Five current buns in the baker’s shop, round and flat with currants on the top. Along came Katie with a penny, one day. Bought a currant bun, and took it away.’ But she didn’t go to four currant buns, she just kept on singing, five.
I had a flash back. I’m three and we’re on holiday in Germany. It was winter and there is thick snow everywhere. More snow than I’ve ever seen. I’m sitting on Dad’s knee in this mountain hotel, there’s a big log fire burning. Mum and dad are so happy. I’m singing the same song, only I sing, round and round with currents on the top, because I’m only three. I’m doing the actions, and we started at a hundred current buns. Whenever I get to the name bit, I twist round and look at my dad and he has a name ready for me. ‘Along came—Postman Pat—with a penny, one day.’ And I realise that it’s not a memory at all. I was only tiny. I’ve seen it on a home video.
I can’t blame it on the pregnancy, anymore. This isn’t being pregnant, is it? I’ve tried to make it be that. I’ve tried really hard, but Mum is proper weird now.
I heard Dad talking to Aunty Linda. He thinks she’s having a mental breakdown. I heard him say it. Poor Mum. Can you get pills to cure a mental breakdown or is it like cancer, where you always die? It can’t be cancer, can it? Mr Jeffries down the road, had cancer. He died, but he didn’t go mental, I don’t think. My life won’t be worth living when the kids at school find out that I’ve got a mental mother. Dad called it, the elephant in the room. He sounded terrified. My dad’s so big and strong, he’s not frightened of anything. So if he’s frightened of this, how am I supposed to cope with it?
She’s obsessed with gardening. That’s not her being an elephant; she’s always been obsessed with it. She talks to the plants and calls them her babies. And that’s her when she’s normal. Or maybe she’s always been mad and she’s only just decided to get worse. Is it normal to talk to plants?
When Kali died, last year, I thought I was going to die, too. I didn’t think I could live without her. She smelled really bad in the last couple of years. It made me feel icky stroking her. But you couldn’t not stroke her. She was nearly deaf and nearly blind and she’d come up to you with her big brown and bluey-white eyes and it didn’t matter that she leaned against me and made me smell, too. She was seventeen and that’s really old for a dog and she was senile, like real people get. But she never forgot how to love people. She could always wag her tail and beg for food. There was nothing wrong with her nose.
I’m crying now, as I write this. I can’t forget the feel of her little black paws with the long black nails, because she was too old to cut them and it distressed her so much. My hand would curl around her paw and it’s as though I can still fell it there, now. I love Alba and Poppy; they are five months old now and really cute. They’re sisters and are both white with different coloured patches. Alba is black and white and Poppy is grey and white. I love them—but they aren’t Kali.
Mum’s dead creative, and that’s what’s made me think about Kalls so much today, and I’m all upset, what with mum going loopy and Kali being gone. I can’t hold her in my arms and snuggle into her when I’m crying, and that hurts so much. I miss my dog.
She used to have this great big, reddy-brown plastic dog bed. It had loads of cushions and blankets in it, because Kali was really spoiled. You could have fit Kali in it ten times, and she used to hide all of her toys, and some of mine, in there and guard them possessively. Once she took Aunty Linda’s cigarettes, when she still used to smoke, and hid them in her bed. Every time Linda tried to get them, Kali snapped at her. It was hilarious. Mum said Kali was only telling her that smoking is bad for her and that she’d get cancer. Does cancer make you go insane? Can it?
Mum’s been saying for ages that she’d take the dog bed and put a ‘Help Yourself’ sign on it and that she’d leave it on the garden gate so that somebody else can benefit from it. She’s been saying that since last summer and now, it’s not far off summer again, but she’s never done it, Mum misses her, too. I’m glad we didn’t get rid of her bed. It’s all I have left of her, that and her collar and lead.
Mum heaped Kali’s old bed with soil and compost and filled it full of beautiful flowers. She said that it doesn’t look much now, but once we’re in the blooming season, it will look magnificent and will be a mass of colour. She said it will be a constant reminder of Kali for years to come. I love my Mum so much.