And I’m not even joking…
Josh opened his eyes, he squinted - man it was bright! He tried to sit up and was surprised to find his mother’s washing up bowl tucked under his chin. Not sure what’s gone on here, he thought, but what he did remember was that he’d organised a mad venny for his mates last night and it had all gone off fine.
There had been that small incident with his ex, Chloe, who had turned up with another lad to try and make him jealous – awkward. But they’d left early when she’d realised that her pathetic plan wasn’t working. Anyway, that right fittie who was a mate of his cousin had turned up and she was well happy to be invited. Might Snapchat her later, thought Josh. So apart from the incident, it was a banging night.
He threw the washing up bowl on the floor and climbed out of bed. His head was throbbing, but he didn’t feel like throwing up. Result – a ‘sick’ party without the sick.
He looked around his bedroom. Various pairs of underpants, several piles of dirty clothes and two weeks’ worth of used dinnerplates were scattered on the floor. He wasn’t entirely sure why there was a paint brush on the dressing table, but hey, all things considered it wasn’t too bad. He glanced at his mobile, two days to sort the house out before mother gets home. No worries.
She’d flown to Majorca for what she had described as a ‘well-earned break’. He had to admit she did work hard – but boy, did she moan about it! He couldn’t understand why he had to do the washing up when he had only used three plates, four glasses, and two bowls, and when did it become his job to replace the toilet roll when he had used the last piece? She moaned that often that he had developed a set of special skills, a way of zoning out when she went on. She would burst into his room, issue a set of instructions, ask “are you listening to me?”, and then leave before he’d even had chance to take his headphones off. All he heard when she did speak like this was a kind of humming noise in his ear - although key words would cause him to take notice, such as ‘block mobile’, ‘no internet’, or ‘grounded’.
It did backfire occasionally though, and he remembered waking up one day with the house in total silence, not being entirely sure where she was. He’d thought that a process of elimination was the best course of action and immediately ruled out work, because her laptop was still there, shopping because she’d done that the day before, and the cinema because that was another key word which always made him switch on to the conversation. He’d finally had to admit defeat and texted her to ask where she was. He’d been very surprised when the answer came back ‘Florida’. Yep, she was away having another ‘well-earned break’.
He got dressed and shoved his phone in his back pocket. He’d clean up later – a trip to Maccies, then Game of Thrones and a big chill out. He’d run around with the Hoover tomorrow. Josh staggered downstairs. All things considered, he was feeling pretty pleased with himself when he opened the living room door.
Every surface was covered with cans, bottles and glasses. Coffee tables, windows sills, and the mantlepiece were all groaning under the weight of half-drunk beverages, and the floor was covered with a layer of teenage bodies. He stepped back and tried to take in the scene.
What the fuck’s happened here then, he thought.
He tried to remember. He’d been the perfect host, greeted everyone at the door and fixed everyone a drink. He remembered chatting to the fit lass, and handing around bowls of crisps. He did seem to think he’d had a bit of a dance, but then after that everything was a bit hazy.
He moved through the room stepping over the bodies, then opened the door into the kitchen diner and that was just as bad. Why hadn’t he noticed this last night? And, more importantly, why hadn’t he stopped it? Then he saw it - someone had drawn a giant penis on the white kitchen wall. In shock, he needed to get some air and staggered to the back door. Except it wasn’t there. His head started to throb again as he stepped through the gaping hole where it should have been. Then he saw the door lying on the grass.
Shit, this was serious; Game of Thrones would have to wait! He pulled his phone out of his pocket. A couple of missed calls and a voicemail. He held the phone to his ear while he listened to the message.
She was on her way back…
Something about the flight being cancelled and having to fly back a day early.
ETA – three hours.
Now he really felt sick. Where to start? She’d kill him. Or even worse – torture him for the rest of his natural life. And beyond. She was a force to be reckoned with his mother. That’s what his dad said anyway whenever she came up in conversation. His father didn’t actually admit it, but he was still scared of her. And they’d been divorced for fifteen years.
