Tue | Mar 20, 2018

Scented trouble Pt IV

Published:Saturday | May 14, 2016 | 11:03 PMDitta Sylvester

It was near midday when Dr Hamilton left the maternity ward. Outside, the sun was hot and the AC unit laboured tiredly.

Vicky's room was cool and clinical with a light scent of talcum powder. Ron, slim built like his mother, but with his father's sharp features, sat at the edge of her bed. Fondly, he watched as his mom and sister cooed over his newborn son.

"What's his name?' Margaret asked.

"Charles Ronald Sutherland," he informed them.

Kathy chirped with delight and a tear rolled down Margaret's cheek.

"We have so much to be thankful for," Kathy observed. "We are almost out of debt, we have a brand new Charley, and Mom has beaten the odds and recovered. What more can we ask for?"

"I ask for a new wig," Margaret quipped.

"But you look just fine," Vicky said. "From head to toe. Even better than before you got sick, as Ron and I were saying."

"And we could go shopping for a new wig Saturday," Kathy suggested.

"Thanks, Vicky, but no thanks, Kath. My own hair is growing back quickly anyway. Thanks to you all for your support through this difficult time. But there is something that I must say and please don't fight me on this."

"Sounds ominous," Kathy muttered.

"Though I feel perfectly well now," Margaret continued, "there is still a chance that the cancer will return. If it does return, I am not going to fight it again. I have had a good life, I have seen my grandchild and I am satisfied."

The room went quiet like Margaret had dropped a bomb.

Ron was the first to speak: "You can't mean that, Mom."

"You fought it before and won," Vicky argued. "So why not again?"

Kathy just stared.

Margaret sighed. "I guess it's natural for you all to react like that but look at things from my standpoint. It was a long, expensive fight and I am tired now. I just want - "

"Have you been feeling ill again?" Kathy demanded.

. "No, Kathy, I haven't. It's just that ... ." Margaret hesitated. "Having seen your Charley, Ron, I am ready to go to mine."

"Nonsense!" snapped Ron. "Mom, you are not thinking straight. Shouldn't little Charley have even one grandparent?"

"He'll have Vicky's parents," Margaret said doggedly. "And again, the cancer may never return."

"So why bring it up at all?" Kathy asked.

"Because I want you to be prepared, in case it does."

The room was uncomfortably still as Margaret placed the baby back into his mother's arms. She kissed him and looked at Kathy. "Can we go home now, dear?"

Without a word, Kathy stalked out of the room. Margaret watched bewildered as she hurried down the corridor, her heels pounding out a noisy rhythm.

Kathy got into her car and sped off. She had to get home before her mother. For it seemed like Mom was getting sick again.

Kathy felt like a dog - a low-down sniffer dog. Still, she just had to find out if that smell had returned.

A year passed and then two. Little Charley had become the most interesting member of the Sutherland family, his grandmother.

Kathy was overjoyed to run into Eve at a nearby shopping some months ago. Obviously recovered, she looked wonderful.

Charley was almost three when Vicky announced her second pregnancy. Margaret had not long returned from visiting him one Saturday when she called Kathy into her room.

"What's up, Mom?" She took the chair next to her mother's bed.

"How has your day been?" Margaret asked. She was removing something from a drawer.

"Fine. What's that?"

Margaret handed Kathy what she had been holding. "This is what I wore, when I had you, Kath."

Eyes wide, Kathy gently fondled the silky garment. She didn't know what to say.

"I saved it for you," Margaret continued. "And it's time you had it."

"Thanks," Kathy muttered uncertainly. She was deeply moved and slightly bewildered. "I do appreciate this, Mom. Any particular reason why you giving me this now?"

"Because it's yours, dear. And because ...". Gently, she touch Kathy's hand.

Kathy frowned as she noticed how thin and withered her mother's hand was. She studied Margaret's face, noting the drawn, pale features. Was the cancer back? A feeling of panic began to take hold of her. Subduing it, she asked, "And because what, Mom?"

Ditta Sylvester is the author of "Puss Food and other Jamaican stories" and "Shameful Shadows" published by LMH Publishing.


Margaret smiled indulgently. "Because it's time you, too, got married and pregnant, Kath."

"You are incorrigible!" Kathy chuckled. "But you sure you okay, Mom? You look kinda ... ."

"You remember my gold earrings? You always liked them and I want you to have them. Also that necklace your father gave to me when-"

"Mom! Why are you giving your things away? What's wrong?"

"Don't get excited. I don't need jewellery at my age."

"Is the cancer back?"

"Did Hamilton speak to you?"


"You are too melodramatic," Margaret said, dismissively. "I am old now and before I die, I want to be sure that my valuables are distributed the way I would-" She broke off as Kathy headed for the door. "Kathrine! I am speaking to you. Where are you going?"

"To call Doctor Hamilton."

"Come back here! Where are your manners?"

Kathy turned, walked back and stared down at her. "Well?"

Margaret hesitated.

"Mom, I need to know."

"Yes, you do. I know." Resignedly, Margaret met her gaze. "Use my bathroom, Kathy."


"Go," Margaret pointed. "Go into my bathroom, dear. I just used it. Check if it's okay."

Kathy stared at the bathroom door. What the devil was Mom talking about? Then she knew. Her lips began to tremble as she looked back at her mother. Margaret smiled encouragingly, almost blissfully, nodding toward the bathroom.

Kathy's heart pounded as she walked. She suddenly remembered a movie she had watched about a man on his way to the gallows. The Green Mile? Or was it one of those Westerns her father liked to watch?

The sound of her footsteps thundered in her head as she dragged her feet across the shiny, hardwood floor. At the door, she paused uncertainly and looked back. Margaret was watching her, smiling. "It will be okay, Honey. I love you."

Kathy choked back a sob and stepped in. She closed the door and, as she expected, it was there. Like a nasty violent wave, the now-familiar scent of sickness, engulfed her. Her knees buckled, landing her on the floor where she wept hopelessly.

The cancer was back and Mom was ready to give up. Mercy! Kathy closed her eyes and breathed deeply. Suddenly, she was very, very angry. Why should this demon thing be allowed to destroy her mother? "Like hell! ... like bloody, stinking hell!"

Mom would have to change her mind. She had to. Mom would find the strength to continue fighting for she, Kathy, would give her that strength. She would beg, borrow, steal even, to find the money to fight this evil thing. She would move heaven, earth and anything else standing in her way, before letting her mother go.

Kathy leaped up from the floor and hurried out to her mother.