August 13, 2021

“No response, except for a grunt.”

  An excerpt from “Trouble and Strife,” by Johanne Levesque

The sequence of events is pretty predictable on Sunday mornings.  The floor creaks upstairs.  That should be Evelyn; she’s always the first child to get up.  I will know when Alvin is up by the sound of a violin.  The smell of food always wakes up Melvin; he is always hungry that boy.  Pretty soon Gloria will wake up and join me in the kitchen.

Evelyn comes down the stairs in her blue flannel pyjamas as if in a race.  I spread marmalade on her toast to occupy her during the dreaded chore of hair-brushing.  I pick my skinny girl up, place her on my lap and hug her.  It is a stolen hug as Evelyn never wants to be hugged.  I start to brush Evelyn’s unruly red hair and smile as I look up at the crooked multi-coloured glazed clay ashtray that Alvin made in his kindergarten class for his dad’s birthday.  It was so misshapen that I couldn’t tell what it was when he first brought it home.  I have asked many times for Eugene to make use of the gift for Alvin’s sake, but Eugene says it couldn’t hold the ashes on a calm windless day.  Beside the ashtray stands the statue of the Virgin Mary.  Above the mantel, a crucifix is the centrepiece surrounded with family portraits.  Some are yellowed like the picture of my mother and father on their wedding day.  Some are more recent like the picture of Evelyn beside the Bishop on the day of her confirmation.  Evelyn, my freckled face girl, is flailing and screaming in protest on my knee acting like she is being tortured while I comb her waist long hair.  I hate it when she whines and complains.

“Evelyn, do you want me to cut your hair?”  I ask her.

“No Mother, please don’t!”

“Then sit still and let me finish combing it.”

“Yes, Mother,” she says as she sucks her thumb.

When I’m done, I put Evelyn down, pat her on the head and tell her to get ready for church.  She starts to whine because I messed up her hair.  She can see I don’t have the patience for it this early in the morning.  She zooms upstairs.  Most likely she will come down with a mismatched outfit, but I won’t say anything; Evelyn is so contrary that I pick only the important battles.

Alvin is dressed impeccably and does not have to be prompted to get ready early, as he is proud of his duty as an altar boy.  There is a knock at the door and Alvin picks up his toast and runs off with Peter, the boy next door.

Gloria and Melvin are already wearing their Sunday best.  While they eat, I shoot upstairs to wake Eugene.  I shake his shoulder gently.  He slaps my hand away.  “How many times do I have to tell you not to wake me up, woman?”

“Time to go to church,” I say as I quietly get dressed and join the children downstairs.

Eugene is last to arrive.  “Good morning, Dad,” the children say in unison.

No response, except for a grunt.

If you liked this excerpt from Trouble and Strife, you can buy the book at any of the following links:

Austin Macauley Publishers™ (my publisher)
Barnes & Noble

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