Seriously though, she was a great mother and he had to admit he generally had a lot of freedom. She had his back and was more than happy to stick up for him at school, that was for sure, but she expected stuff in return. Like keeping the house tidy when she was away and never, ever, having a party without her permission. Josh shuddered. Never mind ‘winter is coming’, mother is coming!
He ran back into the living room and started prodding the unconscious youths. When this didn’t work, he started nudging them with his foot. Then kicking them until one by one they stirred.
As they moved off the carpet, Josh could see huge red stains, brown stains, and stains that that included carrots and sweetcorn. Josh ran his hands through his hair and surveyed the scene. If the living room had been a casting call for the Walking Dead, they’d have all got the parts. Normally Josh would have laughed out loud at this – but not today.
“Everybody out!” he screamed, as everyone held their heads in their hands.
“What’s going on mate?” said a lad sat on the sofa, who resembled his best mate Dan.
“I’m not even joking mate, but she’s coming back – today!”
Dan had been on the wrong end of Josh’s mother’s wrath before. He shivered and dropped his head in his hands.
“This can’t be happening. What can I do?”
“Start by telling me why didn’t I stop this?”
Dan shook his head.
“We put you to bed at nine. You were well out of it. Party finished at three.”
That explains the hangover and the washing up bowl.
“Right, this is serious – get this lot out of here while I make a start.”
Josh ran to the kitchen and pulled a black bin liner out from under the sink. He could hear collective groans as Dan pulled teenagers to their feet, and then the sound of the front door opening. Josh hurled bottles and cans into the bag. He’d been at it for ages but didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Just as he thought he’d got them all, another bottle would roll out from under the table or a can would fall off the top of the fridge. Finally, the kitchen was cleared. He had a quick look in the toilet, wished he hadn’t, but took a deep breath and went back in.
This was a whole new experience – looking at someone else’s sick while feeling sick and trying not to be sick. It was a challenge, but he was spurred on by the fact that his mobile had been blocked for a month when his mother’s date had ‘come back for coffee’, as she called it (for reasons it could never really figure out), used the bathroom and stood in Josh’s pee. It was her fault though – she was always moaning about him not putting the toilet seat back down up, so he decided not to bother putting it up in the first place. This narrowed the target area, but solved a long-term problem.
He finished the toilet and inspected the quality of his work. It was clean or ‘cleanish’ as she would say. She wouldn’t expect miracles. As he looked in the bowl he started to wretch.
No, no, no, not in the clean toilet! He ran outside and threw up in the flower tub.
ETA – two hours.
Josh looked at the door lying helplessly on the grass. Then out of the corner of his eye he saw something flapping in the breeze. A pair of his mother’s pants were hanging by a thread on the line. Flashback – his mother had told him to bring the washing in before she went away four days ago. He remembered bringing in his skinny jeans, his Ellesse T-shirt and his Adidas top, but he must have left his mother’s underwear out.
Odd that there was only one item of his mother’s clothing left – surely there would have been more than one pair of knickers. He vaguely remembered having to wedge the gate back last night as it was quite windy. With a heavy heart, Josh peered over his neighbour’s fence. They hated Brian, he was always trying to find out their business and his mother wouldn’t give him the time of day. Now, as Josh looked into next door’s garden, he spotted several other items of his mother’s underwear collection hanging from Brian’s buddleia. Thankfully his car wasn’t there, so Josh climbed over to retrieve the garments. Even in this fragile state, he was used to doing this. He’d regularly tormented his neighbour over the years. From pulling the heads off his tulips, to moving his garden gnomes ever so slightly every day for a month. And, although the last thing he felt like doing was climbing, his mother would die if she thought that the “nosy old git” was drooling over her smalls.
Next, he pondered what to do about the ‘mural’ on the wall. Surely, she had some leftover paint somewhere? He ran down to the garage and started rifling through the tins. ‘Pixie Green’, ‘Roasted Red’, then finally, tucked away in the corner, he spotted another tin – perfect, ‘Morning Light’. After a major operation to free the tin without disturbing any spiders or other garden creatures that in Josh’s opinion didn’t deserve to live, he set off back down the garden, only to bump into his Nana as she came around the corner of the house.
