Mam worries ‘bout stuff. Smallest things sometimes. Like when Mrs Kinnear was having her baby and she was rushed to the daytime hospital and no-one had opened the curtains on Mrs Kinnear’s windows.
‘You keep curtains closed when someone’s dead, not when they’s more alive than they’s ever been b’fore.’
I was sent over to Mrs Kinnear’s – she keeps a spare key under a plant pot beside her front door. I took my shoes off, creeping through the house like a thief, and I gently drew open the curtains, all like mam told me to.
Mam worries ‘bout everything: cracks in the pavement, needles in haystacks, spilled salt – everything.
So, today, when I came home from school, and mam’s in the kitchen, slumped at the table, I first thought she might be worried ‘bout bread rising in the oven or watching in case a pan of milk boiled over. Then I looked again and I knew it was more than bread or milk. I knew then it was our Billy and mam’d had news; I worried then.
Billy, gone almost a year and mam not sleeping all that time. She worries ‘bout Billy, see, prays for God to keep him safe over there. We get a newspaper delivered most days, just since Billy left, and mam frets over reports ‘bout the fighting. Day and night she frets.
And from the shape of her, all crumpled and slack, prayer-hands folded, I know it’s bad. Mam hears me come into the house and she says, her words just whisper and breath, that I’ve to close the curtains at the front. I creep, quiet as a thief like before in Mrs Kinnear’s, pulling all the curtains closed, and mam don’t need to say a thing more, not to me or to no-one.