Hope and the jumping bean

I was inspired to try my hand at a bit of fiction by One Frazzled Mum’s writing in response to The Prompt linky on Mum turned Mom. This week’s prompt is hope. Please be gentle with me. I haven’t tried to write fiction since I was about 12. This is completely made up and not autobiographical or about any real person.

Hope stands at the window looking at the driving rain. She loves being indoors in her warm home while rain batters the window and the branches of trees bend in the wind. She cracks the window open and takes a breath of the air that smells of dry soil stirred by raindrops.

The rest of the house is silent and empty. She walks to the sofa and picks up her phone. No messages. No notifications. She opens up her Facebook app and starts scrolling.

All of the usual stuff is there. A friend from school who works as an estate agent has closed on another mansion. Political posts. Someone baked a cake. Someone else is on holiday. Several people have adorable children.

Hope checks her watch. Another ten minutes has passed. Some people think she’s old fashioned for wearing a watch. Most people just look at their phone. If she did that, she would have lost her phone a hundred times over. She checks the time a lot. She lives by the clock.

She hears the key rattle in the lock and feels that familiar little jump of happiness in her chest every time her other half comes home. It mixes in with all the nervous flip flops that were cavorting in her stomach and makes her feel sick again. As her partner, Peter, walks in the door, she rummages in her handbag for a piece of gum.

“Oh finally you’re back! We’re going to be late,” she says, anxious and distracted at the same time. She finds the pack of gum and pops a piece in her mouth.

“We’ve got plenty of time!” Peter says brightly. “Are you ready to go then?

Hope smacks her gum loudly and gives him a look. “What do you think?”  Then she stands up, grabs her coat and walks purposefully out the front door to get in the car. Peter follows.

The radio blares loudly when the car is first turned on. Hope loves listening to the radio on full blast. An Ed Sheeran song is playing. He’s one of her favourite artists, but not today. She quickly changes the channel, then pairs up her phone to the sound system so she can choose what music she wants to hear. Maybe a bit of Iron Maiden. Aggression and no fear.

Hope sits in the car with her hand on her stomach. She can’t feel anything really. Just like last time. She has felt just exactly the same as last time all the way through. A little bit sick. A little bit hungry. A little bit like her bra is becoming too small. Does this mean that it would happen again?

She had told her friends this time. She wasn’t waiting for this appointment. Last time it was harder to tell them when she was already grieving. When they couldn’t understand why she disappeared for a while. Why she was so sad – and is still so sad. Nothing is ever going to bring back what was lost, even if today brings good news.

Peter parks the car and they walk across the car park, through the sliding doors, up the two flights of stairs and down a long hallway. They enter a small waiting room and Hope walks up to the counter.

“I’ve got an appointment at 1:15,” she tells the receptionist.

The receptionist is distracted, doing twenty things at once. She asks, “Do you have your notes?” Hope hands them over. The receptionist takes them. “Take a seat,” she says.

Hope and Peter sit down on the hard plastic seats. There aren’t any magazines in the waiting room. Just various health-related leaflets. Hope ignores them and tries to check her phone, but she doesn’t have any signal. She grabs Peter’s hand and he squeezes hers in return. They wait in silence for what seems an eternity.

A woman calls Hope’s name. Her stomach jumps, flips and ties itself into a knot. Her eyes start to black out a little bit around the edges and she feels lightheaded. She has to take deep breaths to stop herself from total panic.

Hope and Peter follow the woman who called her name into a darkened room. “Right,” the woman says, “just lie down and lift up your top, and we’ll go ahead and take a look.” Mercifully, she doesn’t ask any other questions or say anything else.

“This might be a bit cold,” the sonographer says as she squirts gel on Hope’s stomach.

Hope holds her breath as the sonographer probes her stomach with the ultrasound wand. She pushes the wand into her stomach and Hope hears nothing. She moves it again and again. Hope takes a deep breath and then holds it some more. She closes her eyes tight.

