"In The Night Clinic"
A Tale for Halloween
By P. T. Mayes
Copyright © 2013 P. T. Mayes
Angus only really began to worry about his mother's condition when, on one cold October afternoon, just after Countdown, she unexpectedly grew tentacles.
"It's nothing, dear," she cooed from bed, huddled under three duvets like a bear going into hibernation. "I'll be fine, you'll see. I don't want to cause any fuss."
"But... but... what is that?" he choked, staring at the mottled purple appendage that had escaped the duvet tomb and was slithering across the floor. My word, it even had suckers!
"It's just a phase I'm going through, dear," she said, her voice muffled because one side of her head was stuffed into the frilly pink pillow. "All I need is a little rest and I'll be as right as rain."
Angus nimbly stepped back from the tentacle when it began to snuffle his way. He didn't want it touching his shoes. They were Barkers and had cost him a small fortune. "I think you need to see a doctor."
For the first time she raised her head and looked straight at her son and Angus felt a shiver as cold as an Arctic flow pass through him. Before today his mother had always been so healthy and pink -- so pink in fact she could have been mistaken (and often had been) for a shop mannequin -- but now she was all white and waxy, and her skin hung off her skull like it was trying to escape her head. "No," she hissed. "I have never been to the doctors in my life, and I'm not about to start now. Anyway, I wouldn't like them seeing me the way I am. This old nightie is a disgrace, and if anyone saw me walking around in my fluffy slippers, I just know I'd die of shame, and if I died, it would be on your head. I have some pride left, so I won't see a doctor. Won't!"
Angus stared at his mother. The damn woman just didn't seem to realise she was growing tentacles and that her arms and legs were shrivelling up and retracting into her body. Surely, that was not normal behaviour for a woman of her age. He could not bring himself to explain this obvious fact to her just in case he upset her, and he hated upsetting his mother more than anything, for any reason, . She could get very emotional when she was upset. And when she got emotional things got broken. Broken so much they often could not be fixed. Angus' eyes moved to the line of photographs on the mantle where thirteen men - nine glossy black and white, seven in Kodak colour - smiled at him roguishly from highly polished silver frames. All but one of them had a moustache, which had always intrigued him. What was it about moustaches? None of his mother's ex-husbands had successfully managed to cope with her demands, her extreme mood swings and savage temper tantrums, and so had fallen by the wayside, one by one (Bill had gone to live in Aberdeen, his mother had claimed, and John was working on a rig in the North Sea, and one had gone on an expedition to Peru; and so on), only to be replaced within a matter of months by new charming Lothario. His mother worked fast. Angus did not like to think what the men saw in his mother, but whatever it was it was something he couldn't see, and for that he was thankful. There were some things a son shouldn't know about his mother. Just the other day a grey-haired old codger with two canes and a head shaped like a sharpened pencil had tried to chat up his mother at the fish counter in Tesco's, and until he had pulled her away, she had been letting him. They were practically on the verge of exchanging telephone numbers when he'd made some feeble excuse (something about the price of baked beans going up) and hustled her out the door as the old man shouted out his number. All the way back home she had been repeating the incomplete telephone number to herself, and for all he knew she had tried ringing him while he was out running errands.