Charli Mills has set us down a strange path this week.

March 18, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a characters symptoms. It can be something the character is oblivious to, or terrified about. It can be a character concerned for a pet or a motorcycle. The symptoms can be what ails society. Go where the prompt leads. Or sleep on it, and see what a dream brings to you!

This is the first anniversary of her Carrot Ranch Prompts. I’ve only been involved for some of that year but I’ve accumulated some tremendous knowledge of the flash process in that time. And for a large part I’ve devoted myself to Mary and her unfolding story.

This week I’ve been here and there, blog wise so I’m late to the party. However that has meant I have had a chance to read the other contributions that are in so far. And a few have a BOTS element to them. Based On (a) True Story.

And, as so often happens that made me think of mum.

My mother coped with losing her partner/lover/irritant/best friend/husband of 53 years pretty well, all things considered. She took three month for some self reflection and then told me ‘Time I had my knee done.’ When she’d recovered from that it was ‘Time I moved somewhere smaller’.

She involved me in all her major decisions if only in a consultative role, listening to advice and extracting that which she thought suited her needs (‘Mum, you cannot need thirteen mixing bowls’ – she could and did).

All? Well all bar one. ‘I’ve bought a new car.’ The family Rover was a classic, if only in the sense it was beyond vintage and she had hated it for at least ten years. ‘What did you buy?’ ‘A Peugeot – don’t tell your father.’ Mum didn’t believe in any sort of afterlife except when it came to doing things she knew he would have hated – and buying a French car slotted into his top ten things not to do  (along with towing a caravan, cutting the Forest verges (destroys habits), drinking keg (as opposed to cask) beer, saying you didn’t mind if the Welsh won at rugby (ditto Germans at football, Australians at cricket), buying any produce from anywhere other than GB if there was a GB option (he allowed three exceptions – French Brie, decent reds and Belgium truffle choclates), not voting in any election and littering). In such a case she was sure there would be some payback which she could only avoid if the particular crime was not stated overtly but merely alluded to.

‘Why did you let her buy another car?’ This from the Textiliste. ‘She should have given up.’ This for the Archaeologist’s wife. Everyone knew mum’s driving was on the wane and the reason she bought the bungalow she had was to be in walking distance of the shops. But while conversations along the lines of ‘shall we walk to the shops’ and ‘it’ll be good to save the petrol money’ had been tolerated we got nowhere, the Archaeologist and me trying to persuade her to either give up, or at least move to an automatic. If we managed to provoke a reaction all we received by way of response was ‘I learnt to drive in 1944’ as if longevity leant her supernatural driving abilities.

No one  drove with her and, frankly her two cowardly sons merely hoped disaster would not strike. It never did but we can only really thank Lady Luck.

About six months before she died she called me. ‘Darling I’m really cross with the garage. They tell me I need a new clutch. I should have listened to your father and bought British.’

I admit I was surprised. The car was 18 months old, maybe 20. ‘A new clutch? Really? It must be under warranty.’

‘That’s what I keep saying but they say it isn’t. I’ve only had this one three months and…’

‘Three months? I didn’t know you’d had a new clutch before?’

‘I told you darling. It’s the trouble with not listening to your father. He wouldn’t have let me buy French.’ I ignored the dig at me.

‘Do you want me to speak to the garage. They can’t give you a clutch that lasts just three months.’

‘Would you?’

I was ready to do battle for my 83 year old mother. I called the garage and was put through to Mr Gates the proprietor. ‘Hello, Mr Le Pard. Is this about your mother’s car?’ He sounded very tired.

‘Yes. Surely it’s not right to expect her to pay for a new clutch. I understand the last one was only three months ago.’

‘Three? Yes that’s about right. We did suggest she might prefer an automatic. She’s heavy on the pedals.’

‘Oh come on Mr Gates. You can’t blame her. The car is eighteen months old and to change the clutch twice is…..’

‘Twice? Is that what she told you?’

I felt a conversational gear change coming on. ‘Yes Twice.’

I heard him tapping at his key board and a long slow expellation of air. ‘Up to this point and ignoring the work we need to do this Peugeot 206 has had five new clutches..’


‘And two new gearboxes. Are you still there Mr Le Pard?’

