cobwebs by jadamthwaite

21 Feb

“Good Lord, I can skip!” Alfred chuckled as he sprang down the hallway, the silver of his hair flashing past the mirror. He gripped the wooden banister with both hands and swung himself over the bottom of the stairs to the sitting room doorway.

“Here, Mags, you won’t believe this!” he beamed, brimming with excitement.

His wife sat stiffly under a thick woollen blanket in the corner. She didn’t look up from the paper.

“Bloody women,” he muttered. “Wouldn’t even notice if I did a bloody handstand.”

Alfred considered this for a moment.

Could he do a handstand?

He wandered into the kitchen where there was a large pool of empty space. He looked around doubtfully then flung himself onto his hands, his gnarled fingers gripping the floor as though they were sixty years younger. Alfred laughed shrilly and swung his legs back down. Brilliant! He leapt up and spread his hands out in front of him, his eyes following the broken grey veins worming beneath his skin to his swollen knuckles. He shook his head, barely believing it.

Alfred looked round the kitchen, tightened his lips and rolled up the sleeves of his cardigan. There was no way that Margaret would ever give in and get a cleaner. He’d better get on with it.

The kitchen was sprinkled with Margaret’s toast crumbs and careless sloshes of coffee. Alfred swept the table with his hands, reaching as far as he could before darting round to approach it from a different angle. He bounded across to the counter where Margaret had left her teaspoon like an abandoned ship. He stopped still for a moment and stared at it, lost and dripping murky stains onto the work surface. He hated the way age stopped you from caring. Young Margaret wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving a dirty teaspoon out like that.

Alfred flung the spoon into the washing up bowl and whisked a chair out from beneath the table. He fished a tall, rainbow coloured duster from the depths of the cupboard and jumped onto the chair. He grinned as it creaked and wobbled. Alfred stretched up and waved the soft feathers through the cobwebs on the ceiling.

The feather duster reminded him of candyfloss. He remembered standing with Margaret on a Blackpool pier as vicious winds snapped around them, whipping strands of spun sugar into their faces. Margaret had said she felt like a pink sugar mouse.

Alfred smiled.

He paused sharply.

He could hear the soft crackle of her voice rising and falling in the other room. Was she talking to herself? Alfred wrinkled his brow and strained to listen… ah yes: her stories. She’d started telling stories to that rickety old tape recorder. Alfred’s lips sprang into a proud smile. That was his Mags: not to be defeated by a bit of arthritis.

Alfred hopped down from the chair and went to listen to his wife’s story. She was staring fiercely at the ceiling. He wasn’t sure whether she was talking to the tape or the spider above her head. He gazed fondly at the woman who still wore the thin gold band he’d spent all those months saving up for. He remembered how she gripped his hand when he slid it onto her finger, how her eyes had glittered when she looked up at him.

“I love you, girl,” he told her quietly.

Margaret chuckled to herself and stopped the tape recorder. She stared sadly at the ceiling and thumped her stick on the carpet. “Chance’d be a fine thing, eh?” she said to the spider.

Alfred smiled at her.

He hesitated for a moment, took a deep breath and jumped as high as he could, fingers stretching towards the spider. He felt a heavy tingle as his fingertips brushed against the small body and rushed through the air.

The spider tumbled down on a thin silken thread.

Margaret laughed.

“Well I’ll be,” she said softly. “If only my Alf could’ve seen that!”

Alfred watched her eyes dip beneath shallow tears and crept over to her side.

“I did, love. I did.” He squeezed his wife tightly. He could feel the shape of her shoulders squashed against his arm, the bristle of her cardigan tickling his hands. He breathed in the soft smell of lavender. Her heartbeat thudded through him like a tired elephant.

Alfred felt his own eyes fill. He reached up to brush the tears away but they weren’t there. He couldn’t cry anymore. He was like the air.

Margaret pressed a weary hand through his thigh to grip onto the arm of the chair. With her free hand, she reached for her stick, smashed it through his foot and pulled herself up heavily.

She had no idea he was there.


Links to Margaret and the Spider

7 Responses to “cobwebs by jadamthwaite”

  1. mpeonies February 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm #

    Beautifully written. I enjoyed the fun, comical bits of the story in the beginning, as well as the heartwarming surprise at the end.

  2. ingridfnl February 21, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    This was really beautiful. I loved the connection between the two stories/the two worlds. The energy and pace of the piece is beautiful too.

  3. Parenthesized February 25, 2010 at 4:44 am #

    I like how much Alfred enjoyed his ghosthood. The new perspective on the Margaret story was interesting.

  4. jadamthwaite February 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Thank you. I really enjoyed writing this story. 🙂

  5. phoenix.writing March 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Beautiful and totally unexpected twist at the end there (though I feel that I should have felt it coming sooner). I liked Alfred’s boundless energy and what seems to be no uncertainty that he’s where he’s supposed to be.

    • jadamthwaite March 7, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

      Thank you. I’m glad you didn’t see it coming! 🙂


  1. margaret and the spider by jadamthwaite « the character project - February 21, 2010

    […] Links to Cobwebs […]

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