(This is the full version of my Friday Fiction story: Eau De Teenager’s Bedroom)
No More Picking Up Other People’s Shit
Ellen pins her resolution to the notice-board: No more picking up other people’s shit.
‘Mummy swore!’ says her youngest, Lucy.
‘Challenge accepted,’ says her eldest, Danny.
A ripe pungency escapes from Danny’s room.
‘What’s that smell?’ asks Lucy.
‘Smell?’ says Ellen, adjusting the clothes-peg on her nose.
Danny’s room disappears under magazines, washing, junk. He’s hunting for candles.
‘What for?’ asks Ellen.
‘Can’t find the light switch,’ says Danny. ‘Or the window.’
‘I give up,’ Ellen adjusts her gas mask. ‘I’m coming in!’
Danny calls down the stairs, ‘Lucy, you owe me a fiver!’
In her son, Ellen sees a young man who understands the meaning of the term ‘woman’s work’ and it makes her sick.
Ellen pins her mid-year resolution to the notice-board: Everyone does chores.
Danny gets the dishes. He stomps. Lucy gets the hoovering. She cries.
‘But Mummy,’ she says. ‘I like hoovering and washing-up, why do I have to choose?’
In her daughter, Ellen sees a young girl who understands the meaning of the term ‘woman’s work’ and it makes her sick.
Danny washes up each night without complaint. He’s quick too. Ellen is pleased and celebrates with a fish and chip supper. She asks Lucy to fetch the plates.
There are no plates in the cupboard. There are no plates in the sink. Where are the plates?
Ellen buys a new dinner set and stands over Danny while he washes up each night. Sometimes they talk.
Lucy no longer complains about not being allowed to clean and is playing in her room.
Progress, thinks Ellen.
(Lucy is secretly cleaning the bathroom, but we’ll let Ellen have her fantasy a little longer).
It’s Danny’s seventeenth birthday! He wants a car, a computer and a personal maid.
Ellen wants to hit him on the head with a salami. She doesn’t though. She buys him a birthday cake, ten driving lessons and a pair of rubber gloves.
Lucy eyes the gloves jealously.
Ellen steps up the ante. She shows Danny how to use the washing machine.
Danny actually shows an interest. Possibly because of the knobs, dials and flashing lights.
Lucy wants to clean the bathroom as part of her chores. Ellen agrees, it’s an easy job as the bathroom never seems to get particularly dirty.
Danny is thriving in his dual role of chief washer-upper and chief launderer.
(There was a Red Sock Incident early on, but Danny says pink is ‘in’.)
Ellen is looking forward to Christmas with her well-rounded, fully-functioning children.
Ellen walks in on Lucy surreptitiously polishing the silver.
‘Would you look at that shine, mum!’ she says.
Ellen walks out.
Danny has an announcement.
‘I’m leaving college and opening a laundrette,’ he says.
There will be no brandy in the brandy butter this Christmas. It’s all in Ellen instead.
She pins a notice to the notice-board.
Buy more brandy, it says. And stop making bloody resolutions.