The Protest


“Mummy, what’s that lady doing?”

“She’s protesting.”

Jenny pushed Tom before her, guiding him past the other shoppers with a gentle, but insistent, hand on his shoulder. The sports shop closed in five minutes, and she had to make sure she got the right golf balls. She bought the wrong ones last time, and Mark had not been happy.

Tom craned his neck to look at the woman as they passed her by. She was holding a sign he couldn’t read, and shouting, her face determined.

“What does… ‘por-testing’ mean?”

The first spots of rain fell, and one landed on Jenny’s nose and made her jump. She reached out and pulled Tom’s hood over his head. Why hadn’t she brought the pushchair? At three and a half he was getting too old for it, but it sure made shopping trips quicker.

Pro-testing,” Jenny corrected. “When you’re annoyed about something, you can tell everyone why and ask them to help you change it.”

“Like when Daddy is annoyed with you?”

Jenny smiled and shook her head. “Not quite, Tom. Bigger things than that. Come on, we need to hurry.”

The shop was in sight now, in the distance. As she herded Tom towards it, she saw a fit-looking guy in a polo shirt come to the door and flip the sign from Open to Closed.

“Shit!” Jenny couldn’t help herself.


“Sorry Tom.”

She picked him up now and swung him into her arms, ignoring the sharp pain in her back from her fall down the stairs the week before. Mark didn’t want her to go to the doctors, but she might have to, because it was getting worse. Tom gave a cry of surprise as she began to run towards the shop, every step making her gasp.

The guy was outside the sports shop locking the door now.

“Wait!” called Jenny, “Please…”

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This wee story is in response to my early-motherhood days in England, when the rivalry for motherly perfection was knives-out serious. I just thought, wouldn’t it be nice if…

chocolate mousse


My sister flung a cushion onto the floor, then another one. She caught hold of the throw on the sofa and wrenched it so that it was crumpled. I followed her unusual trail of destruction into the kitchen, where she took a biscuit out of a cat-shaped biscuit barrel, broke pieces off between her fingers and crumbled them over the kitchen floor. Clicking open the dishwasher, she took out three unwashed mugs, two egg-stained plates and some dirty cutlery, and scattered them randomly over the worktop with a clatter.

I stared at her, and she didn’t notice I’d stopped talking. Her work was not yet done. Her lips were pressed together in concentration. She surveyed her otherwise-neat house, as if she was unsure what to do next.

“Amy…” I began.

“Ah. Toys,” she smiled.

She left me. Her footsteps trotted away up the stairs and galloped back down again. I peered back into the lounge where she was emptying an enormous amount of Lego across the floor. Her hand swept the tiny, plastic pieces from side to side. She stood back to appraise her work.

“Not enough time,” she said, arms crossed, “It will just have to do.”

I had no idea what she was up to. The mess was so un-Amy.


She noticed I was there again and shook her head quickly. “Sorry. Sorry.”

“What on earth…?”

“I have a friend coming round in…,” she looked at her watch, “…Two minutes.”

“Most people tidy up.”

She presented me with her palms. “My friend’s house is always a tip,” she said, “I would hate her to feel bad. You know… like she’s the only one who can’t keep her house tidy.”

Her friend arrived almost on time, flustered and with an arm full of baby. Amy flung her arms around mother and child, ignoring splodges of jam and chocolate.

“Come in, come in! Please excuse the mess. I haven’t had a minute.”