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16 October 2014
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Colin Cather
Colin Cather

Colin is a Bangor boy now living and working in Yorkshire - growing a business and a family (two year old Tom and one-on-the-way) with his wife Justine. Together they are the Burnt Sugar Sweet Company making and selling 'the world's best fudge' according to the Observer Food Monthly. Colin uses any spare time to write - spurred on by Hull University's course in Creative Writing - and hopes to have a novel finished sometime in the future.

A Word in the Hand by Colin Cather

She made up her mind, right then, that I was something other. Not Quite Right. Other. Mark it well - we would never enjoy a loving relationship from that day forward. I had scalded her with blistering embarrassment. But it was more. She now felt the instinctive repulsion one body feels for its polar opposite. And this repulsive foreign body was me - her firstborn. Her betrayer. No longer mother and son, but Mother and Other.

And my dad, who in that moment might have been grateful, knew that from now on I was setting myself apart. That moment as I led him by the hand. Those little fingers pulling his big, scaly hand with an untold purpose. Up the stairs. Ignoring his questions. Purposeful. To the plantpot on the landing. To the letter inside.

As for me - I really believe I didn't know what I was doing until it was done - and then it couldn't be undone, and I wasn't even sure I would undo it anyway. I felt quite good really. Smart. Clever. Smug.

Sinister. Wicked. Sleekid.

“…sleekid wee beggar, that's what you are, a sleekid wee beggar.”
”What's that, mum?” My question punctured straight through the acid-yellow vapour-trails of her hissing words and I watched them disperse; only the Godzilla-glare of my mum's eye-lasers still piercing the air between us.

My dad just sent me to go and play, and then they started at each other behind the wobbly sliding doors in the living room, and I still felt Smart. Smart, like I had outsmarted somebody. Like the Snow Story.

The Snow Story. You see, an August birthday made me a candidate for either an early or late intake to school. The Education Board had set their policy for late entry. But now I was being pushed upwards. I went straight from P2 to P4. Smart.

The Snow Story played its part in this. It was February and we were flailing around in a big snowfall, and Miss McCready had asked the class to write about the snow. You know the sort of thing - eight lines of wobbly handwriting, maybe some daring couplets rhyming 'flake' with 'shake', and a picture of a snowman.

My story was about a caveman - a caveboy in fact, and his first sight of snow. It was to have been anyone's first sight of snow, ever. And he spoke of it burning - like fire. No rhyming, no pictures. Just a v.v.g. from a now rather unsettled Miss McCready. Pretty Smart.

It was all a con of course. The story and the brave descriptions were nicked from an old annual I had bought at the church fête. I can still see its black-and-white comic strip drawings of the little caveboy in his bear-skin loin-cloth shivering as he steps into the snow. Spitting as the white powder burns his tongue. I didn't copy it, just pinched the ideas. I felt like a fraud, but Clever none the less. I was elevated, and the whole world of adults seemed diminished beside me.

So on this morning, alerted by her clumsy deception as she fumbled at the foot of the stairs, I turned my smartness on my mother. I had looked down the stairwell to see her snatching up the morning post. With the snap of the letterbox she had started from her blocks somewhere in the kitchen to arrive at the doormat before the envelopes settled. I was just brushing my teeth and getting ready for school. I was seven years old. Seven years old and I had just been moved up a class in school.

I watched her shuffle through the mail and then, frantically stamping upstairs to the landing with those toe-thrusting steps to keep her slippers on her feet, as far as the landing where the gaudy vinyl plant pot stood. The tips of the rubber plant reached down to suspiciously brush the orange floral pattern that wrapped the pot. Now conscripted as the inadequate sentry for her concealment. As she slips the letter inside. Keeping watch for my father. Not seeing me. Not yet fearing me. Still, for a short time more, Mother and Son.

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Short Stories
A Word in the Hand

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