I still have my marbles…

Jack Nicholson’s face encapsulates my attitude to blogging lately:

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com

Image courtesy of smashinglists.com


Recently, I only seem to be able to write with prompts. This is bad because it shows an unimaginative and lazy character, and good because there are prompts to lure me from my slothfulness. So hopping on late to Anna Spargo-Ryan’s flash fiction prompt “they ate grapes together in the fog of afternoon”…

I Still Have My Marbles

With a deft motion, Arthur slipped the small beige pill into his jacket pocket while the nurse poured his cocoa. What was her name? A person couldn’t keep track of the staff nowadays…always changing, barely any time to stop for a chat. So busy.

“Don’t forget to take your pill, Arthur.” He nodded a bit too vigorously, to hide his guilt. My legs might be gone but not my marbles. They’re all I have left.

He sipped the bile-coloured liquid – lukewarm and too sweet. He’d complained once, politely requesting more chocolate, less sugar, but the nurse – one of the new ones – made tsk-tsk noises and spoke to him as though he were a wayward schoolboy. Arthur, it all comes out of the same pot, you silly thing. We don’t have the time to go making special drinks for everyone. We’re not baristas, Arthur! She’d laughed as though her comment were witty, when all it did was make him feel small, troublesome. He understood now that the senior citizens were all a generic bunch at the facility, individuality and preferences were left at the gate.

Arthur thought of Marianne’s cocoa, rich and dark like Marianne herself. It wasn’t too much trouble for Marianne to make him a separate cup, once she’d noticed he wasn’t drinking his communal cocoa. It’s no trouble, Mr Mackenzie, I like it this way myself, she’d said, her singsong voice making him think of wind-chimes.

Arthur tried not to be offended that she hadn’t said goodbye. So busy, everyone is so busy these days. But if the truth were known, he was a bit hurt. He’d grown attached to Marianne, to their little conversations punctuating his day. He’d learnt all about her family, the few that made it to Australia, the rest still in the Sudan. He’d even contemplated making her a gift, just a small sum to help ease her life here…perhaps pay for music lessons for her little girl. But that would have meant running it by Steven and Arthur felt Steven wouldn’t have approved.

He was due for a visit from Steven, who confined his appearance to special occasions – birthdays, Christmases, Father’s Days and perhaps at Easter, if they weren’t going away. Belinda rarely came. Too busy with the children. How many are there now – two or is there a third?

Arthur gazed at the photo of Millie and him beside his bed, their smooth faces sublime under the purple mountains, grazed with afternoon sun. Why do they call it the Blue Mountains when they’re purple?

Arthur’s thoughts meandered. You’re batting for the Ashes with Millie, Arty, not the local club, said his mate Bill, who applied cricket metaphors to every contingency. But Millicent O’Grady had accepted him on that foggy afternoon. There was a bit of a mix up as he fumbled with the camera in one hand, the ring in another, down on one knee. Please get up Art, I don’t like my chin from that angle! Millie had thought at first he was taking a photo, before he’d begun his stilted proposal – suddenly inarticulate, shy. They’d laughed and laughed about it later, as they ate grapes together under the fog of afternoon.

As fortune had it, there was a photograph. A lone bush-walker happened by and seeing their bliss, captured the moment forever.

Ten o’clock was the lights-out curfew but all the residents – they called them that instead of patients as it sounded more respectful – dozed off earlier. It was the pills, and the boredom. Arthur was lucky having his own room, where he could read or watch television whenever he liked. Steven had organised it at great expense (and frequently reminded him of the fact). Arthur had resisted the urge to tell him that it was his money, after all. Increasingly, he was glad he hadn’t signed that document Steven waved before him at regular intervals: Power of Attorney.

Arthur refused to wear his pyjamas until the very last minute. It was a rule of his – one of the few he had left – a kind of last bastion of independence. And tonight he was especially glad he’d hung onto that rule.

A faint knock at his door, a mark of civility not often afforded, and a woman quickly crossed the room.

“Hello Mr Mackenzie…Arthur, I hope it’s not too late to pay you a visit…my new hours are so long.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “That new nurse was very disapproving.”

“Marianne!” Arthur couldn’t manage any more words, just a grin that bisected his face and sparked his eyes.


Do you have trouble thinking of blog topics? What inspires you?

Linking up today With Some Grace and FYBF


29 thoughts on “I still have my marbles…

  1. Oh, I do like Arthur. In reading this fragment I was left with a bitter-sweet feeling, somewhere just under the diaphragm. It made me think that his “marbles” as much as his pyjama wearing habits are his last bastion of independence.

  2. In answer to your question, Lee-Anne. I tend to “stockpile”. If a news item or image grabs my attention I save it immediately for a “rainy”, or rather “dry” day. Lets be honest, blogging about the fur trade is not the most cheerful of topics, so I try go for variation. Sometimes I give my own opinion or share something topical. Images can often say more than words and I’ve noticed people seem to enjoy these. In fact images always accompany my posts and the writing tends to follow. All the best :-D.

    • I agree, Emy, images are much more powerful than words, at least for instant impact. And your anti-fur campaign is so worthwhile – no frivolous blogging topic there! 🙂

    • Yes and I know that most of these places value the elderly as individuals. I think it’s really hard for some (like Arthur) who feel acutely the indignity of an institution. Thanks for visiting. 🙂

  3. I just wanted to point out that the point of marbles is to fling them about wildly, trying to take others out. If you still have ALL your marbles, you just aren’t playing it right! 😉

  4. You really are a great writer Lee-Anne. What is Marianne up too? Trying to get in on the will perhaps? My kids will be like Steven shoving me in a home and never visiting. My second son has already tried to get me to give him Power of Attorney and I’m only in my early fifties and fit as a fiddle. Not that I have any money 🙂

    • Thanks, Pinky *head swelling ridiculously*… Marianne is innocent but I do know of ‘Marianne’s’ with nefarious intentions, sadly. 😦

      I very much doubt your kids will shove you in a home and grab your ‘estate’ – especially if you don’t lose those witty marbles…NEVER give them P of A so they won’t be tempted! 😀

  5. I love that you’re doing these. I do understand what you mean though as I like writing for others for that reason – when someone else gives me the topic!

    My blog posts are mostly stuff that’s stuck in my head and needs somewhere else to land.

  6. OMG! This is one of the best fiction posts I’ve read in ages! I want to read more! I hope this is going to be a novel! Lady, forget prompted blog post topics – you have talent!

  7. Wow, thank you Grace, what a delightful compliment…but WHO would want to read a novel set in a nursing home?! LOL (I know that sounds very ageist) 🙂

  8. I love this story about Arthur ; it resonates with me and my Mother-in-law in hostel care.Impatience along with lose of dignity & control ‘for the residents’ are so synonymous with nursing homes.

  9. I really liked this story. As for me, I often have things to blog about but not always the time to write them up properly. I try not to be too hard on myself though, just so that I continue to enjoy the posts that I do have time for.

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