18th July

His Mother, in the Sun

The rented cottage had no outdoor furniture, so he took two chairs from the kitchen and placed them on the grass.

‘They’re a bit hard,’ he said. ‘I’ll get you a cushion.’

‘Don’t worry, this is fine,’ she replied. She’d gone through life saying things like that: This is fine, don’t worry, never mind. Now, in her late eighties, this acceptance of things as they were, this dislike of ‘causing a fuss’, seemed to have served her well. But when he brought her the cushion and fitted it behind her back, she did not object.

‘Glass of wine?’

‘Yes, please.’

Earlier, he’d put a bottle of rosé in the fridge. A summer wine for a summer evening. He rinsed and dried three glasses. His wife was preparing supper: nothing fancy, just some pasta and salad.

‘Do you want me to set the table?’ he asked, pouring her a glass of wine.

‘No, I’ll do it. You talk to your mum.’

He’d be driving his mother home later, so only gave himself half a glass. He poured a full one for her, though. When he held the wine to the light it glowed.

‘Look,’ he said, nodding towards the window. The sun was low now, but still had plenty of warmth in it. His mother had turned the chair in order to be face on to the sun. Her hands were folded, her head tilted back, her eyes closed. Perhaps she was thinking about his father at the hospital. Perhaps she wasn’t thinking of anything, simply enjoying the luxury of not thinking.

She’d always loved the sun. She and his father used to go abroad for it, but foreign holidays were out of the question now. At least this year summer had put in a home appearance.

‘Go out to her,’ his wife said.

And he would. They would talk about inconsequential things of the present, or good memories from his childhood or from hers, until the midges began to bite, or they were called in to eat. But before he took out the wine, he watched her a moment longer: his mother, in the sun. He knew he would never forget that view of her.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Piano: Kit Downes
Subscribe here for more stories & music