They came up the hill: the brakes shrieking, the dog barking, my mother holding high a three- quarters empty bottle of whiskey outside the camper van window. I didn’t want her here. I never wanted her here but she came just the same at the start of summer and parked her camper van in the lane: I have a legal right, Jack – I know my rights, Jack. As always there was an unfamiliar shadow in the driving seat. My mother never came alone – she’d lost her licence three times. She usually stayed for three nights, but I never knew why. I didn’t want to know why. For three nights I could feel the throb of her orange camper below my bedroom window.
She stumbled from the front of the camper and threw her bottle at the hissing geese before pissing in the blackberry bushes. Her skirt caught on a bramble – she gave it a good tug, it ripped: she assessed the damage, sat in the brown grass, grappled for her bottle and took another swig of whiskey. When I left my bedroom window she was still sitting in the grass; the shadow kicked his way through the chickens and slouched off to gawp at the cows dozing in the sun.
I had no choice but to walk in the lane – I had my own dog to walk. This time though, my mother didn’t come running after me like she had done every other year. Every summer she tried to press a small sellotaped piece of newspaper into my hand. This year we didn’t follow the same pattern – her running to catch up with me, me ignoring her, her dog barking at my dog before I gave up and went back indoors.
I didn’t see her at all this time. Fiddle tunes from my childhood drifted from the camper, the dog howling along and shadows moving behind the frayed yellow flowered curtains. It’s hard not to look when it’s outside your bedroom window.
On the fourth morning the dog wasn’t barking – I drew open the bedroom curtains: the orange throb had gone; the shadow had gone and driving down the hill was an undertaker’s hearse. I closed the curtains.
Downstairs I picked up the tatty newspaper packet lying underneath the letterbox. I planted the three beans from the envelope in the tracks she left in the lane. I knew they would never grow, but I hoped they would.