The Machine

Take away the cog

 

“We are just a small cog in a giant machine, take that cog away and the whole thing falls apart.” My mum used to say, she used to say it a lot, especially when she was in one of her moods running around picking everyone’s clothes up off the floor and collecting half full cups of tea from around the house.

 

“You'll be sorry, one day, when I collapse exhausted!” She said that a lot too. She was our cog and now our machine is going to fall apart, implode like the old council building after the red button was pressed to applauds from the village.

 

It's funny how I can still see the contours of her face twitch slightly and the fine lines of time that run from her mouth to her chin tremble. Dimples either side of her mouth as if she has been punctured with a knitting needle quiver. Her cup on the kitchen table, the one with the kitten in a hat, is still warm and her frosted-pink lip gloss is still shiny . The cog is on the floor, her eyes are open. Now I get to build my own machine.

 

She looks like a wax version of her self, pallid, her eyes still watery but slowly glazing over her exquisite blue, her eyelashes still mascara-thick and glistening tears. The alarm on her mobile buzzes, telling me I should move and get my sister out of bed. First I need to shift mum. I think the freezer best, for now. Stepping in her warm blood my foot slips as pull her summer dress gripping the lacy edge and tugging with all my might to move her. She's too heavy and I slip and land next to her lying in blood, my head next to hers.

She looks awake enough to get up and make us breakfast. Bark at us to sit and eat without making a sound. Maybe she will. Maybe cogs are indestructible, after all they are made of steel. That’s about right, cold mechanical and stiff. My mum wasn’t a well oiled cog, she was as rigid as the concrete post outside our house with a picture of that missing girl Lucy on.

“If you have a cold, then go the medicine cabinet and get a tablet for fuck sake.” She said it under her breath, but so we could hear, she wanted us to hear, just how much we irritated the hell out of her. The toilet flushes , it must be 7 am, the light thump of my sister comes down the stairs. I can't get up I can't move. I can't breath. I think I killed our mum, what did I do?

The door opens and my sister wipes her eyes, drops the teddy she was holding by its raggedy ear. Her piercing scream shoots through me like a laser of pain.

To my surprise, my mum jumps up and runs over to her. I try to get up too, but the blood sticks me to the floor, not her blood, my blood, my eyes follow her and I know I lost this particular fight. The cog is alive and about to start up her machine, minus a small screw that will chip away at her until the machine doesn’t run smoothly any more and the machine starts to come loose.

“She's sleeping Lola, everything will be all right, now go and brush your teeth, there's a good girl.” She pats my sister on her behind and hurries her out of the kitchen, like she does every day. Did I say I'm getting cold, I need a blanket. My purple fleece it's on my bed.

“Mum I need a blanket?” She throws white sheet over me I rise through it and jump onto the worktop, bruised knees and pink painted toes, chipped at the edges. I pull my knees under my chin and my nighty over my knees.

“Mum I'm cold!” I stare around me it looks different, lighter, bigger, clearer.

 

I see blood seeping through the stark white sheet like spilt ink on a blank page. I see my mum filling a bucket with soapy water and shaking so much the bucket spills suds onto our new white tiles, the blood diluting in swirls of pink. The kitchen floor resembles the Edvard Munch painting of death I studied in my art class at college. My mothers a good painter. she holds the bucket over my lifeless body. I jump down and walk around me to avoid getting blood on my icy cold feet and stand next to her, I rest my freezing bony hand on her bare arm.

“Mum?” I whisper.

She slides down the cupboards doors and on to the floor now the cog has water coming from her eyes.

“watch out you'll get rusty” I have to laugh, now she cries? Her hands shake violently as she covers her face and lets a muffled scream escape. She crawls on her knees over to the other me, the dead me and lifts up a corner of the sheet. She strokes my face. Her hands trembling as she traces a finger around the line of my cheek.

 

“Stacy, why?” I think I see a smile?

 

She whispers to me and kneels beside my body in a pool of red and sobs, her head in her lap and her body moving and jerking as she continues to wail into her hands. I rub her back.

 

“Oh mum it;'s what you wanted, I don’t know why you are crying?” 

 

She gets up and walks over the the table, picks up her mobile and begins to speak.

“Please come quickly my daughters been attacked.”

Oh this is a clever cog, she is starting up that machine, she walks behind my head and bends to pick up the knife, blood stained and shining silver and puts it in her oversize leather bag. She kicks the kitchen door, splintering the wood and knocks the lock off with a hammer. Then, she smashes the small square of glass with a tea towel covered hand.

Sitting at our kitchen table she smooths down her summer poppy-covered dress with freshly washed hands. Ties up her hair and whistles a cheery tune. She stops and turns to look at me.

“You should have been a good girl Stacy, it's all I asked.”

The machine is beginning to shudder. Without that screw, bolts will clatter to the ground, wheels will stop turning and it will all slow down, just you wait and see mum, a screw is just as important as a cog!