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H. Lena Jones

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Member Since: Feb, 2006

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Featured Book
Daily Life, by Dr Audrey Coatesworth
by Audrey Coatesworth

Daily life is the first in the series of poetry books, for older readers,by Dr Audrey Coatesworth, a retired psychiatrist of 35 years experience. Her books comment on..  
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A demanding mother-in-law comes to stay with her son and daughter-in-law. But there are a few unexpected changes instore. Will the son collapse under mother's pressures? Will the daughter-in-law? Or will mother-in-law face her Waterloo?

Find out!

Hope you get a chuckle from this bit of fiction!


The Fly-Swatting Mother-in-Law


          “No!  Don’t!  You mustn’t!” Sally Sheldon awoke with a start, dripping with perspiration.  “This is the third time this week I’ve had this horrible dream.” 

Sally looked forward to sleep every night because she enjoyed the exciting adventures she experienced in her dreams.  But last night’s dream was no adventure!  It scared her. There she was, a defenseless fly, pursued by her mother-in-law, who was brandishing a flyswatter!  Sally was about to be squashed, her life snuffed out like a candle!

“Dreams are supposed to be messages from God.  So what is the message in this dream?” whispered Sally, pulling the bedcovers around her neck. “Tom’s mother is coming to stay for two months instead of two weeks.  So what is God trying to tell me?”

Sally’s thoughts provided various not-so-helpful interpretations: Maybe He’s warning you not to be a pest, or you’ll face annihilation.  Maybe He’s telling you to be a humble, silent fly, while your mother-in-law is in residence…or maybe… “Okay, no more maybes,” whispered Sally.  “In less than two hours, Tom will return from the airport with her. Yes, I’m dreading the encounter, but for Tom’s sake, I’ll be humble and polite. Yes, I’ll be like the fly! I won’t buzz around her.  I’ve been through this before, and survived.”

Shivers raced up and down Sally’s spine.  She prayed for extra divine intervention, just to be sure. “Dear Lord, the dream is disturbing, but please give me the strength I need. Thank you.  Amen.  Oh, one more thing, just this once, please let Tom be more assertive,” she added weakly.

          Sally’s first mission after climbing out of bed was to double-check the guest room and en-suite bathroom that would serve her mother-in-law.

          “Oh, no!” she cried in disbelief, clapping the palms of her hands against her temples.  “Tom knows his mother hates pink.  It gives her nausea.  Where did he get these bed coverings?  They’re not even mine.”

          Sally lifted the duvet cover and was further horrified to find that the sheets and pillowcases were also pink, shocking pink.  Added to Sally’s woes were the pink towels, bathmat and shower curtain Tom had placed in the bathroom.

          “Why did I listen to him?” muttered Sally.  She leaned against the door, remembering how Tom had pestered her into letting him do this one good thing for his mother.

          “Trust me, honey,” Tom had said.  “I know exactly what I’m doing.  Just leave mother’s room to me, and promise me you won’t go in there once I’m done.  I want mother to be the first to see it.  Promise…”

          Well, it was his mother, she had thought.  Maybe he just wanted his mother’s approval; wanted her to know that he had prepared her room himself.  But this was unexpected!  Sally sighed.  Perhaps he had forgotten.

Sally turned away, but the pink room bothered her.  She couldn’t bear the thought of a row.  Fortunately, she still had time to change things before her mother-in-law arrived.

          Sally hurried over to the linen closet.  She pulled out a new duvet cover, sheets and pillowcases—in cornflower blue, trimmed with white piping.  From the top of the closet, she pulled out the cornflower blue bathroom set, towels and hand soap.  Cornflower blue was her mother-in-law’s favorite color.

          Sally lifted the bundle, kicked the closet door shut with the back of her heel, and hurried down the hall towards the guest bedroom.  Halfway down the hall, the doorbell blared, stopping Sally in her tracks.

          “Who could that be now?” she whispered, detouring towards the front door with the pile of linen. 

          The doorbell blared again.   

Sally braced the bundle between her body and the door and was just about to turn the doorknob when she heard her husband’s voice.  Sally froze.  What were they doing back so soon? 

Knowing what her mother-in-law was like, Sally knew she could not be caught in a state of dishevelment.  Consumed with panic, she swung open the hall closet door and flung the linen in, kicking the duvet cover back further.  She had to apply extra force to shut the door on the now overstuffed closet. 

          The doorbell blared again.

Sally smoothed back her hair, and took a deep breath.  She knew Tom wouldn’t use his key because his mother always insisted the door should be opened from the inside, “by that wife of yours”.

She reached for the doorknob and pulled the door open.

“Oh!” said Sally, trying to sound genuinely surprised.  “You’re here earlier than I ex…”

          “Mother caught an earlier flight, love. She was already waiting when I got there,” said Tom, pushing past with his mother’s two bulging red suitcases.

          “Hello, mother,” said Sally in her kindest voice.

          “It’s Anne or Mrs. Sheldon to you, missy,” replied Tom’s mother, sticking her pug nose in the air and flitting past Sally. “Look Tom, she didn’t even have the courtesy to get out of her pajamas.”

          Sally almost stuck out her foot, but remembering her fly dream, she held back.  Her eyes widen when she saw the curled end of the scatter rug.  Sally held her breath when the toe of Mrs. Sheldon’s shoe hooked onto the rug, sending her tumbling to the floor.

Poetic justice?

          “Tom…” yelled Mrs. Sheldon, sprawled out like a starfish.

          “Sorry, Mrs. Sheldon,” said Sally.  “I’ve been meaning to replace—”

          “I’ve always told Tom you were a poor housekeeper,” said Mrs. Sheldon in a thick voice.  “I’ve no doubt you purposely left it there so I can trip, didn’t you?”

          Sally bit her tongue and watched her mother-in-law struggle to her feet.  Then, with a huff and a puff, Mrs. Sheldon limped down the familiar hall to the guest bedroom. 

Sally counted to ten. “Anytime now,” she whispered, “anytime now.”

          The outburst Sally expected penetrated her ear like a hundred African drums beating out a tribal war dance.

          “Tom that irritating wife of yours has done it again.  She hates me, Tom.  Get rid of her.  She knows I hate pink.  I feel sick Tom.  Pink makes me sick. I’m going to faint, Tom. She’s done this just to be spiteful, Tom.  And look, she didn’t even tuck in the bottom corners of the sheet as I do. Get rid of her, Tom.”

          Sally braced herself, half-expecting Tom to charge out of the room to chastise her for using pink in his mother’s room, even if it wasn’t true . 

What Sally heard next left her stunned.

          “No, mother, Sally had nothing at all to do with any of this.  I did,” said Tom, his voice calm and steady.  “Don’t you recognize the ensemble, mother?  They’re exactly like the ones I saw on your bed and in your linen closet when I visited you in Calgary last winter.  In fact, mother, they’re yours. I borrowed them. I’m surprised you didn’t miss them—”

          “Tom, I’m your mother, how could you—”

“I don’t mean to be disrespectful, mother, but you never complained about pink before, so why complain now? And you’re going to stop accusing my wife because you don’t think she’s good enough for me.  Get to know her, mother, she’s wonderful. And one more thing, mother, you’re not going to pull that sick act on us ever again.  Did I say one more thing?  Well, here’s one more thought for you, mother, you will eat what we eat, because you and I both know you can eat anything, except that which doesn’t chew its cud and haven’t got cloven hooves.”

          “How dare you speak to me…I’m your—”

          “Mother…and I love you, but this is my house, and you’re our guest.”

          Sally had never heard Tom speak to his mother so sternly before.  It was always ‘yes mother . . . anything you say, mother…we didn’t meant to make you sick, mother…sorry mother’.

          “But, Tom—” began his mother.

          “No, mother, no buts…I’m not five, I’m fifty. It’s time you accept that and treat me as a man.  Now that you know how I feel, I’m sure we’ll all get along just fine over the next two months. Thank you, mother.”

The telephone jingle jolted Sally away from the front door.

          “Hello,” she half-whispered into the receiver.

          “Valliant’s Seafood Restaurant, calling.  We’re just confirming your lunch reservation for three,” returned the caller.

“Confirming lunch? But we didn’t make a reservation,” said Sally.

          “Mr. Tom Sheldon booked a table for three for lunch at noon today. He said one was a senior.”

          “Ah!” Sally smiled into the receiver.  “I had forgotten. Thank you.  Twelve it is, for three…one senior.”  And a grouchy one at that!

She hung up. 

“Tom knows his mother hates Valliant’s,” Sally whispered. “She says the seafood tastes like cardboard and gives her indigestion.”

          Perhaps the next two months wouldn’t be that bad after all!  Perhaps being a humble fly had some advantages!  “Miracles do happen,” Sally whispered. “God you sure work in mysterious ways. Thank you.”


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Reviewed by Jill Carpenter 7/4/2006
Oh Lena, I am laughing out loud at this one. So many memories of my mother-in-law. The frantic scrambling to get things just right, the day before her visits, and the struggles to carry on any sort of conversation with her. A simple "chat with mom" was akin to trying to tippy-toe through a mine field. It could exhaust a person just trying to be friendly.

Great story...loved the pink sheets!
Your good heart and gentle spirit always shines through your writing.
: ) Jill

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