Norman Allan
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Short Stories







Broken Tulips

I was standing with my mother and my children in Brighton’s central "square", the Olde Steine. There had been a storm the night before and three year old Seth asked if he could step over the small fence to pick out the broken stemmed tulips in the bed that ringed the fountain. "Sure," I said, and five years old Jessi joined him. Mother and I stood talking.

Mother must have been disappointed in her dropped-out divorced son. Me a would be writer, writer like her ex who’d walked out. She was certainly disappointed in my long hippie hair. (This is the nineteen seventies.) For years the first thing she would say when we met was, "When are you going to get your hair cut?"

"When are you going to get your hair cut?" I did not get on with my mother.

My new girl friend was handicapped. "You’ll have to take taxis."

We talked.

As we talked we were approached by an old lady (with another old lady and an elderly gentleman in tow). The old biddy came up to us, ignored my mother and I, and addressed my young children. "Your father should have told you not to pick the flowers," she said.

I was stunned.

I roared. Like a lion. "Arrrhh!"

The little old lady froze. Extended moments. At least a second or two.

I twitched, bobbed my head forward. The little old lady ran.

My mother made no comment. I would speculate that she was both shocked and proud… proud that we were the alpha lions on the square. (Is that young man’s, an immature young man’s thought?) Proud that I would defend my children? More shocked than proud. I guess.

The fact that she made no comment, though, made a big impression on me. It wiped out all those years of "when are you going to get your hair cut?"

A couple of hours latter, we were walking down to the station - Mommy was going back up to London - and she did ask, quietly, if I thought I needed any (psychotherapeutic) help.

Well, nobody’s perfect.