“Hello love, thought I’d see if you fancied a stroll to the garden centre. I’ll buy you a cupcake.”
“Sorry Nan, I’m just heading out.”
“Okay, but give me the back-door key and I’ll see if there’s any tidying up to do. Your mother said she’s coming back today”
Josh hoped she wouldn’t see the door lying on the grass and realise she didn’t need the key.
“It’s okay Nan, really I...”
“I get it – you’ve got a girlfriend in there, haven’t you?” She grinned and winked at him.
“Yep, that’s it. You got me.” Josh laughed.
“Okay, love. I won’t disturb you now, but bring your young lady to meet me sometime.”
“I will Nan, I promise.”
With that she turned and walked back though the gate.
Josh stood in the kitchen with the paint pot, staring at the wall, then at the door, not sure which one was his priority. So he checked the living room. Dan had done a good job, the party guests had gone, cans and bottles were chucked, just the carpet to deal with now.
“Thanks mate, would you be able to scrub the carpet?”
“Really sorry” Dan held up his mobile, “been summoned home.”
Josh was in despair. Parents, they had the habit of ruining your life.
Dan started on the wall, furiously slapping paint over the offensive phallus. He stood back and admired his work. Not bad. He decided to leave the door until last. The fresh air would hopefully disguise the smell of the paint and the stale alcohol. I’m a genius, thought Josh.
ETA one hour.
Josh had just got down on his hands and knees when he heard a tap at the front door. He got up and opened it to reveal Chloe, bawling her eyes out.
“Oh Josh,” she said, “I’m so sorry. It’s you I want, not him.”
She stepped forward and grabbed Josh tightly. Christ, why now? If this had happened at any other time, he’d have been sympathetic and more than interested. After all she was fit as.
“It’s too late Chloe,” Josh said as he peeled her off him. “You’re with someone else now. I don’t want to get in the way.”
Chloe sobbed. “Can I come in so we can talk about it?”
Josh looked at her. This was hard, but there was no choice. It had to be done.
“Nope” he said, and shut the door in her face.
When he’d finished the carpet, it looked pretty good. There was one stain he struggled with but he’d say that he’d spilt a Coke. A mild bollocking was nothing compared to the alternative.
Finally, the door. His mother had taken his bedroom door off the hinges last year, when he’d tried locking her out of his room. He’d watched very carefully when she’d finally put it back on again. Thank the Lord he had.
ETA – twenty minutes.
He had a last look around, seriously, it all seemed fine. He had to admit he was well happy. He’d upped his game, rose to the challenge, averted a major crisis and still had a few minutes to spare. Just time for a refreshing beverage so he popped open a can of coke from the fridge and slumped on the sofa. Relief!
He took a long swig and surveyed the scene. He wasn’t quite sure that the picture frames on the mantlepiece were in the same position as before. He was pretty sure Grandad Ken was normally on the left of Auntie Margaret and his first ever official school photograph, the one his mother insisted on putting in the middle, and the same one he usually hid when a girl came round, was on the end. Minor details of course after the hell he’d been through, but he had time to put them right. Then he looked again. Someone had put a moustache on his mother’s graduation photo with blue tack. No wait – they’d done it on Auntie Ann’s wedding pic. He heard a car pull into the drive. Shit, she was back!
He ran around the house, frantically removing all blue tack facial hair from every photo in the house. They even done it on the posters in his bedroom. He heard footsteps coming down the drive and then saw her shadow pass the window. He felt a chill as he removed a pair of glasses from the picture of the cat.
The door opened – she was here. She walked into the living room like the Terminator, her head turning mechanically from side to side. He could almost hear the booming soundtrack of one of his favourite movies, as she inspected every inch of her beloved home. She was back.
She stared at him - a deep penetrating stare that would turn any man to stone. Josh gulped and waited. Then she smiled and opened her arms wide. Josh fell into them, gratefully.
“Hello love – did you get my message? Have you been okay? Any problems?”
“It’s all been fine mum, no problems at all.”
As he hugged his mother, he looked up to the heavens to give thanks. Then he saw it. Someone had drawn a giant penis on the white living room ceiling. And he wasn’t even joking...