Boredom versus Bedlam: 2013 365 Challenge #128

My little darlings

My little darlings

Hubbie got back from his contract job this evening, shattered because he hadn’t had enough work to fill his day. Now I’ve been there, and there’s nothing more demoralising or exhausting than sitting at a desk trying to look busy, when you haven’t been in a company long enough to usefully fill your time. But still I can’t help but feel a teeny bit jealous. I know you always want what you can’t have, but I think I’d take boredom over bedlam. Well, maybe.

In comparison, today I’ve taken grumpy kids to the hairdresser and entertained one with the iPad while encouraging the other to sit still. I’ve visited play and stay and played cards and refereed between one child who wanted to stay and another who wanted to go. I’ve ferried kids to the park and divided my time between being ‘listening friend’ and ‘swing pusher, fight fixer, roundabout spinner and slide watcher.’ I’ve visited the dentist and tried to persuade two children to remove hands from mouth in exchange for a Nemo sticker. (One success, one fail). I’ve consoled a friend facing redundancy and another whose father went into a home on Sunday, both things that put my child-induced depression into perspective.

I’ve helped two kids make pizza pockets for tea and endured endless “That’s not how nursery do it” and “it’s too floppy” followed by distraught hysterics and a refusal to eat. I’ve stacked and unstacked the dishwasher, wiped up tomato sauce and fielded an hour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang questions while also providing assistance with spelling apps on the iPad. I’ve swept sand and refilled watering cans fifty times and built castles to be stamped on.

Kids Creating bedlam

Kids Creating bedlam

I’ve made tea for the play date visitor and blocked my ears to additional shouting and tears (and dealt with an hour of feeling like a terrible housewife because I choose to write novels rather than tidy and clean. You know, that loaded silence that tells you everything you need to know.)

I’ve kissed bruises, wiped faces and bums, smiled at soaked children and chided unofficial use of the hose. I’ve bought milk, walked and fed the dog, prepared dinner, sung bedtime songs and read stories, remembered to respond to a party invite and pick up a form from school. I’ve even done an online supermarket shop as we’ve run out of pretty much everything.

And even though I’m beat and ready for bed, and really want to lose myself in the book I’m reading, I’m about to sit for two hours and write about Claire. I’m not complaining – today was a good day, all in all. I’d take today over eight hours of sitting at a computer eeking out the meagre amount of work that has been provided. But even though I know it sucks and I hated it and would never go back, it’s hard not to be jealous at the idea of 8 hours of stationary, solitary, unencumbered boredom.


Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:


Machines beeped and whirred in the darkness. Claire lay on the narrow bed and stared at the lights, unable to sleep or even close her eyes. The regular sound of Ruth’s breathing filled the tiny room. It felt comforting. As long as she’s breathing, she’s still alive.

It didn’t matter what the doctors said: that Ruth was responding well to treatment, and would no doubt continue to respond well once they had established the extent to which the cancer had spread. That was her big sister, lying there on the bed. In a week she had aged a decade, her hair all gone, her skin almost translucent. What I wouldn’t give to hear her whinging about money or telling me off for letting Sky flirt with Jeff. Anything.

She hadn’t spoken to her sister since her arrival. Her mother had given her a brief and unexpected hug in the car park, where they had agreed to meet so that Sky’s sleeping form could be transferred to her Nana’s car. Claire remembered the emptiness in her mother’s eyes that belied the upbeat words she managed to form with trembling lips. Unable to say all she felt, Claire had nodded in agreement at the request to spend the night, and had kissed Sky farewell. Since then she had lain on the uncomfortable mattress and watched the rise and fall of Ruth’s heartbeat on the monitor.

Something moved in the dark and Claire was immediately on alert, adrenalin coursing through her arteries readying her for action. Ruth sighed gently and shifted position on the bed. The graph on the screen fluctuated then settled back into its steady rhythm, like the beating heart of a giant oak. Claire looked at the arms lying above the white sheet, with IV lines running out of each hand. More like a sickly sapling than a towering oak.

Claire awoke with a start, unaware that she had nodded off. Darkness wrapped around her, but sounds from the corridor suggested it was nearer daytime than night. Her mouth was dry and her back ached from sleeping on the pull-down bed. Blinking open heavy eyelids, crusted with salt, Claire pulled out her phone and stared at the luminous numbers until they made sense.

6am. The nurses must be starting their rounds. As if the thought was a summoning spell, the door swung open and a woman peered round into the room.

“Is she still asleep?” The brusque normality of the nurse’s voice made Claire shiver.

“Yes,” she responded, her voice a whisper. “Do I need to wake her?”

“No, we’re doing the medication rounds but if she’s asleep she doesn’t need pain relief. Call if she wants anything when she wakes.” The nurse nodded towards the button behind Ruth’s bed, then pulled her head back behind the door like a timid turtle and the room once more fell silent.

Claire willed her eyelids to close but they remained fixed wide, and she felt as if her eyes might disappear into her head completely. I wonder what time the restaurant opens. If I can’t sleep I may as well get a coffee.

With the stealth of a ninja, Claire crept from the bed and tip-toed past Ruth. Her hand was on the door when it moved swiftly inwards, trapping her between the wall and the bed.

“Ow!” Her exclamation resonated in the small space and was followed by a deep voice full of apology. The familiar sound rippled across Claire’s skin and two thoughts clambered through her brain: Great, that’s all I need, followed by, Thank god.

Claire pushed the visitor back out the room with the door, freeing herself from her trapped position, then went out into the corridor, closing Ruth’s room behind her. Inhaling deeply she looked up at the newcomer and forced her cheeks to raise a slight smile.

“Hello, Robert, long flight? I was just going for coffee if you’d care to join me.”


5 thoughts on “Boredom versus Bedlam: 2013 365 Challenge #128

  1. Personally, I always prefer bedlam to boredom. At the same time, I will admit that it’s wonderful to have a day where you know the schedule from beginning to end, rather than constantly being pulled around to deal with small emergencies. It’s one of the many reasons I respect the fortitude and patience of all mothers. 🙂 You all are practically superheroes for all the crises you avert.

    Also, I really enjoyed the way you portrayed the silence and tension of watching someone over night in a hospital. It was really well done, and there is just something charming about the line, “Claire pulled out her phone and stared at the luminous numbers until they made sense.”

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