Lies we tell ourselves

Elizabeth brought two slices of strawberry shortcake for Kate’s birthday. They sat together in the living room, eating cake and drinking coffee. Kate had already given half of her slice to her son.

Jay was playing outside in the garden, the cake long since finished and already forgotten. The neighbour’s cat — Jay couldn’t remember Skritchy’s name — was in his arms. Skritchy was squirming and unhappy, but Jay kept the cat’s legs down and claws tucked away.

Inside, Kate spoke animatedly, punctuating what she said with her hands: “He’s such a good boy.” And, “It’s been amazing watching him grow.” Also, “I wish I could be that innocent again. You know: not to have the weight of the world on me.”

Jay emptied out his school-bag and dropped the cat into it. Skritchy yowled, but Jay just ignored him.

“Mrs Shaw says that he’s making friends easily, which is such a load off my mind. But then he’s so sweet; who wouldn’t like him?”

Jay also slid his dad’s hammer — the odd looking clawed one with the rubberised handle — into the bag’s side pocket.

“I only want what’s best for him, you know? But then they put such shit on the news: Jay could walk in at any moment and see that crap. Or the internet! I’m scared we’re not protecting our children enough.”

Elizabeth looked at her watch and wondered if she’d stayed long enough to be polite.

“They’re so sweet!” Kate said. “Jay does the cutest things.”

When Elizabeth left she waved (for Kate’s sake) to Jay in his tree-house, but he was too busy to notice her.

7 thoughts on “Lies we tell ourselves”

  1. This is a story of a woman, Kate, and her son, Jay. It is Kate’s birthday, and a friend/neighbour, Elizabeth, has brought 2 slices of cake around. The women talk about Jay, who Kate is saying great things about, while in the garden Jay seems to be preparing to torture or kill the neighbours cat.

    I thought it was very effective self-deception and description of that self-absorbed motherly characteristic. Elizabeth is not fooled and increasingly uncomfortable, and Jay comes across as cruel and careless – great characterisation.

    I had trouble with some of the details which seemed weird to me, seeming to indicate some sort of relationships which I was not getting. Why did Elizabeth only bring two slices of cake? It seems an odd thing to do. Why did Elizabeth visit Kate at all? She seems uncomfortable but she still did it. I kept puzzling at these details as I was reading, feeling like I was missing something about the situation – it may just be the late night!

    1. Thanks for comments! :) Your two questions are definitely good ones which aren’t directly answered in the story. Sorry about that. Am interested to see how many people it bothers.

  2. I like the dynamics between the two woman; and the (rather extreme) different points of view of Elizabeth, Kate and the author or the child.

    I really liked the understated way you talk about Elizabeth’s feelings – very clear but not obvious. For me Kate is a bit of a parody of the over-keen, over-loving mother but I like the way you list her comments to describe her.

    I really liked the clinical description of the boy with little telling bits (not knowing the cats name) – this kind of show not tell works really well for you.

    P’s unexplained oddities do seem strange in retrospect but they didn’t bug me before reading her comments.

  3. I thought this was creepy and entertaining – like a David Lynch movie in the suburbs in summer. I really enjoyed the telling – the alternation of descriptions between the two women inside and the child outside worked very well to create a sense of real-time.

    About the oddities – they didn’t bother me. They were connected for me in construing a superficial social friendship as opposed to a deep relationship between the two women. Elizabeth only brings two slices because cake is expensive and she is a bit stingy. Besides, Kate isn’t that close to her anyway.Then, she has been there for the socially required time and has done the gossip and is keen to leave as soon as is polite, especially since Kate has started going on about her bloody son again! I imagined that the two women had coffee and cake together every now and then, and gossiped about people they knew.

  4. I’m with cbraz on the oddities not bothering me. I don’t really think they are necessary details for the story. I see them as information bits that happen to be noticed by the narrator as he tells the story of a women who sees the truth of her friend [more like acquittance] and her delusion about her son.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *