Sustaining Stories

Ten Minutes

Jacinta McGovern

‘What do you want now?’ my younger sister sighed as she answered her mobile phone.

‘Where are you?’ I grumbled. ‘I have been all alone with these two for hours and I’m losing my mind. I can’t cope!’

‘Calm yourself, it’s only been ten minutes since Bernie left you. I met her on the road outside of Kenmare,’ she reassured me.

Really? Had it only been ten minutes? It felt like ten hours!

‘I’ll be there soon. You can do this!’ my heavily-pregnant sister comforted as she hung up.

I felt I had just been abandoned, left alone to deal with this unpredictable duo.

I started spiralling down into a vortex. Breathe, Jacinta breathe… I would have to

deal with this stressful situation – on my own! Oh god I thought, I’ll have to find

somewhere suitable for them to eat, they must be hungry by now. So I explored the

town and found a pub that served food. It had a downstairs toilet and enough room for the chair. Cheerfully, I headed back to the hairdressers.

They were there, waiting for me, like two bold children. The Princess sat in

her chair, dressed in a pink tracksuit, with her white sparkly sandals, God forbid she would wear any other colour. Her mischievous cousin sat beside her watching me from beneath her newly-coiffed curls.

‘We’re hungry,’ they both chorused.
‘Where have you been?’ groaned the Princess.
‘I need my game,’ shouted the cousin. ‘My game, my game!’
‘Yes, I know,’ I replied through gritted teeth. I’d been plagued with “I need my

game” since breakfast. I paid and thanked the hairdresser.
‘Have a nice day,’ she uttered with a fake smile.
Have a nice day? Oh yeah really, chance would be a fine thing. I think the

salon lady was just happy to see the back of us. We headed out of the shop. But the chair wouldn’t fit through the door.

‘What’s the problem?’ the Princess moaned, sitting there with that cheeky face. ‘How the blazes did Bernie get you through the door? The chair is far too wide for the gap. Did you walk in?’ I demanded.
‘How do you think I got in here?’ she replied sarcastically ‘By plane? Bernie

pushed me in. Bernie always looks after me so well,’ she beamed, continuing to sing the praises of “Saint” Bernie, as I headed towards the road to phone my long- suffering older sister.

‘Yes!’ Bernie snapped. ‘What is it now?
‘Emmm, I wondered how you got Mammy into the hairdressers? The

wheelchair won’t fit. How did you push her in? Is there a back door or something?’ I whispered.

‘I didn’t push her in,’ she declared ‘I folded the wheelchair and Mammy walked in.’
Mother trucking son of a biscuit. She gets to me every time. Count to ten, go to your happy place. Breathe… I told myself firmly.

‘And Jacinta?’
Silence on the phone.
‘Don’t forget the game before you head back to the house,’ she advised. ‘Yes, yes,’ I growled inwardly. ‘Thanks, and have a safe trip home.’

I could hear her singing “Welcome to my world” as she hung up the phone.

I braced myself and headed back to face my mother.

‘Mammy, Bernie just told me you need to get out of the chair and walk through the door, as that’s how you got in,’ I confirmed, menacingly.

‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah I remember now,’ she giggled as she lifted herself lazily from the wheelchair. I folded it up and my mother slowly ambled out the salon door, helped by her elderly cousin, or as I called her, her partner in crime. Mammy got back into her chariot and we headed off down the busy town. I kept looking behind me in case I lost sight of her elderly cousin. I had already lost her twice that day. She trailed behind us and I could hear her talking to herself, repeating and repeating:

‘I have to get my game, my Telly Bingo. I have to get my Telly Bingo game.’

God give me strength!

After lots of chair pushing and navigating the town, which I might add was not wheelchair friendly, we got to the pub which was aptly named “The Queen’s Fool”. I herded the duo inside. After we were seated, I grabbed the food menus from the bar.

Ah, I could relax now. I handed them the specials. For the next fifteen minutes, they had a heated discussion about what they wanted to eat. One wanted lamb, but a small portion. Or maybe beef but oh the chicken looked tasty? A lively squabble ensued regarding sharing dishes. It went something like this.

‘I only want a small portion – maybe I can share with you?
‘No – I can’t have gravy, it gives me heartburn!’
‘Do you think there’s butter in the mashed potato? They always put in far too much.’
‘Do they have to put bloody black pudding in everything?’
The cousin then decided she wanted a scone and tea.
Or a scone and milk.
Or a scone and a Club Orange…

Oh my good God it was just a fiasco. You couldn’t write it. The cousin continued mentioning her Telly Bingo numerous times, as if I would EVER forget. I promised to find a shop the minute we left the pub. Eventually they decided on what food they wanted and I headed to the bar to order.

The barman was slowly cleaning glasses as he watched me approach the counter. A skinny man in his sixties, he had a tattoo of an anchor on his forearm. I had been aware of him watching us ever since we had arrived. He would have heard the entire food debate.

‘Did you want to order some food love?’ he enquired.

‘Yes, yes,’ I said excitedly. ‘I know what they want.’

He eyed me sympathetically over his horned-rimmed glasses and lamented, as if he was at a funeral.

‘Oh I’m so sorry love, but the kitchen closed five minutes ago.’

I stared at him in horror. What the hell would I do now? He spoke some words but I couldn’t hear him. I opened my mouth but no sound came out.

‘Hello? Hello are you alright pet?’ he snapped his fingers. ‘You look like you’re going to pass out! Would you like a glass of water love?’

‘Huh, what, no…Emmm I mean, yes I’m ok,’ I answered meekly.

`We only serve food on weekdays till two pm. And the other cafés and shops close half day on a Wednesday,’ he informed me. ‘I can give you a pot of tea, some pink Snacks and Tayto?’

‘Ok,’ I heard myself mutter.

I stood for a moment in contemplation but couldn’t put it off any longer, so I headed back to the table to outline the situation. They were not impressed. According to my mother, when Bernie, her first born, takes them to lunch this never happens.

‘For heaven’s sake Mammy, I can’t do anything about it,’ I cried.

She threw me the “look”. You know, the “look” that Irish Mammies have? That look of sheer disapproval. Irish Mothers have been practising the “look” since the day their children were born. I felt her disappointment in me, flowing across the table.

For the next fifteen minutes we sat there. Nobody spoke. The pub was empty so it was dead quiet, apart from the crunching of our Tayto crisps and the slurping of our tea.

You could cut the air with a knife.
Then suddenly the voice of her cousin broke through the silence. ‘Don’t forget I have to get my Telly Bingo!’

JACINTA MCGOVERN is new to writing. A member of the Hollyfort Writers’ Group since 2020, she gains her inspiration from family and nature. Jacinta enjoys doing photography with the Gap Camera Club and she loves cats and travel.

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The Gooseberry Bush (by: Rona Fleming)
Zaventem (by: Joy Redmond)
The Longest Journey (by Patrick O’Neill)
I Can Fly (by Jacinta Hayes)
The Marquee (by Kieran Tyrrell)
Ten Minutes (by Jacinta McGovern)
The Turkey is in the Post (by Lucy Nolan)

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