How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE

#BlogBattle 6 – Prompt: Cowboy


Find the Rules at Rachael Ritchie’s blog:

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Prompt:  Cowboy

Words: 990

The Devil is in the Details

Anita picked up the cordless and counted down the speed-dial list with a finger. No wooing, nor scheming, nor monetary enticements had worked. She had made the effort each time with high hopes. Nothing had changed in five years. She drew in an unsteady breath. The phone chirped in her ear. Once. Twice. And again. A tired female voice answered.


“Hello, Grandma, that you?”

I’m not your grandma, darnit. Simmer down, Anita. She rolled her shoulders and pasted a smile on her face. Everyone knew a smile traveled through the telephone and out the other end. “That you, Sylvia? How are you? How are the boys? What about Emma?” Her face hurt but she maintained the smile though her jaw quivered and her eyes leaked.

A pause and an impatient sigh. “Everyone is fine. To what do I owe the pleasure of your call?”

“You’ve been on my mind. Miss the kids like crazy.” Anita bit her lip. There, I’ve said it. “Haven’t heard from them in ages. Something wrong with your Skype? I guess everyone has things to do and places to go.”

“Grandma, they’re busy with homework, baseball, and ballet. You know how it is.” A door slammed. Rowdy arguing followed; a girl’s shrill voice sliced through her brothers’ booming power struggle. The sounds muffled a moment. “Quiet. Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” A muffled drone filled Anita’s ear, then the sound of footsteps clomping on ceramic.

“Are you there, Sylvia? Can I talk to Emma… please?” Anita’s heart thrummed. How can she refuse? I know Emma’s there.

“It’s just—alright but make it quick. She has ballet in a few minutes.”

“Before you go, I have an idea. It’s been so long, I thought I’d come up to see you all for a couple days. Save you fare and travel time. Don’t want to be any trouble. I’ll stay in a hotel. How about it?” She ran a sleeve over her eyes, the smile cemented in place.

“I’ll have to talk to Phil. See what his plans are.”

“I don’t mind staying with the kids, if you have special plans—save you a babysitter.”

In the silent pause, Anita pictured her daughter-in-law’s eyes roll. “They’re teenagers and Emma is ten now. Here she is.” A hushed drone and a young voice gushed through the miles between them. “Hi, Grandma. How are you? I miss you.”

“Bless your heart. I miss you too, and your sweet face. We haven’t Skyped for months. How about this weekend?”

“Maybe. Gotta go, Grandma. Mom’s waving her car keys at me.”

* * *

“She offered to visit again, Phil. I can’t manage it: me working, you never home, the kids with their lessons and friends.” Sylvia paced before her husband, each point punched onto the pads of her fingers with a lacquered nail.

Her husband threw his arms in the air. “What do you want from me? The guilt of turning her down is killing me. Guilt over making extra work for you is too. Can’t keep putting her off forever. Figure something out that works. Get it over with, okay?”

“She’s your mother and a lonely old woman. I’m not up to playing nursemaid. I work all day, too, and have a household to run. Will you at least be around to help out?”

Phil pulled out a chair. “Sit. You’re making me dizzy.” Hands shoved in his pockets, he paced.

* * *

Separated from foot traffic, a bird of a woman sat in a wheelchair. Dark, wraparound glasses too large for her, covered half her small face. She clasped a red carry-on on her lap. The airport attendant behind her held up a sign with two words: Anita Martin. Phil rushed through the Arrivals door, his wife took her time behind him.


“Mother? Are you all right?” Sylvia crashed into him at his abrupt stop. The attendant nodded and melted into the crowd.

“I’d recognized that voice anywhere.” Anita raised a hand for a shake. “That you, Sylvia? Good to see you both. You still have those cowboy boots you bought in Texas. The hesitation of your left foot since you busted your knee in football has always been a dead giveaway.”

“What’s with the chair, Mom.”

“Those are some ugly glasses, Grandma.” Sylvia made a face. She always spoke before thinking.

His mother-in-law ignored the affront, offering a weak smile instead. “It’s a long walk in today’s airports, sonny.”

“Gotcha. So… are you walking or riding?”

“Riding if you don’t mind. Too many people around and I’m slowing down these days.”

“You’ve lost weight haven’t you, Grandma? You’re not sick, or anything?” Sylvia studied her mother-in-law’s slight frame with a frown.

Anita clenched her teeth. “Don’t you worry about me. Let’s roll, sonny. Can’t wait to see Emma and the boys. Will they have classes tonight?” Leaning forward, she pursed her lips and hugged the case in her lap closer. “I can’t believe I’m here. The flight attendants took good care of me. Did you know they don’t serve free meals anymore?”

* * *

A supporting arm beneath his mother’s elbow, Phil guided her through the open door Sylvia had keyed open.

