Before changing into his work suit, he knocked his mother’s bedroom door and poked his head in, demonstrating his fresh haircut.
Mrs Busby was awake, uninterested in the top of bristly scalps today. She lay propped up against her throne of pillows in her jewellery and silk nightgown that would require one part titanium white and three of cerulean blue, if he was allowed to paint her.
‘Who was that at the door earlier?’ she said, invested in the ripples of her blue duvet that her flattening palm teased to waves.
It had once been known to all that when she wasn’t meek as a lamb, Mrs Busby was sharp as she was ancient and permitted no-one to act the fool. To put it simply: it was her thinking, after a nap, that it’s better to get where you’re going without having to shove; pre-nap she’d cleave her way anywhere with a blunt instrument if propriety allowed. He held secret opinions of her like porcelain marbles, too precious, too fragile to roll. Looking askance to observe her rising irritation, it was only evident how her waters no longer boiled as they once could; he watched her stare and stir until she simmered again, her temperament broiled by a faulty stove and fading supply of gas. It could be adorable, entertaining even in its way, like watching a wound up pup spend its energy until exhausted. Rancour can humble and, when cooled, personalities, characters, their ego and idiosyncrasies are flesh and bone that need warmth.
Given his aversion to the frankness of mirrors, Mr Busby observed, sparingly, the ravaging effects time had taken on him. His mother, though, had lain in the same spot for a lifetime so that her beak-like nose told of the sun’s movement like a dial from one hour to the next. As such it was clear how time had rinsed and shrunk her, how her bones had remained as the flesh melted loosely from them as if only her colourless eyes would one day remain. She was wrinkly like a discarded draft scrunched to a ball then thought better of, stretched smooth to find it doesn’t fit the canvas frame anymore. Mr Busby kept that porcelain marble to himself, imagined its smooth surface amongst others in his pocket as she stirred again with impatience.
‘Well? Don’t just coo. Someone was at the door earlier. They were ringing and banging for the whole street to hear. Who was it?’
Mr Busby faced her with an ear as he watched the park trees bluster.
Like a fangless dog, the tooth gone from its bite, there no was no need to determine which Mrs Agatha Busby he was faced with anymore. Her lips tightened and tongue prodded and vanished like a viper, but where once the hiss had been laced with venom, now it was the absence of her frontal dentures that made her tongue poke when she spat upon plosives. You see, the two sides of her had merged as one, but not as two halves make a whole, more so the void of static and white noise of a television screen, wavering lost between two channels. Once it had been more vivid, a full turn of the dial with little notice, bringing into full vibrant colour and venom a force to be reckoned with, that could tumble mountains and men and make mice flee; a counter clockwise spin of the dial saw her scared of the world’s shadow, timid and meek in need of warmth. Now, in her twilight that stretched decades, as she lay wrinkly like an old leaf in her haze between channels, her stinging snap as welcome as her gentle love, whichever lasted long enough to feel certainty that she was there, present in the room.