Metamorphosis FOURTEEN

Posted on 15th May, 2019

DAY 14




‘Yes’, ‘No’, ‘Hello’, ‘I think so’.

These are her only words.

Unimaginable – but so it is.

One side of her body paralysed;

her world shrunk to a window;

a woman who used to ponder consciousness

is discussed by others: 

How does she feel? How can we know?

Inside her brain, neurons take aim, tremble 

and miss their targets.

Words ricochet  

and shatter into stuttered syllables.


The first night of the holiday in Scotland:

one moment standing by the sink,

the next horizontal.

Normal life slipping into 

something so unutterably different.

‘It would have killed most people,’ the doctors said.

But exercise and healthy eating had buttressed her heart,

and weeks of hospital treatment finally delivered her to

the care of a devoted daughter;

back to her home, 

where everything – and nothing – 

was the same.


Once she strode the fells.

Now crossing the room 

requires tight-lipped effort. 

From her chair, she watches the starlings.

They squawk and shriek 

in their busy battles.

Tired now, she dozes,

watches daytime TV, 

wishes she could read a book, 

string a sentence,

bridge the chasm, 

from mind to mouth. 


There are irritations: 

the magazine splayed on the coffee table,

the breadcrumbs freckling the kitchen counter.

She was always tidy.

Now she must sit back;

no longer acting 

but acted upon.

It’s not all gloom. 

The house is warm. 

We drift and gather, talk and laugh.

She smiles and nods,

Still the loving mother and grandmother.


The carers come at their appointed hours.

But every visit ends.

The silence turns into a tinnitus scream. 

Friends, children, grandchildren

leave to pursue their lives

out in the frenetic world,

while Maureen sits in her chair,

wrapped in her shawl of memories.

There she waits

for the minutes, hours, days, to pass.

Accepting what is 

and whatever comes next―




Previously published in: Poetry for Performance (, 2017)

and SpeakEasy Magazine Issue 2 (Caldew Press, 2017)





The Story : Brindley Hallam Dennis 


I didn’t know Macallan all that well. I only met him a couple of times face to face. He said, we’ve been friends for years. On Facebook, I told him. It’s the same, he said.

Frankly I was surprised to see him, didn’t even recognise him to begin with. He said, it’s Macallan, and then repeated the name with more emphasis. What are you doing here? I asked. He said, I’ve come to see you.

Old time’s sake was the reason; the reason he gave. The truth is he wanted to talk. He wanted to talk face to face. He had something to get off his chest.

I need to tell you, he said, about Jimpson. I’d never heard of Jimpson. I know. You’ve never heard of Macallan. Bear with me.

Who’s Jimpson, I said. We were still on the doorstep and Macallan sort of shrugged and looked past me down the hall. You’d better come in, I said. And he did.


Do you want a coffee? I asked, or would you prefer something stronger? Stronger? He spoke as if the idea was new to him. I’ve got some whisky, I told him. He said, I don’t usually drink. Coffee it is, then, I said, but he raised his hand. No, he said, whisky is fine.

We sat at the kitchen table. I don’t keep the other rooms warm unless I’m sure I’m going to be using them.

So, I said, tell me about, who was it? Jimbo?

Jimpson, he said. Then he looked at me and I noticed for the first time that there was something unsettling about his eyes. He’s wondering how to put it, I thought, whatever it is he wants to tell me about Jimpson.

We’d never talked about anything serious before. It’s all trite stuff on Facebook. If ever it gets a bit heated or too serious you can un-friend each other, besides, the algorithm makes sure you’re not likely to be in touch with anyone for long who will upset you.

Go on, I said, and I held up my whisky glass as if I was giving a toast. That was when he looked down at his glass, and picked it up and gulped about half of it down in one go. At thirty five pounds a bottle, my friend, I thought, you’d better take that a little slower. He put the glass down and looked me in the eye again.


He said, I didn’t know Jimpson all that well. I only met him a couple of times face to face. He turned up at my door and said, we’ve been friends for years. On Facebook, I told him. It’s the same, he said.

He wanted to go walking. Where? I asked. He said, we’ll take a little walk up on the fellside. It was a bright winter day, not unlike today, but of course, we’re a long way from the fells.

Macallan looked out of the window at that. Thin slivers of cloud, purple grey with undersides the colour of watery blood were slipping in from the west.

He said, so Jimpson and I took a walk. He wanted to talk. I could see that. He had something to get off his chest. We followed a narrow track that led up to an old mine. The sun was hanging just above the false horizon, shining in our eyes, casting the valley ahead into absolute darkness. Just before the line of shadow we turned off, heading upwards and it was as if we were holding back the wearing on of the afternoon. The higher we climbed the earlier it seemed to get, as if we were winding time backwards.

Still Jimpson wasn’t telling me what it was he wanted to say. I said, what is it? Then he stopped abruptly, on the hillside and squinted into the sun and said, look. 


He bent forward and reached down to his ankle and pulled up his trouser leg a couple of inches. There was a scar, an old scar, but livid red in the late sun.

What? I asked, and I bent down instinctively to get a better view.

It needed stitches, he said.

I bet it did, I told him. How did you do it?

It was a bite, he said.

A bite? From what?

Something like a fox, he said, and I was going to ask him how like a fox, and how not like one, but he’d started talking now, and he wasn’t going to stop.


He’d been out walking, with a friend, someone he’d met on the internet, and they’d passed this sheepfold, deep in the shadow of the late afternoon sun, and something had come out of it, the red sun glaring on red fur, and without warning had clamped its teeth on his leg. The friend had taken him to a surgery in the nearby village. It wasn’t a proper A and E department, but he was thinking that it would only need a wipe of antiseptic and a dressing and that they would be able to manage that.

Though Jimpson wasn’t on their books a doctor took a look at it, and cleaned up the wound and gave him an injection and said, you might need a stitch or two in that, but these bites will heal up remarkably quickly sometimes.


I couldn’t see where Macallan was going with the story, so I said, what about the animal? And he said, this isn’t about the animal. So what is it about? I said. It’s about the wound, he said.

The wound?

That’s right. 

I waited for him to carry on.

The wound did heal up, remarkably quickly, though it was painful and throbbed for hours. Jimpson should have gone to the hospital perhaps, and let them take a look at it too, but the doctor seemed so confident, as if he was used to dealing with bites like that.

Then Macallan said, I never met Jimpson again after that. I think he moved away. He certainly closed down his Facebook page, or maybe he just un-friended me. But I was intrigued about the animal, so I went back to look for it.

I thought you said this wasn’t about the animal. 

It isn’t, Macallan said, and he leaned forward and reached down to his ankle.


When I saw the wound my first inclination was to laugh, but I thought that it might be in bad taste.

You’re kidding, I said. You didn’t get bitten too?

Macallan smiled and picked up his glass and drank the last of his whisky.

No, he said, nothing like that.

Well, don’t expect me to go up on your fellside and look for it as well, I said. And I picked up my glass and drank off what was left in it too.

That’s not necessary, he said.


I know we’ve only met once or twice, face to face, but we’ve been friends for years, you and I. Yes, on Facebook, that’s true, but it’s just the same.















Make A Comment

Characters left: 2000

Comments (1)

Maureen, in her Chair - Kelly Davis.

A wonderfully touching story.