‘Powder room, Grandma?”

“Call me Anita. Please. Your timing is wonderful. Where…?”

“Around the corner and down the hall, first door to your right.”

The older woman toddled forward, a hand on the wall as if for support. Sylvia watched and sucked her teeth. She elbowed her husband’s ribs. “Something’s wrong with her eyes.”

“She’s fine. Just tired and shaky after the flight.”

“I believe she’s going blind, Phil. We’ll be stuck with her forever now.”

“Hush. If that’s true, we have to do right by her.”

Sylvia’s jaw dropped.

“Your mom and dad have each other. She can’t live alone—and so far away.”


“She’s my mom, Syl. Oh my god. It just hit me. Being an only child is a curse.”

The End

© 2017 Tess and How the Cookie Crumbles

Images courtesy of Pixabay

Author: Let's CUT the Crap!

I'm getting a little LONG in the tooth and have things to say about---ouch---AGEing. I believe it's certainly a state of mind but sometimes it's nice to hear that you're NORMAL. I enjoy reading by the truckload. I'm a grandma but I don't feel OLD although I'm not so young anymore. My plan is to stick it out as long as I can on this lovely planet and only will leave it kicking and screaming!

57 thoughts on “#BlogBattle 6 – Prompt: Cowboy

  1. Off to a great start with the internal dialogue protest, “I’m not your grandma…”which really popped the attitude off the page. And made me smile. Great way to hook the reader, Tess. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh no, Tess. that is so horrible. Parents are a gift and should be looked after in their old age. Very good writing to make me feel so sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You really caught the poignancy of growing old, Tess. So sad. Great writing though 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I fear this is a common situation, you’ve described it well. Very thought provoking Tess.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a poignant piece, well written and pulls at your heart strings.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes this really eats me up!!xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. How horrid. I don’t think I’ll end up there, but who knows. No wonder my mom insisted on her independence. Very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Just leaped off the cliff on this one. This couple needs a good horsewhipping. (I’m just sayin”) Good one, Tess.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sad story well told. I think the daughter-in-law needs a peak at her own future.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know this happens and it’s always the woman whether a daughter or daughter-in-law to whom care falls to. Most D-i-Ls can’t imagine their own mother’s care let alone M-i-L. Life is too fast-paced and full these days. 😦


  10. Oh Tess it’s heartbreaking. You really pulled at my heartstrings.


  11. This is so horribly sad, Tess. But so well written.x


  12. You did a great job of showing how lonely it is to get old, especially when the only family you have finds you a burden. This one is a heart breaker, Tess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank YOU, Sharon. Pleased I pulled off the showing. We live in a busy world where frantic parents race from one day to the next and live miles apart. I especially feel for only children because they have all the responsibility with no sibling with whom to share care. 😦


  13. Another great story, Tess. Really tugs at the heart, and the anger. There’s too many parents out there in similar situations.


  14. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blogger Daily – 15th February 2017 – Devil story, Ruby Wedding, 1960s, Kathmandu, #RRBC | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  15. Bloody hell Tess I really don’t know what to say. It has left me dumbfounded. Superb…. anything more would simply be a waste of air!


    • Wow. Kind sir. You have made my day. 🙂
      I do feel for only children. Several siblings can share the responsibility of care. Then again, one might be forced into the task with no help from the others. It’s a terrible world sometimes.


  16. I could picture this scenario so well, Tess. It is sadly getting more and more common .


  17. Wow, a blast of realism. Well done Tess.


  18. A reality for so many. This made me sad, Tess, but is so well written.


  19. Kind of a sad story, Tess. Different from what you usually write. ❤


  20. Good writing, Tess! Sad but true theme! Felt badly for Grandma in that debilitating state! Hard for son & his wife to deal with this! Happy Wednesday! 🎶 Christine


  21. Pingback: #BlogBattle 6: February 14th “Cowboy” Entries & Voting | BlogBattle

  22. Good reminder of what it’s like to be merely tolerated (if that) by the ones you love best. I wish more people realized what kind of heartrending pain they cause by their indifference.


    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Cathleen. On the other hand, only children have no one to help shoulder the responsibility and families, whether scattered all over the map or in the vicinity, live lives which are much too full.And then there are daughter-in-laws… Sigh. Care always falls to the women, right, whether her own mother or M-i-L. ❤


  23. Beautifully written and a sad sign of our times. Most of our aging parents need to be looked after to some degree, especially if they live alone. Poor Anita, going blind. Sounds like her son has some heart left for her in spite of his shrew of a wife.


  24. I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now. All I can say is that I’m thankful I’m not an only child. Oh, and one more thing … You hooked me with the title 🙂 ♥


  25. That wife is a real piece of work!

    I enjoyed this.