Then, a swishing noise. The sonographer smiles and turns her screen to where Hope can see it. “There we go,” she says, “you take a look while I just take some measurements.”

Hope’s eyes fly open and she looks at the screen. She decides to hold her breath some more while the sonographer draws little lines on the screen with her mouse.

“Everything looks fine,” the sonographer says. Hope breathes out and finally allows herself to look – really look – at the screen. She sees a little jumping bean, full of life and potential.

If you’ve been affected by the issues in this story, please check out Tommy’s for support.

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Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

On poetry, friendship, memory and loss

A review of Landslide, a collection of poems by Andrew Jarvis

When I announced on my personal Facebook page that I was starting a blog, my most immediately supportive friend was Andrew Jarvis. He was one of a close-knit group of friends I had in high school, from whom I’ve been parted geographically but never in terms of my affection for them. When we were kids, Andy (a nickname he used then but no longer) and I bonded through a love of music, dancing, silliness and not giving a damn what anybody thought of us. To me, Andy was honest and free and ready to barrel headlong into life.

Recently, I saw him again for the first time in 15 years. I have to admit I barely recognised the boy who’d been such a big part of my life. I saw this calm, careful, articulate man named Andrew. He was all grown up and a published poet.

Andrew Jarvis with The Mum Reviews
A picture of me and Andrew when we saw each other recently, for the first time in 15 years.

When he asked me to review his new book on my new blog, I was very flattered. But I have to say I feel a bit overwhelmed with the responsibility. Despite having a PhD in English, I don’t see myself as much of a poetry critic. So I’m approaching this review as a normal person who might want to read a bit of poetry. Thus forward, in my review I will call the poet Jarvis, as if we never drove together to the bowling alley singing Michael Jackson songs at the top of our lungs.

Poetry is perhaps not as popular in modern times as it once was. Friends recommend books and movies to each other, but rarely say, ‘hey, I read this great poem the other day’. Which is a shame actually, because a good poem carefully constructed can say as much in one page as an entire novel. Don’t think you have the time and energy to read much? You have time to spend 2 minutes reading a poem. Jarvis’s latest book, Landslide, is a good place to start. It is full of these perfect micro-stories that whisk you away to another world, draw you in and then spit you out with a changed perspective.Landslide by Andrew Jarvis book cover

I feel like, knowing the author, I should have an insight into his poems and what they’re all about. But I don’t. In any case it doesn’t matter – my English degree whispers to me that the author is dead. So these are the themes that I see in this collection:

  • The brutality of nature and the brutality of man upon the natural world.
  • The inevitable decay of all earthly things, including those things that we love the most.
  • The way in which we love to erase the old with the new, but that memories are not so easily consigned to oblivion.

It sounds a little depressing, but actually it is uplifting . There is beauty in the recognition that these things come to pass and yet we all carry on. But most of all, the beauty is in the words themselves, conjuring images that carry you away from your sofa to a place where “sea lions adore / the abandoned, the thawed / freezers of heads and tails / as if they found Eden”.

Jarvis’s turn of phrase is so evocative and succinct, it’s like encountering each single drop of dew on a spider’s web as captured in a photographer’s lens. Here are a few excerpts from my favourite poems in this collection.

From “The Boxes”

She refilled the candy
when the grandchildren came,
peppermint mints and kisses
made of milk chocolate.

And we always found it,
in her special hiding place,
just below the pictures
and her little children things.

From “Rail Man”

The ballast, anchor, and roadbed,
the torn unfastened fastenings,
they severed his whole to his parts.

From “Old Growth”

Grandfather grew forests for us,
pierced the clouds and summoned their falls,
feeding the roots of his children.

From “Memory Bird”

And like an architect drafting the air,
she wants to remodel her memories,
piece together the wings, and fly back home.

Landslide is available to pre-order from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. If you are truly awesome, you could also try ordering it from your local bookshop, old-school style, for my old school friend.