What are mothers for ?

What are mothers for ?

A Story by joshua rainbird

Not everyone gets this the first time they read it - it's a riddle plot.


What are mothers for?


‘Martha, just put the dishcloth down a moment and listen to my proposal.’ Michael said as he watched the woman scurry around the kitchen. She was trying her hardest to put some order into the chaos.

‘They’re good boys really. It was just a silly argument that got out of hand.’ Martha rinsed out the blood before mopping up the next lot. ‘It was an accident they didn’t mean it.’

‘It’s not for me to judge,’ Michael said with a glint of whitened teeth.
Martha looked pale. ‘The neighbours will blame me for all of this. They always blame me. You try to raise them proper, teach them right and wrong. God knows how hard I tried.’

‘Martha,’ Michael interrupted her with a comforting sigh, ‘let me take you away from all of this. It’s all ready, just the way you wanted.’

She rinsed out the cloth again. Despite her effort the kitchen still looked a mess. ‘I tried to stop them but they’re just too big.’

‘How bad is it?’ Michael nodded at the bloody trail.

Before he could turn the door handle her hand shot out to stop him. ‘Best not.’ She couldn’t let him see it.

Sympathy softened Michael’s face as he withdrew from the door.

‘I would offer you a drink, but…’ Martha struggled to continue. The teapot was missing its spout. A sad cloud gathered on her face. ‘It served us well. Father James loves his Darjeeling. Every Thursday afternoon two cups each and once a fortnight a fresh packet of Hobnobs.’ She opened a biscuit tin; only crumbs were left. ‘That’s when the boys don’t hog them.’

‘Martha,’ Michael interrupted, firmly this time.

‘You’re not going to let them join us, are you?’

‘Not unless they learn some respect.’ His tone was resolute as if hope was just a fantasy. ‘We’ve standards to maintain. Drop those and the floodgates will open. I’m sorry if it divides your loyalties.’

Beaded tears fell down Martha cheeks. ‘How can I leave them, now? They need me more than ever.’

‘They’re all grown up.’

‘They’re my own flesh and blood. I can’t just desert them.’ Martha stared at Michael. She felt like she was letting him down. He’d always protected them but now the boys had gone too far. She cursed herself for not acting sooner.

But in his clean linen suit what did Michael know about real life? She stared at his smooth face and perfect smile, a countenance unweathered by the storms of parenthood.

‘The offer’s always there. You only have to ask.’ Michael added. ‘But the longer you leave it, the harder it will be.’

‘Just go.’ Martha said turning her back on her guest. She walked down the hallway alone, pausing momentarily at the half-open door. A taint of copper malingered in her mouth.

All was still in the room save the ticking of an alarm clock; like a mislaid heartbeat it filled the void. Martha crept across the carpet determined not to stare at the bloody corpse sprawled upon her bed.

On her bedside cabinet, beneath a rosary, lay a photograph - half-buried in sand two little boys grinned by a crumbling castle. Carefully she picked up the picture. They looked so happy. She smiled; who was she kidding? Even then they were squabbling about who should plant the flags.

‘And you, you silly cow, just got in the way again,’ Martha said, gently pulling a stray hair from the corpse’s mouth. But what could she have done? Someone had to stop them before they killed one another.

Martha never knew a knife could hurt so much.

She knelt by the bed grasping the photo firmly in her pale hands, her boys, her precious boys. Michael and all his angels may have forsaken them, but she hadn’t. She would look out for them, protect them, be there, no matter what... as best she could. Isn't that what mothers do?

Martha lifted her corpse’s heavy wrist and slid the photo beneath its grasp. Perhaps, just perhaps, it would remind her boys of happier days and their mother’s forgiveness.


© 2008 joshua rainbird

My Review

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It did took me a couple of reads to fully get it, but it was well worth it.
Very well written, with great descriptions, believable situations and an excellent dialog.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This is one of the best stories I have read. Very touching, I enjoyed the visual images that you put throughout the story. Amazing, absolutely amazing.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Wow. That's the best word to use here. A very well written story, but it did leave me unfulfilled. I want to know more about what led up to this event. What happened between the boys? Is Michael a friend or an angel like his friends? I was confused about that as I would think an angel wouldn't need (or could) turn a door knob to see the other side. Other than my density on the topic, I thought it was very good. I, too, enjoyed the twist at the end. Very vivid descriptions, good choice of words. I liked it. Can I borrow some of your talent on my next story?? :o)

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hey there, I thoroughly enjoyed this. A nice twist at the end to sum up a well written and touching piece. The dialogue works well between the two characters and doesn't give anything away. Congrats on winning the contest! Cheers! HoWiE

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Poignantly touching...very visual.

Posted 11 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

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5 Reviews
Added on February 8, 2008


joshua rainbird
joshua rainbird

South Coast, England

I've been writing for around a year and a half now. My first short story Intracranial Biomodem was published in the second edition of Pantechnicon e-zine back in Jan 2007 ( www.pantechnicon.net ). S.. more..


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