She did stop driving after that. Not the easiest conversation. I asked her how it was that she never heard the engine roaring and the clutch plates shredding as she rode the car’s guts to destruction. ‘Oh well, as I’m always alone in the car I turn off my  hearing aids to save the batteries…’


Always her own woman

Mary this week is having bad dreams….   This is the story so far….and this is this week’s flash

Know your father

 In her dreams, Mary saw her father standing by the rockery while an unidentified man buried the child’s torso. Even in the dream she knew her father wasn’t involved in the killing or the mutilation but why was he there at all? She told her half-brother.

‘He trusted people. They took advantage.’

At first Mary thought Rupert mad but after a while she saw what he meant. For a year after her mother died he would help anyone who needed it – a charity overload. For a time the house was full of all sorts. Maybe one of them..

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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25 Responses to Symptons

  1. Autism Mom says:

    Delightful! I read the part about your mother and her clutches out loud to my hubby. We both thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing that sweet story.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Charli Mills says:

    Oh, what a great clutch story! Five! And a fabulous take on the afterlife — it only exists when doing something irritating enough to alert the dearly departed. You must miss your parents terribly, but I’m glad you share their stories widely.

    Okay! We are onto some potential healing between Mary and her father. Aw, sad that he was so charitable but taken advantage of. That does happen. Discernment develop with experiences and he was probably vulnerable at that time. Thank you for being such a solid writer of great feats among the Rough. I did celebrate with cake. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Norah says:

    That story about your mum is gorgeous. You just can’t tell them, can you? I hope I can be told when the time comes! But I’ve been driving automatics for years – wouldn’t go back!
    And I love this new development to Mary’s story. I’m pleased her father had no real involvement – but looking on? I await the next installment. You are taking us on an interesting journey of discovery.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sacha Black says:

    Your mum is such a ledge! 5 clutches????? I actually laughed out loud – you know thats totally the start of a story! brilliant memories, absolute corker this one 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Annecdotist says:

    Sorry to bring a negative element to your lovely story about your mum, but I have a cautionary tale about my father’s persistence in driving well beyond his competence – he readily handed over his driving licence to the police who came to the scene of the accident he caused. Not a pleasant way to end it.
    As to Mary, how far is her father culpable if he was looking on? I’m sure you’ll tell us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Your sanguine note is apposite, Anne. I shudder at my brother and my feebleness in not insisting on her stopping. I have to say I’m not proud of myself and an number of reasons don’t add up to one real excuse


  6. willowdot21 says:

    I love the idea of your mum roaring along the road! Garage mechanics hiding as they hear her approach!
    As for Mary…. Well!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Walking with Symptoms « Carrot Ranch Communications

  8. Archaeologist says:

    Whilst our father invariably bought British he didn’t buy well. Some years ago it was the 100th anniversary of the first car built in Britain. One Sunday newspaper published lists of the ten best and ten worst cars built in Britain in the past hundred years. In his motoring career dad had managed to own four of the ten worst cars. Now that takes skill!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great memories, Geoff, so very funny, and it is so very pleasing to read them. I just wonder if people will look at me in years to come and be telling similar stories? I hope I can look down (or up) and read them and laugh along with them.

    You mum’s story of the driving reminded me of my Aunt Beryl again. She was a dab hand with over using the choke in the car, in the days they had them. The town ten miles down the road knew she was on her way, and would run for cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sherri says:

    Oh I just love this story about your dear old Mum. I can hear that clutch grinding now, great story this Geoff. Reminds a bit of my dear Granny who never drove in her life (although one of her wishes in life was to drive a sport’s car very fast, ha!) but rode a trike. All through the streets of Chichester. For decades. She had a number of knocks in the last year or two and at the grand old age of 92 had to park it and after that, her downhill descent began until she died at 94. She did not want to give it up. Wonderful photo. Interesting flash too…leaves me thinking about the things we end up doing for others, that ‘charity overload’…

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I would love to see granny on a trike, Sherri. That sounds a sight to behold, all billowing skirts and blue bloomers! Thank you for e kind words about the flash too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sherri says:

        Haha…love it! I have been meaning to write about Granny on her trike…must do it. And butterflies and all sorts of things…where does the time go? Time to look out some old photos not yet scanned in…and you’re welcome with the flash, love your writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. lorilschafer says:

    That is so going to be me with the five clutches. Too bad, really, since I’m not sure I can even drive an automatic anymore – what do you do with the extra foot? Very sweet story.

    Liked by 1 person

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