Sue looked down as a mound of green slime landed on the paving slab next to her, spraying water droplets onto bare feet and ankles. The little git.
Raising her eyes, she stared hard at the gangly teenager, poised with stick in hand, and far too much amusement in his dark, paternally inherited gaze. “Oops, sorry, Mum, that landed closer than expected.”
Yeah, right… Sue decided this was one of those times when being ‘adult’ was her only option; for now. “Just watch where you’re slinging it,” she muttered, glancing to where her multi-paned retreat reflected the afternoon light. “If you get any on the summerhouse, I will be mad...and you’ll be the one scrubbing grog off the windows.”
Steve looked surprised, glancing back at the structure in question. “I’m nowhere near it—and what the heck’s ‘grog’?”
What indeed. Sue chewed on her bottom lip, wondering what prompted her to use the word. “Oh, er, it’s another name for pond weed.”
Turning back, Steve cocked his head to one side and asked, “Since when?”
Sue’s mind blanked as she sought for an answer. Grog. Something about that word had shame welling up inside her. The whisper of a faded memory suddenly increased in volume. Oh, hell… she’d forgotten all about that.
Cheeks heating, she looked down at the stick in her hand, and tried not to let her flustered state show. Maybe if she ignored her son’s question, he’d let it go. She leaned forward, dipping the end of the wood into the fish pond, swishing it gently through the water, until she managed to hook a clump of weed. Twirling the stick around, she watched the strands of vegetation tangle about it, before dragging the stick out of the water again, and shaking the waterlogged greenery onto the paving slabs that surrounded the pond.
“Mum?” Steve’s question hung in the air, and Sue squirmed.
She stared into the pond. Was it her imagination, or were those goldfish suddenly giving her the evil eye?
“Mum?” Steve persisted.
No, not the evil eye, Sue thought, but definitely judgemental. Sighing, she gave up on the bright-orange, holier-than-thou fish, and looked up at her son.
“That’s what my friend and I used to call it, when we were little,” she explained. “Imogen’s parents had a pond, and we did much the same job as this—keeping it as weed-free as possible.”
Steve eyed her thoughtfully. “Hmm… So why are you looking at the goldfish like they’re about to become victims of a stick-rage incident? I thought childhood memories were a good thing; especially at your age.”
“You’d think that, wouldn’t you?” Sue grumbled, stabbing the end of her stick back into the water, and smiling in satisfaction as goldfish scattered.
There was a moment’s silence, and then Steve began to laugh. “Hang on, wasn’t it Imogen who got you to do all those stupid stunts when you were younger?”
Sue cringed. She really should learn to keep her mouth shut after a glass of wine.
“Yeah,” Steve continued, warming to his subject. “Wasn’t there a curmudgeonly old-man you used to torment? Cow-parsley planted in the middle of his vegetable patch, shutting the gate when he went to get the cows for milking, that kind of thing?” His laughter grew in volume. “What I wouldn’t give to have seen that!”
Sue ignored him, redoubling her pond-weeding efforts. But Steve was having fun. He hooked up another piece of weed. “So, what was it that Imogen the Instigator got you to do with ‘grog’, Mum?” When she didn’t answer, he turned, waving the dripping greenery towards the summerhouse. “Mum?”
As well as not learning to keep her mouth shut after alcohol, Sue had never mastered the art of controlling her blushes, either.
“You know, I wasn’t joking about you scrubbing it off,” she warned, embarrassment vying with irritation.
“Might be worth it,” Steve countered.
“Not when it sets like cement,” Sue blurted out.
“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere!” Steve said; triumphant. “And how would you know that, Mum?”
Rats. You walked straight into that one... She scowled at her grinning offspring, and threw down her stick in defeat. “I might have slung some at the upstairs windows of people we didn’t like.”
“Some?” Steve asked, eyes and grin widening in tandem.
Sue shrugged. “Okay, so it was enough to stick there until morning. There was a knack to it.”
“And you and Imogen had the knack?” Steve asked.
Why was it I had kids again? Sue’s scowl deepened. “I had the knack…Imogen just told me which windows to go for and watched.”
“Imogen the Instigator strikes again,” Steve said. Head bowed, his body shook, until laughter doubled him over. He peeked up at her. “Aww, come on, Mum, it wasn’t that bad; and they say confession is good for the soul. Don’t you feel better for telling me?”
Sue decided that she might well have done… If she could get the memory of furious housewives, trying to scrub their windows clean, out of her head.